A Sustainable Life: Eco Christmas

AWARE: Michelle Stephenson says packaging, especially plastic packaging, is a major problem that is sitting under too many Christmas trees. "We have the power."

AWARE: Michelle Stephenson says packaging, especially plastic packaging, is a major problem that is sitting under too many Christmas trees. "We have the power."

As we race to the finishing line of 2017 it’s an opportunity to take stock of our approach to Christmas, as it becomes a time when our consumerism peaks and results in excess waste. I don’t want to sound like the Christmas Scrooge, but we can still enjoy this fun time while being considerate of our purchasing and waste practices when preparing for the big day.

Being mindful while we embark on preparations is a big help and, of course, taking your reusable shopping bags with you is a great start. Let me remind you why avoidance of plastic bags will be a great contribution to this Christmas:

1. Damages to our eco-systems (that includes us too). Enormous amounts of plastic bags end up as litter. As a result, they are in our waterways and consumed by marine life. Plastics are now in our food chain.

2. Landfill space. This is limited, and unnecessary plastic bags that do make it into the waste system are taking up this space.

3. Greenhouse gases. It takes coal, oil and gas to make plastic bags, which generates greenhouse gas emissions in the process of production. They then continue to produce emissions when buried in landfill.

4. Plastic bags are not free. We think that plastic bags are free, but they are costing us financially as well as environmentally. Don’t be fooled, the cost of the bag is included in the purchase price of what you buy.

We have the power. Remember that when you start buying Christmas treats for your loved ones to wrap up and place under the tree. Making the choice to buy from more sustainable suppliers puts pressure on those organisations that aren’t. Packaging is an enormous problem, for starters. Going to the trouble of identifying products that come with less packaging, especially plastic packaging, will take the pressure off our already burgeoning landfills.

Other considerations are how was the product produced. I’ve just started using an app called Good on You. This app helps you identify the most ethical fashion brands when it comes to buying clothing. You would be well aware of the sweatshops that are abusing workers in terms of the dreadful working conditions and pay. Avoiding such organisations that do this is incredible helpful. Considering the lifecycle of product you are buying makes sure that it can be either be reused or recycled avoiding the opportunity for it to end up in landfill. For example, buying kids toys that are made from timber instead of plastic, or buying books will contribute to a zero-waste Christmas.

Here are some starter tips for a successful eco Christmas this year:

1. Buy less and make more. It means so much more to someone if you have gone to some effort to create something original for him or her, instead buying something for the sake of it.

2. Buy experiences, not stuff. Life becomes so much richer through what we do instead of what we’ve got.

3. Christmas is about spending time with people we care about, so how about giving the gift time together instead.

4. Plan your food menu to make sure nothing goes to waste. And if it does, set up a compost or worm farm to reuse the food waste to replenish your soil in your garden.

5. Use brown craft paper for wrapping presents instead of plastic-based paper, as it can be recycled. Better still, buy reusable bags and wrap presents in them instead. It will help change the habits of those you love.

Happy Christmas to you all! I want to thank you for your readership for the past three years. I’ll be taking a break from writing for the Advocate to concentrate on other sustainable activities, so this is my last article for a while. May 2018 allow you to do more of the following to contribute to a low carbon way of living, that’s creating a sustainable future for the planet but more immediately for our shire: Eat less, move more. Spend less, make more. Stress less, laugh more. Feel blessed, love more. Find a spot everyday, and breathe.

Michelle Stephenson is a consultant specialising in sustainability with BE Designs. Visit her blog at www.bedesigns.com.au/blog