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This month’s challenge takes place under the Christmas tree.

Welcome to December – the last month of the Sustainable Me challenge! Thank you for taking part, whether it was for just one month or all twelve. Even small changes can make a big difference, especially when lots of us are doing them. Kudos to you for trying to make your world a better place…

December goal: Waste-free holidays

Can you believe it? The holiday season is upon us! And for many, that means purchasing presents for friends, neighbors and loved ones. This can be a stressful time of year as we strive for the perfect gift, but it’s also a stressful time for the planet. Our material culture seems to pressure us to buy presents for everyone we know, but we also know that many well-meaning presents are unwanted and unused.

Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do this holiday season to reduce your gift-giving footprint:

Buy second hand – There’s already a lot of stuff in this world, so why create more by buying new, when you might be able to find something pre-loved? Before you make a purchase have a look around for a used one. Check your local op shops or visit sites like Trade Me.

Use alternative wrappings – Wrapping paper is a single-use item – it’s lovely but ultimately gets tossed away with the rubbish as soon as its purpose is complete. Instead, make the wrapping part of the gift. Try wrapping gifts in a tea towel, a pillowcase, or a reusable grocery sack. Within your family, you can wrap items in decorative fabric bags that can be used again each year. Check out the resources section below for more wrapping paper alternatives.

Make it yourself – While making your own gifts may sound daunting to some, it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of simple DIY ideas out there. A great place to start is with these 13 gifts in jars from the Zero Waste Chef.

Give experiences – Tickets to a movie, a theatre performance, concert or sporting event. An invitation to go on a hike, a picnic, a walk on your favourite beach or go fishing. Certificates for a cooking class, spa outing or art night. Spending time with those you love is a fabulous gift that can create lifelong memories. This list might give you more ideas: Make Memories, Not Waste.

Give consumables – Everybody’s got to eat, right? The gift of food – either something you made yourself, a restaurant voucher or a specially cooked dinner – can be a wonderful present that also meets one of our basic human needs.

Give the gift of charity – Make a donation in your gift recipient’s name to a charity that is in line with their interests or hobbies. It’s the gift that pays it forward.

Ask before you gift – Lots of times we get gifts that we really don’t want or need. We tend to put a lot of emphasis on presents being a surprise, but it’s also ok to ask somebody what they actually want to receive. This would cut down on unused and unwanted presents. If you do happen to get something you don’t need or want this year, re-gift it to someone who does or donate the item to a local charity.

Whoever you are buying for this year, take a step back and re-evaluate your gift-giving. Sustainable options exist, it’s just a matter of finding ways to do it that work for you.

How to participate:

Choose the level below that works for you, and don’t forget to upload a picture of yourself getting into the waste-free holiday spirit. Include the hashtag #OSOFSustainableMe and #OurSeasOurFuture, and we will feature you on our Instagram feed and Facebook Page/s.

We hope that over the past twelve months you have had a chance to practice some new sustainable behaviours and have found one or two that work for you and your family.  Thanks for coming along on this journey and we hope you keep looking out for new ways to use less and lighten your footprint. If you do, be sure to tell us about them through the Plastic Free New Zealand Facebook group. Happy Holidays!

December Challenge

Here’s what to do:

Beginner: Test out at least one of the waste-reducing ideas above.

Advanced: Aim for a fully waste-free holiday season. It is possible!

How does it help?

Any time you reduce the amount of waste you produce, you’re doing great work for the environment. It takes energy and resources to make every single thing we humans use and buy and eat and gift. Being aware of your impact and actively striving to reduce it is the best present you can give the planet. Your ongoing challenge is to carry that forward through to the next year and beyond.


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