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In the midst of our southern summer of braaivleis and blues skies, there’s no point in us dreaming of a white Christmas; but there’s a lot we can do to easily make our festive celebrations greener.  

In fact, when it comes to the Christmas season of 2017, there’s no doubt that green is the new white. 

There’s high regard for the ways to be more waste-free and plastic-free; and more joy in giving and receiving earth-friendly gifts that are more aligned to who we really are, what we truly value and how we feel about the planet.

We asked some of SA’s top green experts for their tips for a greener Christmas:

  • Go with a Christmas tree that grows – Whatever you do, don’t go buying a new fake plastic tree this season. They don’t last forever, and will inevitably end up in the landfill. Greenpop recommends buying a real tree that you can pot for Xmas, and then plant out in your garden after the holiday season.  Choose a water-wise, indigenous tree with a great shape such as the Water Berry tree.  If you don’t have space in your garden to plant it out after Christmas, you can always donate it to a local school in the New Year and help them green their environment.

  • Wrap them up in inspiration – Unwrapping presents brings us great joy at Christmas time, but the great heap of torn paper with layers of plastic tape that we clean up afterwards is a real downer. Zero waste advocate, Shannon Skye Goodman suggests getting everyone involved in creatively using more eco-friendly alternatives this year.  Decorate brown paper and newspaper, and use spare boxes or pretty scraps of fabric.  Use only paper tape or string and ribbons that can be reused.  Consider making the wrapping part of the gift by using locally-made scarves, décor cloths or sarongs. If you just don’t have the time to make your own, another option is to choose eco wrapping paper such as the FSC certified collection from Rotoflux which is made with 100% recycled materials and is available in a range of colours and designs.

  • Tag the earth! - Make your own gift tags, cards and Christmas decorations, or if you must buy - make sure they are eco-friendly and recyclable. You can surprise and delight friends and loved ones with cards, tags and decorations from Growing Paper that have a life of their own.  Impregnated with the seeds of flowering plants and made with natural inks they are designed to be planted after Christmas to add joy to your garden.

  • Mindful shopping for meaningful gifts – In the Christmas rush, it’s easy to find yourself buying whatever is to hand for someone who has everything anyway.  It pays to really spend some time thinking about what you can give your loved ones and friends that will delight them and won’t compromise your greener Christmas this year.  Founder of Faithful-to-Nature.co.za, Robyn Smith points out that there is more choice than there has ever been when it comes to eco-friendly goods.  From luxury organic toiletries and chocolates to quality gadgets for the greener house and garden, you can far more easily find gift options that are better for the earth.  It is also becoming increasingly popular to give gifts for good by making donations to causes in lieu of gifts, or to go for gifts that keep on giving such as the Sow Delicious ‘Slab of Seed’ which sets your loved one on the path to grow their own food garden full of heirloom crops.  Another great idea to reduce consumption is to give the gift of an experience rather than a thing.

  • Local is lekker and home-made is even better! – Jade Khoury of Low Impact Living has these ‘little green elf guidelines’ when it comes to gifting – “Choose natural materials, locally sourced and locally made in as little packaging as possible – if there is packaging make sure it is all recyclable.”  You can’t get more local than what you can make in your own home, and Jade shares the recipe for her luxurious African Goddess Body scrub:

1 cup of coffee grinds

1 cup of organic coconut oil

2 tablespoons of honey

2 tablespoons of sweet almond oil

Essential oils of your choice (Jade uses cinnamon and rose oil)

A pretty jar (preferably one you are re-using)

Melt the coconut oil gently in a pot over a very low heat.  When it is liquid, stir in all other ingredients except the essential oils.  Mix well, then add the essential oil and mix again.  Scoop into the jar.

  • Plan for feasting with zero food waste – We get to the end of a long year and we naturally feel like indulging and being indulged over the holiday season.  It’s the time for lots of social meals and festive treats which can surely lead to an excess in food.  According to celebrity chef, Sarah Graham, just a little planning can go a long way to alleviating this.  She recommends including a strategy for how to use the leftovers when you are planning your festive menus.  You can conserve food and budget, as well as your own time and energy by intending to ‘cook once to eat twice’ every time you are preparing for a mealtime gathering.  It might also be the ideal time to think of a natural food waste disposal system such as the Probio Bokashi home composter to deal with off-cuts during preparation and unavoidable food waste.  A no-mess, no-smell and no-fuss composter such as this can help you cleanly upcycle food waste into nutrient-rich compost to help your garden thrive.

  • Commit to a plastic-free Christmas, and stick to it – “It’s amazing how easy it is to find great alternatives when you set the intention that you aren’t going to do plastics,” says Robyn. From taking your re-usable bags with you when you shop to saying no to plastic straws and bottled water, there’s so much you can do to help avoid plastic waste.  Avoid buying plastic toys and trinkets by exploring eco-kids options.  Don’t use plastic sticky tape, there are paper tape options.  Swap heavily plastic-packaged food products in supermarkets for fresh, artisan-made options at your local market that you can take home in a brown paper bag.  Let go the cling wrap (and the aluminium foil) - neither can be recycled.  Store leftovers in glass containers, let fly nets protect food on display and use a dish cover when you transport your signature salad to your best friend’s braai.  To make a plastic-free Christmas even easier, Faithful to Nature has now curated a searchable collection of gift options and other practical alternatives to worse pollutants on the planet.

“There’s so much we can do, so easily, to enjoy a greener Christmas season,” Robyn adds, “Who doesn’t like ideas such as less waste and less plastic?   The most important part of our holiday season is about relaxing, having fun and connecting authentically with our loved ones. We do that so much better when we are not stressed about other things.  So often, indulging induces feelings like guilt.  But if we do a greener Christmas, we can just let that go.”

Faithful to Nature