There’s a range of simple ways you can slow down, enjoy the the summer period with your family and minimise your environmental impact…
Give experiences, your time, or something more meaningful:
Instead of giving stuff why not give experiences and memories rather than dust-gathering knickknacks: massage vouchers, movie tickets, sports events, concert tickets or skydiving.
Make a gift voucher of your time; babysitting hours, gardening work, house cleaning, cooking dinner, or a homemade cake voucher.
Give a gift that keeps on giving; a tree or plant is always good. Check out your local nursery or farmers market, or plant trees on behalf of family via sites such as Trees That Count or Give Trees Not Stuff.
Donate to charities & volunteer:
Give money to a local or international charity in the name of your loved one.
Many charities now have the equivalent of a fun “give a goat” gift card that you can present to family and friends - great for someone who has everything or who wants to make a difference.
Change gift giving up entirely:
Decrease spending, stress and waste by having family members draw names out of a hat and sticking to a 'one gift' rule. This allows each person to get one especially thoughtful and unique gift from someone who had the time to dedicate their effort.
You can also do a white elephant gift exchange; everyone only gives gifts they find around their home, with no money spent.
A handmade gift exchange with only gifts that are crafted by your own hand can be given.
Co-purchase a gift - join forces with someone else and buy something that will last, buying for life, not for trends.
Choose sustainable materials:
Organic cotton, hemp, silk, wood are natural, renewable materials and they support sustainable producers. See www.greenelephant.co.nz or one of the many other online stores for ideas.
Support your community and local economy by shopping at local stores and from local producers. Especially those offering environmentally preferable options.
Watch the waste
Ditch the rolls of wrapping paper and avoid glossy or metallic gift wrap, which can’t be recycled. Instead, why not use fabric to wrap that can be used again, or newspaper with natural twine (nothing says “I’m sustainably chic” more!). Use the greeting cards received last year or any other recycled material to make gift tags. For gift bags that come with tags attached, write "Reuse Me!" on the tag along with the person’s name.
Ban the bow:
Use fabric ribbons that can be reused by the recipient. Or you could add sprigs of rosemary, mini pine cones, cinnamon sticks or pohutukawa flowers to make your gift earthy, festive, and eye-catching.
Any non-glossy paper wrapping can be shredded for the compost or added to the recycling bins. Be sure to keep the bows and ribbons for multiple uses, as well as tissue paper, gift bags and boxes. Also, packaging from beverages or food containers should be rinsed and recycled as well.
Reduce your carbon footprint:
By carpooling for both Christmas shopping trips and on Christmas day you and your friends and family can decrease fuel consumption and traffic. And try to shop as close to home as possible.
Make your own Christmas cards:
Use the cards you received last year, a child's artwork or your own craftiness to create new green Christmas cards. Use recycled paper for holiday letters. Or send a family photo with your greeting handwritten on the back.
Change up your Christmas Tree:
Avoid artificial trees - the most eco-friendly Christmas tree is a live potted native. Re-potting your tree outside after every Christmas stops waste and kids love to watch it grow and change each year. Or you could try making a drift wood tree - very Taranaki!
Invest in LEDs:
Buy LED string lights. They use less energy than incandescent bulbs. Plus they’re brighter, last longer, and don’t produce much heat.
Choose durable and meaningful ornaments. Wood, metal, or cloth will all last longer than plastic or thin glass. And an ornament that symbolizes an important event from the year will mean it is kept and treasured for a lifetime.
Make your own decorations:
Whether made by yourself or a local artisan, handmade items will bring a simple, beautiful energy into your home. Create your own ornaments or help your kids cut and hang snowflakes from scrap paper saved throughout the year. Homemade Christmas decorations always look better than the standard boring ones!
Sustainable Christmas feasting
Organic, local and free-range:
Choose a free range, organic ham, turkey or chicken for your Christmas beast feast. Home grown veg or locally grown vegetables from the farmer's market. Try purchasing your grains, nuts, and baking ingredients from a bulk bin store. Try Bin Inn in Waitara, or use the bulk bins at your supermarket.
Bring out the fine china, utensils and cloth napkins. Or pool resources from several houses for large gatherings.
Be smart with leftovers:
Try to avoid them in the first place by carefully planning your menu and shopping list. Choose foods you can freeze or foods that can be used in different ways. We adore Love Food Hate Waste.
Any food scraps that can't be used for leftovers (or broths) can be composted or given to animals to reduce any potential waste.
Choose presence over presents:
Christmas Day is about spending time with friends and family. Between the hurricane of gifts, typhoon of family members chatting, and chaos of meals, it’s easy to let the day go by and forget what Christmas is all about. Take time to reflect on your year, sit and observe your surroundings, slow down, and be conscious of the present.
Here are a few ways to slow down and enjoy the day:
Sing carols or other songs together.
Make it a screen free day.
Take it outside and have a game of cricket or set up a water slide.
At the dinner table or in a group, take turns to say what was awesome about your year – especially great for family you don’t see very often and for teenage relatives who might not otherwise share.