Zero Waste Christmas – Rethinking consumption
With Christmas around the corner, the season during which we, as Christians, celebrate the birth of our Lord, has been overshadowed by the secular culture of excess; we are pressured into buying too much, eating too much and generating too much waste – and if we deviate from this norm, then we can be criticised for being a “Grinch” or a “Scrooge”! Hence, we may fall into the trap of giving gifts that are not required, not liked or are merely a novelty. And some of these will make their way to a charity shop in the New Year, where they may (or may not) be moved onto another recipient – and if not, landfill.
At Loreto, we’re encouraging everyone to make Christmas 2018 the year where they start or continue their journey to becoming a conscious consumer and seek ways to celebrate Christmas without exchanging unwanted gifts and generating waste. Contrary to some advertising, happiness is not found in ‘stuff’. There are so many ways that you can bring joy to the people you care about that don’t have the negative impact on the planet or exploit workers that another set of over-packaged toiletries, another set of barbeque tools, a dancing Santa or cheap bon-bons containing pointless plastic novelties will have.
Pathological consumption has become so normalised that we scarcely notice it.
George Monbiot, The Guardian Dec 2012
The JPIC Group are busily planning their Ethical Christmas Fair and the staff and students will have the opportunity to purchase items in the knowledge that the proceeds will help those in need in our local community. Charity shops are a gold-mine of new or nearly new items and are particularly good sources of books, DVDs, puzzles and other items that can fill a young child’s stocking or form part of a gift for an older child or adult. Charity gifts are a great option to avoid meaningless stuff, especially for adults who already have everything that they both need and want. A quick search of ‘charity gifts’ will throw up lots of options both in Australia and overseas. Another way to dematerialise Christmas gifts is to give experiences or vouchers. Ideas include movie or theatre tickets, a meal at a special restaurant, a massage or facial or an activity such as bowling or high-ropes.
Making a gift for someone shows them that you have spent time preparing their gift. Edible treats are a great option such as Christmas coloured rocky-road chocolate or Christmas shaped biscuits given in a reusable container. Another simple option is to fill a mason jar with dry ingredients for making cookies or brownies – again, the internet is a great source of inspiration! Charity shops are a great source of reusable containers and some thoughtful decorations and homemade tags using scrap cards make these great gifts that don’t impact the planet as much as store bought goods.
And how will you wrap your presents? We know that the element of surprise and the anticipation of what’s inside is part of the excitement and is critical for children. The manufacture of wrapping paper places huge demands on the planet and wrapping that is not actually paper, but plastic, leaves us with yards of non-recyclable waste destined for landfill. Recycled paper wrap is available, but inevitably costs more than the cheap paper rolls available. If most of your gifting occurs within your family, consider reusing gift bags or boxes, storing them during the year. If you are, or know someone who is, crafty with a sewing machine, you could use remnants of fabric to make drawstring bags – or try your hand at furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping in fabric. Even newspaper can be used to wrap gifts which, when tied with ribbon can make them look quite stylish – just remember to keep the ribbon for next year! Gift tags can be cut from last year’s Christmas cards, hole-punched and a short length of string or ribbon threaded through – a great source of ribbon for tags are the skinny lengths that women’s clothing often has in the shoulders!
Remember, however, that you will have more success if you tweak Christmas one step at a time – especially if your plans to change the way your family does things is radically different from previously. Lead by example and enjoy the conversations that are sparked from your alternative gift options. Click here to view the Zero Waste Christmas website.
Mrs Elizabeth Cranfield