This month in the spirit of the holiday season, I have written about greener gifts, rethinking Xmas traditions, Christmas tree dilemmas and mindful shopping. Today given that is only one day to Christmas, I’d like to explore some ideas to reduce waste on Christmas celebrations.

1. Plan the meal and include your guests

I remember one time, I was invited to a a gathering in a park and guests were supposed to bring something to share. Well, everyone decided to go to the supermarket and buy dips, cheeses and crackers. There were like  at least 12 different dips, who knows how many pieces of cheeses and boxes and boxes of crackers.

The sad part was that this food was in an table without a shade, on a warm and sunny day and no refrigeration available. We ate some of this food but it was simply too much for the amount of people invited. By the time I went home, most of those dips and cheeses were still there, I imagine most of it got wasted.

Bring something to share” as an open statement may lead to food waste. Food waste is a major environmental issue and it is just sad to waste food.

Share plate

Share plate

Some ideas to consider:

  • Based on the number of attendees plan what you are going to prepare/buy.
  • Make a shopping list so you avoid over-spending
  • Organise with your guests the food that they are bringing to share, so you have some control on the quantities and also recommend alternatives if someone else is already bringing the same.
  • Ask your family and friends to bring containers so that they can take some leftovers home and food doesn’t get wasted.
  • If you notice that collectively guests are bringing too many dishes,  ask relatives to get together and prepare one dish (e.g. a big salad) instead of two families bringing separate dishes.

2. Avoid disposables

It is quite common this time of the year that family and friends get together to celebrate and numbers add up. In a gathering of let’s say 25 people, disposables are often the option for several reasons: not enough plates/cutlery for everyone, doing the dishes nightmares or simply the habit of using disposables (because that’s the way it’s always been done).

Whatever the reason, for big gatherings this Xmas at home you could consider some of these options:

  • Ask guests to bring their plates, so you don’t have to worry about getting extra ones.
  • Buy extra plates from the opp-shop, they are usually cheap. If you don’t have the space to store them, simply return them.
  • Hire the extra items you need and return.
  • Ask your guests to wash the plates they used. It is only fair if you are doing the heavy-lifting, right?
Xmas Lunch

Xmas Lunch

If the celebration is outdoors, then it is more complicated, you can still bring reusable items, but it is trickier for big groups. If you have to choose disposables, please leave plastic out. Most disposable plastic items like plastic cutlery are not recyclable and have to go to landfill. Some council accept plastic plates but it is not the norm, check with your council.

Opt for cardboard plates and wooden cutlery, but try to bring reusable cups. Paper cups as environmentally friendly as they look, are usually coated with plastic and therefore usually non-recyclable (learn more in my post about coffee cups).

3. Let’s get cooking and shop wisely

Christmas is time to share with family, to spend time together and the kitchen brings great opportunities. Instead of buying cakes, dips, biscuits, snacks, desserts which comes in unnecessary packaging (and let’s face it are usually very unhealthy full of preservatives, additives and so forth), aim to cook them at home.

For those products or ingredients you need to buy, consider:

  • Get them in a bulk shop or in buy in bigger presentations.
  • Go for packaging that can be recycled.
  • Select products wrapped in materials like paper, aluminium and glass over plastic.
  • Buy from bakeries, butchers or delis instead of pre-packaged food in the supermarket. Usually you get less packaging and you can make special requests (e.g. use of paper bags, bring your own containers etc)
  • Buy local.

For more tips about buying in the supermarket and reducing waste read this post I wrote some months ago.

4. Wrap presents slightly different

If you decide to give presents this Xmas, wrapping is also something important to consider. According to Stanford Recycling from Stanford University in USA:

“If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields”.

Wrapping paper generates so much waste. Here some alternatives to consider:

  • Reuse bags and paper from previous years.
  • Avoid gift bags with glitter and other plastic ornaments (most glitter is just micro-plastic polluting the environment)
  • Select recyclable materials, some wrapping paper (like metallic paper) can’t be recycled or need to be recycled in special facilities.
  • Use brown paper, old magazines, newspaper, comic books, maps or similar.
  • Use reusable fabric bags that will be of course part of the present.
  • Use cloth wrapping like a piece of spare fabric, a handkerchief, a tea towel or a scarf. Watch the video below about the Furoshiki technique. Watch this video to learn more about this method.

Don’t forget to open the presents carefully, so you can keep the wrapping  and reuse it later.

Today is my last post of the year, I’ll take a break for a couple of weeks to spend time with family visiting us from overseas. This time of the year is usually very hectic, but I hope I have some time to read a book, try a new recipe, watch movies and take it slow. I need to recharge my batteries.

Have a lovely Christmas and Happy New year everyone. I hope you spend some quality time with friends and family. Thanks for the support this year and I hope to see you around again.