5 Tips for a Sustainable Christmas with Kids

'Tis the (S)ustainable Season!

Can you believe it, the year is almost over, and what a year it's been! If we've learned anything in 2020, it is that we shouldn't take anything for granted, health, family, equity, freedom of speech, the list goes on. My generation has certainly not yet seen anything like it before. But in the middle of all this hardship and existential struggle, 2020 has taught us some valuable lessons too. 

While in some way, the world went on as usual, babies were born, Ricky Martin launched an album, a new US president was elected, 2020 has also given us tremendous opportunity to slow down, be present, and do some deep thinking around our core values, sustainability and how we envision the future of our children to look like. 

It's important that we now translate our desire for a better world into actionable goals, and with Christmas around the corner, we are facing a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference, for our planet, workers and our children. 

Traditionally, Christmas has always been a time to reflect and give back, but somehow it has turned into a messy two months period defined by overconsumption, sales frenzies and plastic waste.

Christmas has become a dirty business, but it doesn't have to be that way. Here are five simple tips you can follow to reduce your carbon footprint this festive season and show your kids the real meaning of Christmas:

1. Rent a Christmas Tree

I love real Christmas trees. I love everything about it, the smell of pine, the look and feel. But trees are important for our planet as they sequester carbon from the atmosphere and therefore help mitigate climate change. The more trees we cut down, the harder it will become for our planet to breathe, and she is already choking on all the plastic we have dumped on her. If you have to get a real tree, ensure it's been grown as locally as possible and look out for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ‘seal of approval’ to guarantee your tree has been grown to set environmental standards.

However, better even, rent one! 

A study concluded that you'd have to use a plastic tree for 20 years for it to be greener than a real one, so the most sustainable solution is to rent one! There are many organisations globally that rent christmas trees and decorations, delivering you Christmas cheer without costing the Earth.

2. Christmas Decorations

Again, these can be easily rented along with your tree, but why not start a family tradition of collecting baubles and ornaments over the years? I have been given one special christmas bauble every year since my first Christmas. When I moved out, I was able to decorate my Christmas tree with 21 stunning ornaments that reminded me of people and places, heirlooms I would never give away and will cherish a lifetime. It's also a nice way to teach your children to look after their belongings and incorporates a sense of storytelling.

If you are an arts & crafts person, you're probably all over Pinterest already.

3. Sustainable Presents For Kids

Children's toys are sadly one of THE most toxic items in people's homes, so do your research before you go shopping and plan ahead. 

Christmas is the peak time for unwanted gifts and a great deal of unnecessary packaging. The world has seen enough plastic made from finite fossil fuels (a major contributor to global warming), so let's be more mindful about the volume of gifts that are needed. Buy less, buy better:

- Plan your shopping -

Start planning in November. Last minute shopping often ends up in impulsive purchases that do more harm than good. Purchase online so you don't get distracted by other temptations around shopping malls. If you enjoy Christmas shopping, try go to christmas markets which are a great way for local artisans to boost their income. Make a list of what you need before you leave the house. And stick to it.

- Shop small and shop local -

Support your neighbours and family businesses in 2020 – many of which would have been struggling to survive this year. Now is your time to use your purchasing power for good. Don't give Christmas to Amazong, but support a mum who had to pivot a lot during Covid. Ekko World and The Local Green Pages are great marketplaces of eco-minded, small businesses to buy from.

- Quality over quantity -

Kids don't need much in their early years (despite what e-commerce might tell you) but giving is a wonderful thing, so give something that has been sustainably-sourced, and can be passed on, recycled or composted to support the circular economy, an important framework to help us keep waste out of landfill.

Consider longevity with every purchase. Toys that are useful over many generations are books (again, look for the FSC logo to ensure the paper has been sourced from managed forests), wooden toys (FSC!), organic, trans-seasonal, gender-neutral clothing or sunglasses made from recycled plastics.

You can also download the Good On You app to check a brand’s sustainability rating before you commit. It’s a great way to find our more about raw materials and ethical labour practices. 

Organic Baby Clothing Australia

- Baby's first Christmas -

Apart from taking a photo with Santa, I am sure you can't wait to put your little star under the Christmas tree with her favourite new teddy. Again, think about what is useful, don't buy into stuffed animals if you don't know exactly what materials they are made from. Children's playrooms often have the highest amount of gassing due to the copious amounts of plastics present. But sadly it doesn't just stop at plastic toys⁣⁣. You baby's favourite animal could be covered in formaldehyde, pesticides, flame retardants and DDT. Choose from trusted brands that offer organic stuffed animals (inside and out) like Senger Naturwelt, Nanchen Natur or Honey Bee Toys

Alternatively, opt in for useful presents for babies like natural and BPA free teething rings, massage oils free of perfumes, Baltic Amber jewellery, organic cotton playsuits or towels, and wooden instruments like rattles. Anything that stimulates their senses without overstimulating their brain will keep your baby entertained in a healthy way.

- Gift experiences, not products -

For older kids, steer away from material presents – gift your children a service or experience.  Maybe create vouchers for babysitting, cleaning, massage or gardening. Give them a ticket to an event, concert or a fun day out with the whole family.

4. Minimise wrapping and give conscious cards

Sustainable shopping includes consideration of the way your food and other purchases are packaged. Australians throw away around 1.9 million tonnes of packaging each year – enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground nine times over. Remember to take your reusable bag with you and say no to plastic bags.

For gift wrapping, use magazines, old cloth bags, or get creative with Shirts, tea towels, aprons or bed linen. 

If you want to know if your wrapping paper can be recycled or not, use the scrunch test. Scrunch up the paper in your hards and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds by its own accord, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements.

The Japanese have an old tradition to wrap their gifts with beautiful clothes called Furoshiki (風呂敷). Try it!

Don't buy just any christmas card. Ensure the paper is from managed forests. Deer Daisy Stationary sells conscious cards for conscious consumers via a variety of stockists all around the country. Dreamed up in the Northern Rivers and printed on 100% Australian made, recycled materials using vegetable based inks and green electricity.

Sustainable Christmas Cards

5. Reduce your energy consumption

Finally, use real candles or LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting. LED lights use about 80-90% less energy than old light bulbs. Make the effort to turn your lights off when out of the house or before bedtime - the overstimulation is neither good for your kids nor the environment.

Folks, this year is almost over. A year that has brought a new 'normal'. The love for our planet, seeing it in action is moving me to tears. I have an incredible beloved community of friends fighting for freedom, justice, and equity for all.

From my family to yours, wishing you all a very merry (sustainable) holiday season. C