REduce waste

Having a more sustainable Christmas doesn’t mean going without. But it may mean a little extra planning and a touch of creativity.

It’s that time of year again! Plans are being made, money is being spent and the festive season can mean even the most avid waste warrior and sustainability advocate can get swept up in the season of overconsumption and extravagance. Read about simple tips and advice for making sustainable choices this Christmas.


Australians are expected to spend more than $11 billion on Christmas presents this year, with a large portion expected to come from online sales. That’s a fair chunk of dough and stuff, that people may not even need. Consider sharing a piece of that pie with local Brisbane businesses who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Buying local handmade and experience gifts is like giving a virtual hug to a small business. It will also help the environment by helping to reduce waste and local gifts also mean a smaller carbon footprint. Hit up your local artisan Christmas markets and support a local maker, buy vouchers at your favourite restaurants, and consider consumable gifts like yummy hampers with locally made foods.


Discover the Japanese art of furoshiki and wrap your gifts in reusable scarfs. Scarfs can be picked up for as little as $2 from your local op shop. Make it part of the gift or ask the recipient to pass the scarf back to you if they don’t have a use for it. You still get all the joy of unwrapping a gift with none of the waste! You can even make the wrapping part of the gift with a nice tote bag or tea towel.


The Queensland Government’s single-use plastic ban means there should be a significant drop in plastic plates and disposable cutlery waste this Christmas. However, as we move away from single-use plastic materials, a wide range of alternative materials are now available, creating a new – albeit somewhat more sustainable, waste stream. Many of these alternative materials are labelled biodegradable or compostable and while many will eventually break down in a home or industrial composting facility, they are a single-use product requiring resources to manufacture and transport, which contributes to carbon emissions.

The most sustainable product is a reusable product. This may seem daunting at Christmas when you’re catering for more than you normally would. But it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Visit your local Brisbane City Council Treasure Trove or op shop to pick up extra plates, glassware and cutlery for a fraction of the cost. Don’t shy away from mismatched items that can be kept for future parties or simply donated again.


We all want our home to feel and look like Christmas, but Christmas decorations are often made cheaply and from plastics including glitter and tinsel. Consider purchasing second-hand decorations from op shops or online. Have a craft day and make your own decorations or attend a workshop to learn how to make your own wreath and other decorations. You can also have a go at making your own Christmas crackers and hats. When buying new, consider the quality of the product, how it will need to be disposed and its carbon footprint. Like gift giving – a local maker is a good place to start.


No matter how good we are at reducing our waste, there’s always items that will need to be recycled. Brisbane City Council’s Christmas recycling hacks will make sure you’re sending as little to landfill as possible or read out Live for Less Christmas day recycling guide to make sure you’re disposing of your Christmas junk properly. If you’re worried there’s not enough space in your recycling bin, you can even upgrade to a larger recycling bin for free!


Don’t give food the flick this Christmas by not over catering. If you do have leftovers, ask your guests to BYO a container so they can take home leftovers. This will free up space in your fridge and will mean you’re not eating Christmas ham or Aunty Judy’s pavlova into 2022. For more food saving ideas check out Brisbane City Council’s Love Food Hate Waste program.

While it’s fantastic to have a sustainable Christmas, remember that reducing waste at home doesn’t end at the holidays. Find out how your household can make positive changes to help create a clean and green Brisbane all year round.

The author

The Sustainable Living team

Formerly Live for Less, the Sustainable Living team are here to help you lower your cost of living while reducing your environmental footprint.

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