And a happier Earth.
Two years ago I did a little “twelve days of sustainable Christmas” project on Instagram, where for twelve days from the beginning of December I wrote about different ways to make your Christmas a little gentler on the planet. I thought it would be nice to collate those posts into a blog, for those who missed out or don’t want to go scrolling back to read them! (Like me…)
So here they are…
1: Lets talk food!
Because I love to eat, and I love to eat deliciously. And that, for me, means seasonal, local, organic (if possible) and fresh food prepared with love. And cake, obvs.
It’s easy to make your food choices more sustainable this Christmas. If you eat meat, maybe limit the amount you buy this year and order it now through a local primary producer (hint: your local farmer’s market is the place to go for this) who raises pastured, organic, loved animals.
If you are into seafood, make sure it is Australian! No excuses here, we are surrounded by water. But also make sure it was processed and packaged in Australia (you’d be surprised). Perhaps buy less of it so you can buy better, as it is more expensive.
Basically just buy local, seasonal, organic and fresh, where possible. Try to make veggies more of a central part of your lunch table (Hetty McKinnon and Yotam Ottelenghi are fabulous resources for celebratory veggie food). Support your local growers and don’t buy too much– leftovers are fabulous, but only if they get eaten.
So make some shopping lists, place some orders and get thee to a farmer’s market! (And bonus, you get to avoid the mad rush of crowds at the supermarket).
2: Christmas trees
It’s all about that tree. Plastic, foraged, tree farm, nursery? What’s best??
I would try to avoid plastic trees (unless you already have one, in which case keep using it!). But there are better reusable options (cos once you’re finally finished with the plastic tree, it probably can’t be fully recycled).
Buy a live tree! Keep it in a pot, take care of it, and you’ll have a tree for years–and if you ever want a different tree, you can just plant it in the ground!
Or build your own! The one in this picture is VERY rustic (I am no carpenter), but it has served us well for the last few years. It’s literally just a thick branch siliconed into a wooden base, with smaller branches tied on. Works a treat, and we already had everything in our backyard!
And if you do want a freshly cut tree, try to find an ethically minded tree farmer (or speak to a friend or family member with a large property- they may have trees they need removed, so it’s a win win). And put it in the green bin when it’s time to take it down.
3: Advent calendars
I haven’t had one since I was a child, and they were those supermarket ones with the crappy chocolate (and the plastic packaging).
I remember reading about a family’s beautiful alternative Advent tradition. Every year they write 24 little cards with nice things they could do for other family members, nice outings they can take together, or things they can do for other people. They stick it up on the wall and work through it together in the weeks leading up to Christmas. So much cooler than crappy chocolate and plastic packaging.
I used to buy Christmas decorations from the cheap shops… Tinsel and baubles and all those shiny things. But I haven’t bought anything like this for years.
I sometimes pick up the odd tree decoration throughout the year, or when I’m travelling. Always from an independent shop and usually a handmade piece. So now I have a bit of a collection of beautiful, well made decorations I use every year.
A few years ago we were living interstate and had no tree decorations so we bought a whole heap from a second hand shop for about $5- they looked the same as ones from Kmart but my heart felt good about them.
Or make some! Dehydrated orange slices on a string are beautiful, spiced biscuits that last for a month hanging on a tree are pretty and fun to make (and can be nibbled when the afternoon sweet craving hits), dried flowers on a string would be pretty. Add some fairy lights and you’ll have a beautiful tree.
5: Gifts (pt. 1 – secret santa dinner parties)
Gifts have (regrettably) become such a big part of Christmas, so they make up a few entries to this list.
The idea of secret santa dinner parties was given to me by a friend. Her extended family decided to do a secret santa based around dinner parties, rather than tangible gifts.
Each person chooses a month and a theme from the hat, and then they host a dinner that fits the brief for the fam. So they are giving each other the gifts of their time, company and good food, and the promise of catch ups throughout the year. So lovely.
Practice self care, and give yourself a break. I am one hundred percent sure you have said yes to way more things than you ordinarily would have simply because “tis the season”, so make sure you have a few days where you say no, stay home, watch Elf and eat cookies. Do it!
7: Gifts (pt. 2 – home made)
I usually try to make as many gifts as possible (actually I usually way over-estimate how much I can do before Christmas and then get a bit stressed… But not this year!) I think even if you can make a small thing for your family and friends, it’s great. Handmade gifts are full of heart, and it’s hard not to feel loved when somebody has taken the time to make you something.
Here’s a little list of things I’ve made Christmases past, in case you want some inspo:
Spiced roasted almonds (super easy and delish!)
Sugar body scrub (a very simple one is raw sugar, ground coffee, coconut oil and orange essential oil)
Marshmallows (though you do need a heavy duty mixer for this)
Kasundi (the absolute BEST Indian chutney)
Simple cookies or crackers
8: Christmas shopping
Day eight, and after talking about gifting experiences and making your Christmas gifts, we have to talk about Christmas SHOPPING
Dirty words? Maybe kinda. But sometimes it is nice to buy a gift for someone you love. And if you do so mindfully, it’s nice in lots of different ways. Buying from companies who do business ethically means you are voting for a more sustainable way of living. Change happens when people put their money where their ethics are (among other things).
Shopping with small, independent artists, makers and producers is such a wonderful thing to do, not least because you are making a real person smile with every purchase. If you buy from a real person, you are not only giving a wonderful heartfelt gift, you are also giving the maker your vote of confidence and support (and trust me, as a small business owner, that is the every best gift of all).
9: Send your stuff (well)
Sending parcels to loved ones elsewhere? Consider using Sendle. It’s Australia’s first 100‰ carbon neutral delivery company, who also support ecological projects all over the planet. Yay!
10: Wrap wrap wrap it up
Let’s talk wrapping… A part of gifting that I really enjoy. I love making a carefully selected gift even more special with beautiful, thoughtful presentation.
And you can make it beautiful without even going to the shops! (if you’re like me and keep newspaper and jute string on hand at all times, hoard brown paper bags you have collected, and have rosemary in the garden). These are my staples for wrapping gifts:
String, newspaper, brown paper, greenery that lasts once picked (rosemary, straw flowers, eucalypt…), fabric, and a black fineline pen.
Fabric is a great no waste option for gifts going to close family or friends, as they can give it back once gifts are opened (or you can make it part of the present!)
Once you start thinking about it from a different angle, there are so many beautiful, creative ways to wrap your Christmas gifts–without having to buy any wrapping paper, ribbon or anything that gets used once and thrown away. It doesn’t have to be complicated– newspaper, string and a eucalypt leaf are wonderful.
I think traditions are a wonderful way to celebrate this time of year, without giving in to the capitalism fest it has sort of become. And I mean traditions you have created yourself, or loved traditions from your childhood… Things that are personal, have meaning, and may make no sense at all to anyone else.
Traditions (or rituals) and ceremony are such a great way to create a sense of excitement without necessarily having to spend money. Maybe baking the same thing every Christmas morning, or watching the same movie with your siblings every year when you get together (my sister and I watch Da Kath and Kim Code as our own personal Christmas tradition and it is fantastic), or going to listen to carols with your fam, or (borrowing from the Danish tradition) gifting family members a book on Christmas eve and spending the night curled up and reading, or (in the Southern hemisphere) an early morning swim to ring in Christmas day, or listening to Paul Kelly’s “who’s gonna make the gravy” whilst you cook Christmas lunch… There are so many simple ways to create a sense of wonder and excitement, even as adults.
12: Share the abundance
For those of us who are not religious, it seems that Christmas is a celebration of abundance… Mountains of food, weekends full of parties and catchups, lots of gifts and giving, extra time spent making things beautiful with trees, decorations, twinkling lights… And that’s not a bad thing. Take the time to celebrate abundance with your loved ones!
But I think it is important to remember that this can be a really hard time of year for some people. People who aren’t lucky enough to have abundance, in whatever form, to celebrate. But you can help! By donating gifts, donating time in a kitchen on Christmas day (if you happen to find yourself at a loose end), making the effort to spend time with family members, especially elderly ones who may not get as many visitors as they could, even just taking some time to write a letter and bring someone joy in the post. (If you do have the urge to put pen to paper, can I recommend the beautiful mail art templates by @naomibulger to house your letter?)
Let’s share the abundance, far and wide.
And with that, I am sharing with you a recipe for one of the most popular salads I made when I was salad girl at the cafe in Sydney (because as much as everyone loves that ‘Asian’ crispy noodle salad, might I suggest mixing it up a bit with something new?). So here is the- very simple – recipe, perhaps your contribution to the abundance of the Christmas lunch table…
Mixed green leaves
Baby peas (frozen is fine)
A small zucchini, ribboned with a vegie peeler
Soft ricotta cheese
Dried cranberries or sour cherries, rehydrated for 20 minutes in hot water
A mixture of nuts and seeds, toasted (walnuts, flaked almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, pistachios all work well)
Mint and dill, chopped
A lemon, garlic, olive oil and sea salt vinaigrette
Combine the leaves, peas, dried fruit, zucchini ribbons and herbs. Drizzle with enough dressing to just coat the leaves–don’t drench them, and mix well. Dot with spoonfuls of ricotta and sprinkle with the nut/seed mix. Delish!