'Tis the Season! The average household spends over $900 on Christmas gifts; $620 worth of these are unwanted. We produce 30% more rubbish over the summer holiday period than other times of year. Here are our tips for a sustainable festive / holiday season.

A Sustainable Christmas

  1. Put time and thought into each gift purchase. TerraCycle New Zealand tells us that every year, the average household spends over $900 on Christmas gifts, but that $620 worth of these gifts are unwanted. Some may be ‘re-gifted’, but many are thrown away. Consider making wish lists a part of your festive routine, so that people receive gifts they want and need.

  2. Give durable, good-quality presents, and try to avoid cheap “stocking stuffers”. Don’t buy things just because they are cheap or on sale.

  3. Instead of wrapping paper, wrap gifts in something reusable such as a cloth shopping bag, beeswax wrap or pretty teatowel. Give gifts of homemade goodies in reusable containers. Shiny wrapping paper often contains some plastic, which makes it difficult to recycle.

  4. If you give someone electronics as a gift, include rechargeable batteries.

  5. Real Christmas trees are more sustainable than fake ones: they're 100% biodegradable and are grown locally in New Zealand. You may think that an artificial tree, when reused year after year, is the more sustainable option. But according to TerraCycle, a fake tree would need to be used for more than 20 years to be more sustainable than the natural alternative. Plastic trees also shed little bits of plastic, which can end up in waterways as microplastic pollution. Consider planting a tree in a pot, and bringing it inside for decoration each Christmas.

  6. There always seems to be excess food at this time of year! Consider how food purchases and meals might be organized to minimize food wastage. Go for quality rather than quantity.

  7. Many children are now learning in school about the environmental hazards of plastic. Ask the kids what you could do to have a plastic-free Christmas.

  8. Give experiences instead of objects. Tickets to a show, tickets to the zoo, or home-made ‘vouchers’ for talents you have, that you know the recipient can use, like baking, gardening or babysitting.

  9. Give to charities on behalf of someone. Many charities have vouchers especially for seasonal giving, such as native tree gift cards from Trees that Count.

  10. Christmas is about more than giving and receiving material gifts. Talk with your whanau and children about the significance of Christmas and the festive season: spirituality, togetherness, sharing, chilling out.

  11. Share time with your whanau – it’s free. Make decorations, cards, presents and wrapping paper together.

  12. Giving back to the community is part of some people’s festive routine – visiting a neighbour who may be alone, donating to a foodbank, volunteering at a soup kitchen, resthome or hospice.



Sustainable Summer Holidays

Hannah and Liam of the Rubbish Trip tell us that on average, New Zealanders produce 30% more rubbish over the summer holiday period than other times of year. Here are some tips to help keep those beautiful holiday spots beautiful for the future.

  1. If you pack it in, pack it out again. Take your recyclables and compostables home with you.

  2. Fill foods like sauces, and toiletries like shampoo, into reusable containers, instead of buying travel-sized toiletries. Think about what food you can prepare at home before you go camping, rather than taking single-serve snacks. Look out for shampoos, soaps and moisturisers that come in bar form.

  3. Check the local council website, or ask at the campsite, to see what is and is not recyclable where you are staying, and how the recycling system works.

  4. If you are travelling with a vehicle, consider investing in a bokashi bin for your car/van/caravan/motorhome. These are airtight and odourless and you can put pretty much any food waste in them (including meat, seafood and cooked food).

  5. Buy durable camping gear. The cheaper options will break sooner, probably won’t be repairable, so will end up in the bin. If camping gear does break, take it back to the shop and ask if it can be repaired, and where.

  6. Borrow or hire camping gear, especially if you’re not going to use it very often. Buy good-quality secondhand items, instead of buying new.

  7. Consider how you might take a holiday by bus or train, instead of by car. How about holidaying at home, exploring your own town and local area?