Towards Zero waste
Abundant food, excessive wrapping, unwanted gifts. There's a huge amount of waste that comes with the traditions of Christmas and the holiday season. But you can take some easy steps to reduce making it in the first place.
Australia produces more than 3.4 million tonnes of packaging every year — that’s about 165kg per person — and only 48 per cent is recycled.
Plastic packaging, most of which is for food and beverages, is the fastest growing category of plastic use. In Australia less than 10% of this plastic packaging is recycled, compared with 70% for paper and cardboard packaging. Australia now has a national packaging target for 100% of Australian packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. This is admirable. However, it's going to take a revolution in thinking and action to change our plastic habits. Here are some inspiring initiatives showing a new approach to packaging and plastic.
- With more than 50 shops across Australia, Source Bulk Foods, styles itself on a zero-waste supermarket, selling not just nuts, pulses, pastas, bread, eggs, and cheese, but non-essentials too! ...like ice-cream – in a cone!
- In November 2019 Australia's Woolworths announced LOOP, a new food delivery system, that will deliver common supermarket brands in reusable packaging.
- Australian company RETURNR links up cafes with food delivery services. Customers pay a deposit with food bought, then return the RETURNR container to any cafe in the network.
- The Kickstarter campaign Zero Co, is offering a similar model for kitchen, laundry and bathroom products.
- In 2018, the Iceland Supermarket chain in the UK outlined it's five-year plan to eliminate all plastic packaging on it's own-branded products by 2023.
- France became the first country in the world to ban plastic cups and plates in 2016, and has now expanded items to include straws, coffee stirrers, cotton buds, and other plastic single-use items.
Actions to take - Pack a Punch!
- Don’t forget to take your reusable shopping bag when you're Christmas shopping.
- Buy in bulk to minimise packaging waste.
- Doing a picnic in the park? Bring your own washable plates and cutlery. It takes a small amount of effort but or use biodegradable plant-based items, available from Going Green Solutions
Why not try these alternatives:
- Furoshiki is the long-time Japanese practice of wrapping gifts in cloths. This requires no cutting, only wrapping and knotting. See how to here and more here . (Think outside the box — See pic of gift wrapped in red recycled shirt - groovy!).
- Recycled Paper – Fun wrappings can be made from old paper maps, Sunday comic pages, sheet music or tissue sewing patterns. Feeling especially artistic? Decorate paper bags, or artist paper that you already have on hand. Color, paint, stamp, sticker, etc.
- Reusable Bags – If you don’t want to go the wrapping route, there’s still time in this holiday season to buy (or perhaps even make) reusable bags.
When receiving gifts, make sure you use paper again if possible, or recycle it.
See wrap stats infographic
What will be your 'arena' in the upcoming year?
By rethinking some traditions, you and your family can lighten your eco-footprint this Christmas.
- Don’t go for disposable – keep them to last for years to come.
- Tinsel and trinkets - make your own .Try edible decorations of dried fruit or popcorn on a string. Popular with the kids.
- Decorations with an ethical edge.
- Go recycled. Get some inspiration here and here.
For Australia, electricity is a major source of environmental impact. This is because about 86% of it comes from fossil fuels.
- Turn off lights when not being viewed.
- You could try this in your home ... Or, look for products using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs - they last 10 times longer and dramatically reduce power use.
- Check out these ideas for eco alternatives (Don't burn down your house!)
TreesThere are lots of options to the plastic tree (made from PVC - toxic when recycled) or non-native pine which is grow in grown in dense monoculture plantations that require high inputs of chemicals and water.
- Try a potted plant, maybe a local native. See www.anbg.gov.au/christmas
- The Australian Black Pine (right) is drought tolerant, looks good all year round, doesn’t mind life in a pot, and make a great Christmas tree.
- Buy a Christmas tree and support Oxfam Australia
- Awesome ideas for upcycled tree alternatives. Great ones here
Buying slave-free certified chocolate this Christmas means knowing that the farmers who produced the ingredients are getting a good deal, and children aren't being exploited. You can feel good in the knowledge that the goodness goes on even after the wrapper is empty.
About 70 per cent of the cocoa beans used to make the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa. Many cocoa farms in this area use child labour. The Ivory Coast has an estimated 300,000 children working in dangerous conditions; more than half are under 14 years old. The work includes spraying pesticides, using machetes and carrying heavy loads.
- Look for certified products under the labels Fairtrade, UTZ and Rainforest Alliance.
- Stop The Traffik's Chocolate Box shows how companies compare with their commitments and actions
- Buy direct at fair-trade online shops - Shop Naturally or Tribes and Nations
- Fairly Local - local retailers who supply fairtrade chocolate, coffee and other items
“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.” ― Fred Rogers
Children are naturally creative. Think of all the ways a child can take an ordinary object and turn it into something extraordinary. Like how a tattered t-shirt can become a magical cape that makes you fly, how a sandcastle turns into a mystical land full of castles with dragons and princesses, or how an imaginary friend stirs up adventures to pursue. As adults, we're less likely to give ourselves the space to play with new concepts, having had years of exposure to the “usual” or “accepted” approach.
So how do we maintain the creative spirit as we grow up and open our minds to more imagination and creativity? Here's 3 ideas to try over this summer.
1. Be Curious. View the world with wonder and excitement.
2. Think Outside the Box. Embrace a New Perspective. Let Your Imagination Run Wild.
3. Have Fun. Remember to smile and laugh. Be liberated from your own expectations.
What makes an ideal Christmas gift? Something the recipient likes? Something you like? Something that is useful? Something that is meaningful? Something that isn't disposable? Something that doesn't exploit workers in its manufacture? The perfect gift is likely a combination of all these things.
Toys and China
of the world’s toys are made in China. Working conditions
have been improving, but serious labour violations continue.
Toy workers often work for more than 80 hours a week
— well above China’s legal limit.
Choose Australian made toys, available at websites such as playtolearn.com.au, Little Earth Nest, entropy.com.au. Choose ‘China-free’ toys from companies such as Playmobil and Lego who manufacture most of their products in Europe. Check the company track-record for toy manufacturers and avoid those with significant criticisms.
Fairtrade - fair wages, no exploitation.
- Etiko Fairtrade T-shirts "Love Revolutions " "Wear no Evil".
- Jinta Fairtrade Sports balls
- 3fish ethical clothing
- Cocolo Fairtrade Chocolate
See more and buy
direct at Only
Just fair-trade online shop, or Tribes
If you're choosing clothing as a gift, see Oxfam's Naught & Nice Christmas list showing which Australian retailers have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord and which have not. For more on clothing see our Shop Ethical! Clothing Edition.
Some people are weighed down with stuff. Others don’t have the essential stuff they need. Buy a goat for your mum.
- TEAR Arguably, the World’s Most Useful Gifts / Oxfam Unwrapped / World vision – ‘Simles' / Everyday hero gift card - Choose your own charity
Check out these other great resources
- For organic and ethically sourced products - shop online at The Greenstore
- Support a Social Enterprise Good Spender
- The very American but extremely good 'Peak Oil Gift Buying Guide'
The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, your attention, your concern. So when we sit down with someone and give them our attention, show interest in them, we are giving them something both rare and valuable. Honouring their uniqueness and acknowledging our interdependence.
What is one way you can put this into practice for a friend or stranger today?
Avoid companies with
a negative track record this Christmas. Avoid multinationals. Use the Guide to find a best buy. You might be looking for soft drinks for example. By choosing Bickford’s over Deep Spring you’re supporting
an Australian owned company with a positive track record. See Soft
Drinks comparison page.
time we buy something, the money we spend endorses a company
and its activities, whether we are aware of it or not. Companies
need our money to stay in business — money talks, and
your dollar literally is your vote.
Out of the top 100 brands of all food sold in Australian supermarkets, just 16 are Australian owned, and these are owned by just nine companies.
- Shop Ethical! pocket guide
- Australia Made Campaign - online buying for Aussie owned Aussie made
- Your Grocer - produce delivery
Here's our list of recommended PLANET-FRIENDLY GIFT IDEAS for products that are earth-friendly.
Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. - Eckhart Tolle
Ask yourself what changes may need to happen by you or in you to be happy, to be wise.
While Christmas is a popular time of year to eat seafood, not all fish are equal when it comes to impact on our oceans. Over three-quarters of our global fish stocks are either over-exploited or fished right up to their limit. This year, choose sustainable seafood.
In 2012 Greenpeace launched a campaign to have Australia’s biggest tuna supplier, John West, commit to 100% FAD-free and pole and line tuna. It was successful, and since then, every other brand and retailer in their ranking has followed suit and made a similar commitment. This is the power of change. Nobody likes to be seen as the bad guy. ... it's then a race to the top!
- Canned Tuna is the biggest selling seafood item in Australia. If you buy tuna, avoid brands using Bigeye and yellowfin species (these are overfished); choose Skipjack (of least concern), or choose Fish4Ever brand which tops the list on Greenpeace's Canned Tuna guide.
- Avoid the following seafood and fish species. Orange Roughy, Tuna, Blue Grenadier, Atlantic Salmon, Striped Marlin, Toothfish, Swordfish, Hake, Oreodory, Skates and rays, Prawns, Sharks. They’re on Greenpeace’s ‘Red list’.
- Some species are considered a 'better buy' by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. Four at the top of this Sustainable Seafood Guide list are Whiting, Bream, Flathead and Calamari.
We live in a world where is it commonly accepted that the "end justify the means”. In reality however, the journey towards an accomplishment or decision is just as important as the destination itself. What are ways you can more fully enjoy the journey this coming year?
For those keen to de-commercialse Christmas and respond in a meaningful way to the overconsumption thats common, try a Buy Nothing Christmas. There's a great blog article at Buy Zero Waste Warrior which links to this video Manufacturured Landscapes, a stunning documentary and meditation on the damage wreaked by industrialisation.
Here's a few we love:
- Give a home-made voucher to exchange for your time – cook a meal, do the garden, create a home compost or veggie garden, look after the kids, give a massage.
- Make something yummy. For all those who can bake.
- Make something crafty. For all those who can knit, sew, spin, pot.
- Make your own something incredibly original. www.instructables.com
Buy less. If your family is up for it, do a a Kris Kringle — where each person only buys one present each. Choose who you give to via names out of a hat and set a limit for how much you have to spend. See the No Buy Gift Guide from Sasha Milne who spent 12 months buying nothing new.
And along with the theme...
- The Gift
of Nothing. A very cool book. Mooch the cat desperately wants
to find a gift for his friend Earl the dog, but Earl already
has everything. "What do you give a guy who has everything?"
Mooch wonders. The answer, of course, is nothing!
More at giftofnothing.com. Available at fishpond.
- Have a movie screening. "What would Jesus Buy?" follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shop-apocalypse.
Give an experience
- Movie, theatre,
adventure, pamper, gourmet treat. Take your loved one's out. Make
it your own customised gift, or do
- Or make it personal. Here's Penny giving Sheldon his Big Bang Theory Christmas gift.
Supporting the small guys
This Christmas when buying beer, support one of Australia’s 100+ independent breweries. With exception of the family owned Coopers Brewery, all of the large Australian breweries are now owned by either the Foster's Group or Lion. See Beer company comparion page
In 2016 Belgium’s AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, took over its larger rival South Africa-originated SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer. The combined company accounts for 27 percent of beer sales worldwide. Within Australia, AB In Bev owns rights to Corona, Stella Artosis, Beck’s and Budweiser beer. SABMiller acquired Fosters Group Limited, including Carlton United Breweries (CUB), in 2011 and has since controlled the licensing rights to use the brands Victoria Bitter, Carlton, Crown Larger, Pure Blonde and Strongbow Cider.
Australia’s second largest brewer, Lion, has been wholly-owned by Japan’s Kirin since 2009.
- Australian Craft Beer Brewery List
- Craft beer, brought to you by... Coca-Cola? (Choice 2014)
- And for wine.... a list of those owned by the main players,
Supporters of the current free-market economy argue that competition among producers ensures efficiency and keeps prices as low as possible. This argument sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice it delivers the kind of race-to-the-bottom economy which sidelines workers and delivers much of the productive economy into the hands of a minority. Cooperation on the other hand refers to a situation in which the participants seek out win-win outcomes from working together.
Reducing your meat and dairy consumption this Christmas is one of the most effective things you can do to reduce your environmental impact.
Christmas and vegetarians used not to be a perfect marriage. While everyone else was being offered goose, turkey or capon, the poor non-meat-eaters could be made to feel left out. Nowadays, however, most tastes can be willingly catered for by the cook, especially at Christmas.
- These two great Guardian articles spell it out: How to survive Christmas if you're a vegetarian , and Three recipes for a vegetarian Christmas.
- Check out this amazing Chestnut & shallot Tatins with mushroom & Madeira sauce at BBC Good Food, and other vegetarian Christmas recipies.
- Vegan Christmas dinner / Tofu Turkey
- Cruelty Free Shop - Glebe NSW, Fitzroy VIC / Vegan Online - Cabramatta NSW / Vincent Vegetarian Food - Footscray VIC
- See Cassie from Sustainable Table's guide and menu for hosting a vegetarian Christmas
“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.” ― Matthew Scully
“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ― Henry Beston
This Christmas you can make a difference to the way animals are treated. Choose genuine free range eggs for that custard on the pudding, and free range ham, chicken and turkey if you're preparing meat for the main meal. Choose 'accredited free range' where possible.
In March 2016 a new national standard for free-range egg production was introduced with a stocking density of up to 10,000 hens per hectare. This however was criticised by animal welfare advocates who support the CSIRO Model Code of Practice which sets the limit at 1500 hens per hectare. They say the standard is watered-down and industry-driven.
- See the Choice report on genuine Free range eggs, with stocking densities listed for major brands, and their Cluck'R app.
- For 'where to get free range' information, see our free-range retailer table; and the awesome FlavourCrusader directories pages for pork, chicken,, turkey and eggs.
- Also see Sustainable Table's Ethical Meat Suppliers lists and Where to buy Free Range Pork (Free Range Pig Producers certified).
- Sustainable Table have also put together a guide to Pork labelling, Free range Turkey, and Sustainable seafood.
Take a moment to write down your 5 most important core values. What areas of your life do you need to be willing to compromise in more? What areas of your life do you need to stand firm in more?
This Christmas you can support smaller retailers with your spending dollar. For food purchases look to shop at independent supermarkets such as IGA and Foodworks over Coles and Woolworths if possible, or even better, farmers markets, food co-ops, wholefood stores and independent grocers.
Australia has one of the most concentrated grocery markets in the world. Woolworths and Wesfarmers (owner of Coles) together account for over 70 per cent of supermarket sales. This power has lead to mistreatment of suppliers. Both companies have been fined by the ACCC in recent years for unconscionable conduct.
- Find independent supermarkets near you IGA Store locator / Foodworks locator
- Find alternatives beyond the supermarket such as farmers' markets and food coops at Local Harvest
- Shop online - Fundies Wholefood Market
- See other brands owned by the big two at our duopoly map
Living a good life - living a simple life - in a world that is hectic, busy, and hurried - certainly requires intentionality. Take time in this season to re-examine the wider purpose of your life. Identify what you want your life to communicate and contribute. What are the values you hold as most important. Set goals. Goals move us forward. Take practical steps to achieve these. Stay focused.
Overindulgence is often the hallmark of the day. Many of us are familiar with those “I gotta-lie-down” moments after the Christmas dinner.
Aim for just the right amount. Try to plan your meal appropriately for the number of people eating to avoid the mountains of food waste. Compost the waste. If you haven’t got a system, now may be the time to add one to your wish list.
Slow down. Enjoy your food. The Slow Food Movement began in the 1970s as a response to the rapidly growing and smothering fast food culture. Slow food groups promote the joy of food, and increasing connections between producers and consumers. www.slowfoodaustralia.com.au
Can you imagine what your family life would be like if everyone was happy with what they had in the moment? Where no one was wishing for something else? In our consumer driven culture cultivating contentment can be hard at times. Still it is possible. Here are some simple ways to help nurture a culture of contentment in yourself and your family:
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude encourages us to notice the good things in our life.
- Make a point of helping others. Sharing talents and time helps develop an appreciation for what you have and for what you can offer.
- Avoid the comparison game. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life.