How to lighten Santa’s bootprint on the environment this Christmas

Enjoy the silly season and love your planet at the same time.
Enjoy the silly season and love your planet at the same time.

This article is sponsored by Mojo Health

It can be heartwarming to see the Christmas cheer slowly spread through our streets, shops, workplaces and homes as December ticks away.

Merrily dressed volunteers offer to wrap your gifts in bright wrapping paper at the shopping centre, neon tinsel lines the office cubicles, fairy lights broken from January’s hasty pack-away are replaced with tiny bulbs and, on Christmas morning, the loungeroom is a colourful sea of discarded packaging.

Although it’s one of the happiest times of the year for us, Mother Nature might not agree. Each Christmas, dumps and waste facilities are inundated as families celebrate holiday traditions that are full of shopping, decorating and entertaining. Last year it was estimated we spent about $48 billion in the lead up to Christmas.

It's estimated Australians spent $48 billion in the lead up to last Christmas.

It's estimated Australians spent $48 billion in the lead up to last Christmas.

After all the decorations, wrapping paper and gift packaging disappears to make way for the new year, they don’t disappear all together. The materials in discarded Christmas cheer like plastic can last up to 1,000 years in landfill, while the metal wire in Christmas lights can last up to 60 years.

There are some simple ways to look forward to the silly season and look out for the environment.

Shop smarter

Festive and environmentally-friendly, they're a great alternative to plastic straws. Plastic can take thousands of years to actually break down - which means every straw you've ever used probably still exists.

Festive and environmentally-friendly, they're a great alternative to plastic straws. Plastic can take thousands of years to actually break down - which means every straw you've ever used probably still exists.

You don’t have to give up the things you love about Christmas – just adjust your buying habits slightly.

Instead of a packet of plastic straws for Christmas lunch, pick yourself up some stainless steel ones.

Instead of using rolls and rolls of cling wrap, why not grab some reusable beeswax food coverings?

Ditch the plastic bags this silly season and use environmentally-friendly string bags or green bags – they carry more than flimsy plastic bags anyway.

Plastic forks are too small to be recycled, and besides, they can be full of petroleum. Check out this alternative, made from corn. 

Buy less, give more

Rather than purchasing loads of little things for gifts, invest in gifts that are more substantial – which means a lot less packaging to clean up from the floor headed for landfill.

The best way to do this? Quiz friends and family about any special things they’ve had their eye on. The art of surprise is a joy, but a 2015 survey in Australia showed that a massive 78.5 per cent of people receive a gift they don't want over the holiday season, and 13.7 per cent of these people will throw away these unwanted gifts, rather than returning them to the store.

Samaritans volunteers Ciel Sands, Mick Hills and Carolyn Hunt at the Hunter Street warehouse unpacking goods.

Samaritans volunteers Ciel Sands, Mick Hills and Carolyn Hunt at the Hunter Street warehouse unpacking goods.

Doing a big house clean in preparation for Christmas lunch? Fill a few garbage bags with old clothes, toys, shoes, blankets, cushions and unwanted ornaments and drop them at your local op-shop. Nothing feels quite as heart-warming as doing something for others less fortunate across the silly season, and that also means less perfectly good wares in landfill. 

Know recycling from waste 

Make sure you take advantage of the recycle bin this silly season.

Make sure you take advantage of the recycle bin this silly season.

How many times have you lingered over the bin, and asked the nearest person “can this be recycled?”

Here is a quick list of what you can put in your recycle bin, courtesy of Planet Ark.

RECYCLE BIN

  • Wrapping paper
  • Aluminium foil (scrunched into a ball)
  • Aerosol cans like deodorant, hair spray, air freshener
  • Shampoo, conditioner, cream containers
  • Deodorant sticks
  • Soap pump bottles
  • Greeting cards
  • Phone books
  • CD cases (not discs) 
  • Washing powder boxes 
  • Cereal boxes
  • Deli/butchers paper
  • Egg cartons
  • Biscuit trays
  • Detergent bottles
  • Cake trays (foil)
  • Cooking oil tins
  • Plant pots 
  • Pizza boxes
  • Fruit punnets
  • Takeaway containers
  • Drink bottles 
  • Newspapers (after they’re read!), magazines 
  • Glass jars
  • Soft drink cans
  • Wine bottles, beer bottles, spirit bottles
  • Medicine jars (including vitamins)
  • Tinned food, including tuna, baked beans and fruit 
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Tissue boxes 

ELSEWHERE

  • Plastic bags – head to your local Coles and Woolworths stores (Kotara, Waratah, The Junction, Marketown, Glendale, Warners Bay, plus more) where REDcycle will recycle them into new products like furniture for schools.
  • Batteries – head to Aldi Newcastle where you can dispose of your batteries without doing environmental harm.
  • Technology – check out the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme.
  • Light globes – can be recycled through council, commercial or community programs.
  • Ink and toner cartridges – Planet Ark have helped collect over 36 million this year alone.

This article is sponsored by Mojo Health