1 December 2018


We associate “green” with Christmas, but many of our Christmas traditions are far from it. By the New Year, garbage bins are overflowing and unwanted gifts clutter our homes. To add insult to injury, family finances are in the red. Here are our top tips for a greener Christmas that won’t cost the earth.

Buy Greener Gifts There is nothing more wasteful than unwanted gifts. Useless stuff is just a burden that weighs us down, and does not represent the peace, love and joy of the season. Remember that products always have a higher impact than services. Try giving experiences or homemade gifts such as the cookies, jam or chutney you are renowned for; a framed family photo; time out with a massage voucher; or tickets to a concert or sports event.

Source Food Ethically Every food purchase we make has an impact, both on the environment and the people involved in producing it. We can minimise our environmental footprint by choosing more plant-based and locally produced foods. Farmers markets can be a great place to find fresh local produce that provides a better profit for the farmers. Look for local, ethical and sustainable food products, such as free-range turkey and sustainable seafood. Consumable gourmet gifts like chocolate and coffee are popular but look for Fair Trade products.

Reduce Food Waste Discarded food not only wastes the food itself but also the energy and resources required to grow, transport and store it. If it ends up in landfill it produces greenhouse gases. To avoid over-catering, plan your guest list and menu. Quickly refrigerate any leftovers in reusable containers and give them to guests take home. If any leftover food won’t be eaten within 3 days, freeze it for later. Avoid food scraps in landfill and instead compost egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps (or put them in a worm farm). To avoid stinky garbage bins, you can bury seafood scraps in the garden and improve the soil.

Choose Reusable Tableware Disposable plastic cutlery, cups, plates and straws are convenient for us but terrible for the planet. They will remain on earth much longer than we will. Skip plastic straws altogether and choose reusable metal cutlery, crockery and glasses. If reusable tableware is not an option, choose biodegradable or compostable cutlery and plates (such as bamboo), and ideally break them into smaller pieces before disposal or composting. For gatherings, have clearly labelled tubs/bins in sight so guests can easily recyclable cans and bottles.

Use Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping, Cards and Decorations Come Christmas morning, millions of living rooms are littered with torn and scrunched wrapping paper. Much of this paper, sadly, is not recyclable due to glitter, fabric and metallic embellishments. If the kids did the wrapping, it’s likely there’s a generous amount of sticky tape too. Reuse pre-loved gift bags and ribbons where you can. Instead of buying wrapping paper and greeting cards, make your own from old maps, comic strips, newspapers, postal delivery boxes and children’s artwork. Balloons and tinsel use a lot of finite resources and balloons can be a nightmare for aquatic life if they end up in waterways. Instead decorate your house with fresh flowers and compost them afterwards.

Buy a Real Christmas Tree In theory, artificial Christmas trees are meant to last forever but over many years they start to look ratty and the plastic pine needles fall of. While the metal trunk may be recyclable at some centres, the thousands of plastic pine needles are not and spend hundreds of years in landfill. For a more environmentally friendly alternative go to a local farm and buy a real tree that can be replanted in the New Year or sent to the chipper afterwards and made into mulch. If you have a green thumb you could choose an indoor potted conifer, enjoy it all year round and decorate it each Christmas.

Use LED Lighting LED Christmas lights are far more efficient than incandescent Christmas lights, wasting less energy and saving you money. According to Canstar Blue, LED Christmas lights will typically add only cents to your energy bill, or at most a few dollars over the entire Christmas season. To save even more energy, use a solid light setting instead of twinkling or flickering lights. Solar LED lights are a great energy-saving option for outdoor displays. Consider using a timer so lights are only left on in the evening and turned off before going to bed.

Christmas in a Nutshell: 
  • Being “green” doesn’t mean missing out on your favourite Christmas traditions. 
  • Remember happiness does not come from stuff, but from doing good things including caring for the earth.
  • In the true spirit of Christmas think about both the planet and people in your purchasing. 
  • Source plant-based, free-range, local and ethical festive fare where possible and avoid waste  
 Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.

 Nicole Senior    
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.   Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.