Step away from crazy consumerism

There are plenty of ways to give presents this Christmas including the gift of time – perhaps a working bee in someone’s garden.

Boughs of holly, sleigh bells ringing, turkey with stuffing, goodwill to all men.

“Throw in a zero waste Christmas and holiday season,” says Marty Hoffart of the Zero Waste Network – the environmental professionals committed to conserving natural resources.

“Because the things we choose to do and buy this Christmas have ​significant impact on our climate, ecosystems, water, air and communities​.” Our rubbish record speaks for itself. New Zealanders generate more waste per person than almost anywhere in the world. We discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year, that’s about 3200kg for every person. And we recycle just 28 per cent of this waste. 

“For those of us who are trying to reduce our impact by embracing zero waste in our day-to-day life, Christmas presents extra stress of wanting to be true to our values while being a part of the rituals that are important to us.”

While it’s often said we don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we do need millions of people doing it imperfectly. And so the Zero Waste Network has some Christmas pointers to get you going.


Plan meals before shopping to avoid buying too much and wasting stuff. Also plan for leftovers so they aren’t unnecessarily chucked. Each Kiwi household ​wasted $644 worth of ​food in 2018, or about 86kg. Landfills take huge amounts of organic waste, which produce the aggressive greenhouse gas methane.


We all have talents we want to use, or skills we would like to learn like knitting, painting, music, photography, graphic design, weaving, carving, pottery and the like. These hobbies and skills are a great way to make a unique, specialised gift for a special person. And there are dozens of websites with gift ideas and recipes you can turn into Christmas gifts.


Gifting your precious time can be invaluable. Give some new parents a night off so they can have a date, give time to a garden working bee, help paint a house or fix a car.


Gift the planting of a tree to restore native forests. There are many projects where you can purchase a native tree in someone’s name as a gift to be planted in a regenerating forest or reserve. Projects like the ​nationwide Native Forest Restoration Trust will issue a certificate for the gift that you can give to the recipient and even invite them to the planting of ‘their’ tree.


Christmas is about the spirit of giving so donate to a cause someone cares about this Christmas. Many charitable organisations will send a card acknowledging the gift in their name.


Help friends and family live a zero-waste life.

If they’re coffee drinkers, how about a reusable travel cup? Buy something upcycled, recycled or reused from a secondhand bookshop, op shop, consignment shop. There are heaps of pre-loved treasures waiting to be re-discovered. If you do buy new, think about the reused or recycled content, durability and repairability. There are hundreds of zero waste products on the market from jewellery to electronics that are all contributing towards a circular economic model.

“For most of us, Christmas is really about spending time with loved ones, getting out in nature, celebrating faith, having fun, eating pavlova or just having time off,” says Marty. “You can step away from the crazy consumerism and reframe your Christmas by putting your own priorities and family traditions front and centre.”

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NZ Waste Figures

Posted on 16-12-2019 12:14 | By

It is stated above that : "New Zealanders generate more waste per person than almost anywhere in the world. We discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year, that’s about 3200kg for every person." I’m not sure where this figure comes from, because the World Bank figures are for an average of 734 kg a year in NZ, less than a quarter of that. And that does not put NZ anywhere near the worst polluting countries, they are all conveniently left out of any comparison (which is only for "developed" countries). It is more correct to say that NZ falls in the middle of the range of the Least polluting countries of the world. But I guess the truth doesn’t fit the agenda.