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George's greener guide to Christmas

Department store decorations are up, Michael Bublé has emerged from his cave and there’s chatter about Christmas parties and Secret Santa.

Hate it or love it, the festive season is well and truly upon us!

While Christmas fills some with dread, we’re a bunch of carol-crooning, merry mofos here at George HQ.

But what does strike fear into our hearts, is the excessive spending, consumption, and waste that accompany the holidays.

We adore spoiling our loved ones as much as the next, but Christmas creates so much pressure to make one day perfect. 

It’s so easy to go OTT, never quite feeling done with our shopping, even putting ourselves under financial strain in a bid to make Christmas special-er.

And so often our presents aren’t even appreciated or used. Unopened boxes and gift packs are forgotten at the tops of cupboards and backs of drawers.

Christmas has never been special because of how much we spend; the season is pure magic in itself – the uplifting tunes, the pretty lights, the eager anticipation, the extra time with loved ones, the merry festivities and raucous laughter, oh, and the food… How we love the food!

Instead of going overboard on gifts, this year, why don’t we choose to be kinder to ourselves, our credit card balances and mother earth?

Our tips for a greener, kinder Christmas will have even the biggest Grinch jingling bells and humming along to All I Want for Christmas.

Choose mindfully

Christmas is a period of extreme waste in Australia.

We’re a generous bunch, dropping around 20 billion dollars on gifts, but how many of these gifts are actually wanted?

And what is all this “stuff” doing to our health and the health of our planet?

Bunches of flowers and gift packs come swathed in single-use plastic, which takes hundreds of years to decompose, harming wildlife and making its way into the food chain as it does.

Cheaply made items, fad toys, and excess Christmas-themed packaging are destined for landfill, where they’ll leach tonnes upon tonnes of greenhouse gas into the air.

Fragrance and cosmetic packs bubble away with synthetic chemicals, harmful to our bodies and our waterways.

Is it any wonder we feel a little empty once the presents have all been opened and lay strewn around the room like trash?

Aussies receive around 20 million unwanted gifts, every. freakin’. year!

This stat alone is enough to make us relax on the giving, without feeling a shred of guilt.

Instead of going overboard on a bunch of smaller items, why not choose one or two well-made gifts, crafted from natural or recycled materials.

Think handmade items, lush organic cottons and linens, or a divine natural alternative to their usual ‘toxic soup’ fragrance, soap or haircare (we’re looking at you, Better Hair Everyday Kit!)

Bonus points if they come boxed in compostable or recyclable packaging, or better yet, no packaging at all!

To really up your eco-gifting cred, send an e-gift card or give a voucher for an experience, instead of one more physical item that will one day be discarded.

Give a little, save a little

It’s a depressing stat that 86% of Aussies say Christmas leaves them out of pocket.

We all feel the pressure to make each Christmas bigger and sparklier than the last, but the stress of a January financial hangover ain’t worth it.

We won’t look back fondly on that leaning tower of presents if we can’t afford food next month.

If Christmas shopping makes you feel giddier than Great Aunt Gert, and you’re tempted to go cray on the AfterPays, sit down and make a budget before you spend a cent.

Take your monthly income, minus food, rent, bills, and an allowance for any expenses that pop up or, ya know, just having a life. Be sure to account for any unpaid leave or changes to work hours over December and January.

What’s left can be used to pay down Buy Now, Pay Later accounts and credit card balances, to save on fees and interest.

Going past credit limits and racking up more than you can afford in repayments isn’t worth the hassle – you’ll be whacked with fees up the wazoo, making money even tighter.   

Here are a few suggestions to save you money this silly season, that also happen to be eco-friendly:

  • Suggest a gift swap or Kris Kringle with your friend group and family, so you won’t need to buy so many gifts
  • Make your own Christmas cards on Canva
  • Ask guests to bring a plate if you’re hosting a shindig
  • Thrift second-hand Christmas decorations
  • Sell unwanted items from your wardrobe and around the house

It’s a wrap

An estimated 150,000km of wrapping paper is used each Christmas – enough to wrap around planet earth almost 4 times!

Much of this is plastic-lined and cannot be recycled, though it is often placed in kerbside recycling by mistake.

By thinking outside the box or getting a little crafty, you can eliminate the need for wrapping paper altogether.

Buying a picnic hamper, storage baskets, or a suitcase as gifts? Smaller gifts can be housed inside.

Upcycle old Christmas napery or tea towels and tie them around your gifts with jute or hemp ribbon. You could even design your own gift wrap using recycled paper.

Keep gift bags and boxes that you receive and recycle them again and again. They’re often good as new after each use because the gifts are removed so quickly.

If you do need or prefer to buy gift wrap, consider a fabric option or post-consumer recycled wrapping paper. Hello Snowglobe, Earth Greetings and Bespoke Letterpress have some stunning options.

Final thoughts…

Saving our sanity and the earth at Christmastime requires a shakeup of the way things have always been done.

Consumer culture has drilled into us that we must buy, buy, buy to be happy but the true magic of Christmas has never been about gifts or material things.

It takes a brazen badass to start doing things differently and show others the way to a simpler, stress-free holiday season, but your family and friends will love you for it and the flow-on effects for the environment will be huge.

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