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How to waste less this silly season

We all want to waste less this silly season and be less “silly”, but just how much is achievable? I coined the phrase “low tox” rather than “no-/free-/quit-/non-tox” to create a blueprint for those wanting to make better choices but not enter into a militant, purist world of non-existent perfection. Low-tox offers space to grow and improve, along with acceptance, non-judgement and support. These qualities are what I believe help us create lasting change.

I thought I’d share a few of my top tips for a smooth sailing low-tox and, by default, low-waste festive season.

Being with the people you love over the festive season is what really counts — not the “surprise” gifts that you don’t need.

It’s important to keep this in mind throughout the season: if you’ve done your best then for goodness sake, let go of what you can’t control. Don’t go resenting great auntie Betty because a toy gift was plastic or Karen the neighbour who brought the throw-away tablecloth. It’s more important to focus on that fact that you’re celebrating the festive season with all the people you love.

First up, let’s look at the “why” of reducing waste during the festive season. I can hear you say, “Isn’t it the one time of the year to spoil loved ones and go shopping?” Well, yes and no. It’s time to get strategic so that the fall-out of your generosity isn’t a mass pollution of plastic waste and landfill from presents that end up on the council pick-up day heap. The expenditure over the festive season is estimated at producing more than 13 million tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia alone. Yikes!

I have made a list of easy-to-focus-on things you can do for a low-tox, less stuff, festive season that also doesn’t mean you’re left gifting a hessian bag of depravation with a forced, apologetic smile.

Choose sustainably produced and recycled products or gifts

Choose sustainably sourced ingredients, materials, presents, plates, cutlery and bin liners. Those few extra dollars for recycled wrapping paper, old newspapers or compostable bags make a difference. If a bit more money is spent on upgrading your items, don’t worry. You will save elsewhere. I always say, a few trade ups cost neutral when we simply stop buying as much stuff as we currently do.

Gift mindfully

Create a wholefood or low-tox personal care hamper or shop at sustainably minded stores for beautiful, handcrafted gifts that are ethically produced. You want to give stuff that people actually want and less superfluous stuff such as synthetically scented, expensive-as-all-heck candles that contain endocrine-disruptive chemicals.

For the bubbas in the family, gift hard wood/recycled wood toys with natural paints. For the tweens and teens, gift an experience instead of more “stuff” and, for your loved ones, give a voucher towards something they are saving for.

Be less ashamed of asking for exactly what you want

Asking for the things you want might feel weird the first time you do it, but your family are probably worried they won’t get it right. So, save them the hassle and simply send the website link to a gift card for your favourite store or the link to the water purifier you’d like the whole family to chip in for. Being with the people you love over the festive season is what really counts — not the “surprise” gifts you don’t need.

Reduce food waste

Reducing food waste is a key part of Christmas. You know those salad and cold meat buffet spreads that go crusty and limp over the course of a hot Australian summer afternoon? On big feasting days, store your leftovers straight away into the fridge so they’re safely edible the next day. If there’s a lot of meat, only put in the fridge what you can eat in the next two days and then put the rest into the freezer for soups, stews and casseroles. Slice any leftover Christmas cake, pop it in a glass or stainless-steel container and save it for another day in the freezer. For portion control, you can slip some baking paper in between each slice of cake and take a serve out as needed.

“Scent” your Christmas naturally

Companies will tempt you with all sorts of synthetically perfumed air fresheners, candles and reeds for “the perfect Christmas smell”. Instead, grab yourself some orange, pine and cinnamon oils, pop five drops of each into a diffuser and voila: a Christmas scent minus the hormone disruption from the phthalates often found in synthetic-fragranced products.

There’s a lot to think about, so just start small. It’s brave and sometimes lonely being the pioneering thinker about waste, but your family will come around once they see how easy and lovely you make it. Often just being really happy with what you’re doing will lead to people asking questions and getting the conversation started. Then you can share tips openly with their curiosity piqued. Happy festive season to you all!

Alex Stuart

Alex Stuart

Alexx Stuart is a passionate educator in the space she calls "living a low-tox life". Through her speaking, workshops, e-courses and online community, she helps people make the best new choices for themselves, their family and the planet.

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