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Have yourself a zero waste Christmas

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As the Christmas season gets into swing, the Zero Waste Network is encouraging New Zealanders to enjoy a zero waste holiday.

The things we choose to do and buy this Christmas have significant impacts on our climate, ecosystems, water, air and communities.

New Zealanders generate more waste per person than almost anywhere else in the world: we discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year - about 3,200kg for every person. Right now we only recycle 28 per cent of this waste.

The holiday season is a great time to spend time with family and friends, and to celebrate the end of the year. It can also be a really stressful time as there are often expectations and family traditions about Christmas gift-giving.

“For those of us who are trying to reduce our impact on the earth by embracing zero waste in our day-to-day life, there is the extra stress of wanting to be true to our values while being a part of the rituals that are important to us,” says a statement from the network.

“Food, glorious food, is a big part of Christmas. One thing you can do is plan your meals before you shop to avoid buying too much that may go to waste. It’s also good to have a plan for leftovers so you benefit from the food you’ve already prepared instead of chucking it in the bin.”

The average New Zealand household in 2018 wasted $644 worth of food per annum - approximately 86 kilos. Municipal landfills take huge amounts of organic waste, which produces methane, an aggressive greenhouse gas.

The most important thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself and others.

It is often said that, "We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly."

That said, there are lots of ways that to enjoy all of the festivities of Christmas while being zero waste.

Here's a few ideas

1. Make your own gifts

Many of us have skills or talents that we want to use - or things that we would like to learn how to do: knitting, painting, music, photography, graphic design, movie making, weaving, carving, pottery, jewellery making, tool making...and so on. These hobbies and skills are a great way to make a unique, specialised present for someone. There are literally dozens of websites with gift ideas and recipes of things you can make as Christmas gifts.

2. Give the gift of your time

So many of us are really time-poor these days. We are running around with crazy schedules trying to find enough free minutes to do small things. Giving the gift of your time to someone can be invaluable. You might be available to give new parents a night off so they can have a long-overdue date, give time for a gardening working bee to get a friend’s yard in order, help paint a family member’s house or fix their car.

3. Make a gift of a service, such as a massage, gig tickets, haircut, a restaurant voucher, a music lesson or a fun trip

Treating your family and friends to a special experience can often be a better way to show your love, affection or appreciation than an object because it can expose a person to something new that they might not do for themselves and can create lasting memories.

4. Gift a tree - create a forest

Gift the planting of a tree to restore our native forests. There are a number of projects around the country where you can purchase a native tree in someone’s name as a gift to be planted in a regenerating forest or reserve. Projects include the Native Forest Restoration Trust - nationwide, the Kaipatiki Project -Auckland, Trees That Count: Te Rahi O Tane -nationwide, and Motuihe Project -Hauraki Gulf. Many of these projects will issue a certificate for the gift that you can give to the recipient, and even invite them along to the planting session of ‘their’ tree.

5. Give a donation to a cause they care about

Christmas is best embodied by the spirit of giving, and what better way to do that than to give a donation in support of a cause on behalf of your friend or family member? Many charitable organisations will send out a gift card to you to give to the person acknowledging the gift in their name.

6. Buy a zero waste gift

You might like to help your friends and family to live a zero waste life. Are they keen coffee drinkers? How about a reusable travel cup? You could buy something that is upcycled, recycled or reused: from secondhand booksellers to op shops and consignment shops, New Zealand has treasures waiting to be discovered. If you do buy new, think about reused or recycled content, durability and reparability. There are literally hundreds of different zero waste products on the market from jewellery to electronics that are working towards a circular economic model.

Most importantly, what is Christmas really about for you? For most of us, it is really about spending time with people we love, getting out in nature, celebrating our faith, having fun, eating pavlova and just having a bit of time off. 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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