Have an environmentally friendly festive season this year with the NSW Nature Conservation Council’s tips for a green Christmas.
· Buy a live Australian native Christmas tree this year and plant it in January. A hardwood tree growing to a trunk circumference of 40cm will remove 110kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its life.
· If you already have a fake tree, the greenest thing to do is keep using it, but buying a new fake tree means consuming significant energy and petroleum-based materials.
· Be creative and make your own Christmas tree decorations. Reuse last years wrapping paper and Christmas ribbons. Avoid plastic ribbons – use paper ribbons, raffia or string instead.
· Recycle your Christmas tree instead of sending it to landfill. Chip it and use it as mulch on the garden – many councils can collect and chip them for you. Or buy a potted tree and plant it in your garden afterwards.
· Choose LEDs (light-emitting diodes) instead of incandescent bulbs to decorate your tree and home. They're more expensive, but last much longer and use 80% to 90% less power than conventional mini bulbs. LEDs, which cast a bright white light, also stay cool to the touch so they won't singe the tree—or your child's fingers. Or even better, use candles to create that Christmas atmosphere instead of electric lights.
· Don’t forget to turn off all your Christmas lights when you don’t need them. According to the Guardian, Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough CO2 to inflate 12 balloons.
Gifts and cards
· Make your own cards and gifts, like Christmas pudding, homemade jam or biscuits.
· Go online and email friend and loved ones a virtual card rather than posting a card.
· Did you know… one holiday season’s worth of un-recycled ribbon could literally tie a bow around the earth. Recycle ribbon from last year to decorate your presents this year.
· Choose gifts that give someone an experience - buy theatre tickets or treat someone to dinner or buy memberships. The Nature Conservation Council’s Adopt a Shark program is great for marine enthusiasts and proceeds go to save the endangered Grey Nurse Shark.To adopt a shark go to www.adoptashark.org.au.
· Give the gift of time. Rather than a store-bought gift, offer your services for babysitting or cook a meal or help in the garden. Make the vouchers by recycling old Christmas cards or wrapping paper.
· Give to a charity - eg you can pay for a goat, chickens or tree seedlings for someone in the developing world or give a donation to your favourite cause as a Christmas present. Rather than throw away unwanted gifts, give them to charity, local preschool, hospital etc.
· Give green gadgets like a solar powered mobile phone charger, water efficient shower head or a wind up radio as gifts. Native plants also make great green gifts.
· Ask for a bicycle and make a New Year resolution to get fit and save the environment and ride to work or school.
· Avoid buying items that are excessively packaged.
· Consume less. Rather than buying multiple presents for family or friends, why not pick one name out of a hat? Set a group budget of no more than $20 spent on each present.
· Remember to take your own shopping bags to do your Christmas shopping and use public transport.
· Battery-operated electronics are a popular festive gift. ‘Ordinary’ batteries contain toxic chemicals and are harmful to the environment. Use re-chargeable batteries wherever possible. Check if electronic appliances have a USB connector for convenient, direct re-charging.
· Take unwanted presents to charity shops rather than throw them out.
· Recycle your Christmas cards through Planet Ark’s card recycling scheme - or reuse them next year as gift tags. Keep wrapping paper for next year, or recycle any you can’t use again.
Food and drink
· Buy fresh local food from farmers markets, organic suppliers and food co-ops. When buying seafood, avoid species that are endangered or overfished. Try undervalued species such as Australian sardine, eastern school whiting, luderick, sea mullet or spanner crab. See www.amcs.org.au for more on sustainable fishing.
· Buy food and drink in bulk to avoid bringing home lots of smaller plastic bottles and containers.
· Save water by choosing the right size pan when cooking vegetables and pasta. Only boil the kettle with the amount of water you need.
· Use your scraps from Christmas lunch to start a worm farm or compost heap.
· Avoid disposable plates, cups and cutlery for Christmas parties. Borrow, hire or ask guests to being these items along.
· Keep away from candles made from petroleum-based products. Source beeswax or vegetable-based candles instead.
· Carpool to Christmas parties.
· After your Christmas parties, make sure you sort your recycling.