This season of the year, planning for and enjoying the holidays, can be a wonderful time to spend with friends and family. It’s a time for many of us to take a break, relax and reflect on the year that’s been. It’s also a period each year that can take an extra toll on the planet, simply due to the nature of some of our long-held traditions. We thought we’d take a fresh look at how some of these traditions might enjoy a planet-friendly upgrade.
What are the biggest contributors to climate change?
Before we dive into updating our traditions to be more planet-friendly, let’s think about the activities that have the biggest impact. Starting there, we can have the most positive effect.
The biggest contributor to climate change is the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), which accounts for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. These greenhouse gases blanket the earth and result in temperatures increasing, which in turn produce changes in climate, varying weather patterns and upsetting the balance of ecosystems. Every little bit (positive and negative) adds up.
In your household, “burning fossil fuels” might translate to things like:
- Running your electricity and gas to power your home
- Consumption of food that generates food miles and production emissions
- Consumption of goods whose production involves using fossil fuels, such as clothing, electronics and plastics, and their packaging. Plastics are often made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels.
- Transport (including driving and flying)
- Producing waste (which may emit greenhouse gases such as methane)
While it’s not realistic for most people to completely overhaul all of the above, it’s a good place to start looking in order to make improvements. The Christmas season provides a great opportunity to do things differently.
How can I have a more sustainable Christmas?
Many of the following ideas may seem incidental but it all adds up - especially if everyone makes positive changes.
When thinking about gifts for family and friends, we can also think about gifting to the planet! What would Mother Earth have you do?
Here are some ideas:
- Reduce miles by buying locally - rather than purchasing from Amazon or big department stores who ship things to you, shop at your local stores. The added benefit is giving more handmade, unique things for your loved ones and supporting your local businesses.
- Minimise plastic packaging wherever possible - pay attention to the packaging of the gift you’re thinking of buying, and think about what happens to the packaging once it’s opened.
- Wrap in paper that can be recycled - similar to the above, use wrapping that’s recyclable or, better yet, reusable! Metallic wrapping and paper with glitter or foil cannot be recycled.
- Dispose of unwanted gifts thoughtfully - if you receive something you simply don’t want, think carefully about how to dispose of it. Re-gifting it to someone who would appreciate it is ideal, offering it through an online marketplace (again to someone who wants it), or donating it mindfully to a charity.
- Carbon offset delivery of gifts - when it’s not realistic to purchase locally, see if you can carbon offset the emissions from the transport of the gift. Many websites that use Shopify, for example, can automatically offset carbon emissions.
- Support companies that value sustainability - when looking for a gift, consider the values of the company you’re buying from. Purchasing from a company that aligns with your values is a powerful way to speak from your hip pocket.
- Give experiences rather than things - wherever possible, a wonderful way of reducing climate change impacts while also spending time with those you love is to give the gift of experiences. It’s a win-win-win!
Production of food is a major contributor of climate change, through emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. Consider reducing your impact through the following:
- Plan meals carefully and only shop for what you need - food waste is a major issue in Australian households. Plan ahead by thinking realistically about how much food you’ll need, then shopping only for those ingredients.
- Buy locally where possible to reduce food miles - buy from local farmers markets (where producers are located nearby) or direct from the source of production, to cut down on the transport requirements of your food.
- Keep leftovers - overeating and over cooking seem to be Christmas traditions. If you have leftovers (after you've carefully planned and shopped!) keep those leftovers and use them for creative meals.
- Get creative with scraps - kitchen scraps are another form of waste and contributor to greenhouse gases. If your local council doesn’t compost food waste, consider getting a worm farm or household compost. There are also recipes that use kitchen scraps, such as soup broths that you can cook, freeze and save for another time!
- Eat with the seasons - when you buy ingredients that are in season, not only is the price lower but the cost to the earth is lower too. Fewer resources and pesticides are required for crops that are naturally in season.
Decorating our home is one of the joys of the season! There are ways to embrace the celebration whilst taking care of the planet, such as:
- Avoid plastic where possible - as mentioned above, the production of plastic usually uses chemicals from fossil fuels. Opt for more natural materials in your Christmas decorations, with the added benefit these can be composted or returned to nature once the season is over (rather than ending up in landfill).
- Don’t use glitter or balloons - both of these options are harmful to the environment and can remain in the environment for years afterwards.
- Search for sustainable bonbons - continue the tradition of the silly Christmas hats, jokes and little mementos, but opt for a sustainable choice, which are becoming more widely available.
- Make your own natural decorations - in the spirit of not using plastic decorations, why not make your own? There are plenty of online tutorials for making your own Christmas wreath and other decorations using the beautiful materials from nature (or sourced from a local store).
- Real vs fake tree - there is a debate about which of these options has the highest environmental impact, but there’s no doubt that a real Christmas tree is more compostable than a fake one!
- Use solar outdoor lights - lighting up your home can be a joy! Steer clear of using fossil fuels for your energy source and grab some solar-powered lights.
Power usage is one of the biggest sources of burning fossil fuels. Here’s how to minimise yours:
- Minimise your A/C usage - when it’s hot, it can be tempting to crank up the air conditioning to keep cool. If you know it's going to be hot, cool your house gradually by turning on the A/C to a constant 23/24 degrees Celsius early in the day.
- If you have solar, cook with electric appliances rather than using gas. If you’ve got it, use it as much as possible knowing you're utilising clean, green energy!
And of course, if you don’t have solar, talk to Plico today about how much you could save by putting in a solar + battery solution. Not only will you reduce your environmental impact, but you’ll protect your household from blackouts too!
If you’d like to enjoy the holiday season with solar-powered A/C, lights, pool pump and appliances, don’t delay - book in your obligation-free call today. You can view our different solar + battery systems by clicking here or calculate your projected savings with our Solar Savings Calculator. You can also get in touch with one of our switched-on team members by calling 1300 175 426 to see how a solar + battery system can help you save.