Sustainable Christmas

Sustainable Christmas

Taking the silly out of the silly season

Christmas is a time for family, food, fun - and sometimes excessive waste! Here’s a guide to slimming down your impact and beefing up the good this holiday season.

Decorate well

Plastic tree or real tree? In fact, both have an impact - unless you can find someone selling removed wilding pines for charity, which happens in some parts of New Zealand. 

There are other options. A small pohutukawa in a pot can be a lovely summer companion that can go on to fill a spot in your garden. There are other options, from the lovely wooden tree to something a bit more DIY

Speaking of DIY, have a go at making your own Christmas crackers with recycled toilet rolls, where you have a chance to improve the gifts - and the jokes. (Apparently, 99% of the Christmas cracker gifts end up in the bin.) Another option is to invest in a set of re-usable Christmas crackers.

Bring nature inside for table decorations that reflect the season. Cut herbs, fresh flowers or pine branches are an economic and eco-friendly way to make your space more festive.

Buy well

The gift-giving tradition is special - and there are lots of great options for sustainable giving. The number one rule is quality over quantity - if you buy physical items, make sure they last. For those who already have everything, consider purchasing experiences - an escape room adventure, a night a way or a round of golf. The socially conscious might prefer a donation to a good cause. The Good Registry allows giftees to choose where the money goes.

Don’t forget the joy of hand made (or hand cooked) gifts. A printed and framed photograph of the kids is a simple and special gift for grandparents.

If you celebrate with a large group, consider minimising the gift exchange with a Secret Santa approach, where each person gives and receives one present and a spending limit. One good and thoughtful present is worth more than many little, hastily purchased ones.

When it comes to wrapping, consider alternatives like reusable fabric gift bags or compostable brown paper with natural cord. Set up a recycling station in advance to minimise waste to landfill after the big unwrap.

Eat well

An easy way to make Christmas dinner more sustainable is to eat more plants! Even Jamie Oliver has created a vegan Christmas menu to inspire you with whole roasted cauliflower and mushroom stuffing. Eat locally, eat seasonally and reduce food waste by embracing leftovers.


Another way to make a difference this festive season is simply to slow down long enough to connect with nature and with each other. A beautiful thing to do is to engineer an oral history interview between family members using the StoryCorp app. Making time for a walk or a board game is also a special way to connect over the holidays.

Give back

Sometimes the best family memories are the times spent giving back. So many in our communities are without the luxury of researching Jamie Oliver’s latest vegan Christmas ideas and are instead just wondering where they will find a hot dinner. All around the country, there are organisations looking for Christmas Day volunteers to spend an hour helping make the day special for those less fortunate. Or simply look around your community and include a friend, family member or neighbour who needs some extra care.

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