Did you know that Rudolph the Reindeer was invented by a department store, and almost called Reginald?

Traditionally, Christmas is a time to buy a lot, eat a lot and decorate a lot. But like Rudolph, much of our Christmas tradition is based on marketing and money spending. In Australia, over $16 billion is spent at Christmas, mostly on gifts and food. With this dark side of the holiday season, how can we celebrate without the consumption? How can we reduce our impact, without being a grinch?  

This is a guide to Christmas cheer, without waste and excess. We’ve looked into the best ways to make this holiday awesome for you and the planet. From the decorations, to the presents, to the sparkly lights, here’s a few ways to make your Christmas cheerier for you and the planet.

Pretty elfing good, right? 

Give Experiences, Not Gifts

Your time is the most valuable thing you own, so giving that to someone else is literally a priceless gift. Whether it’s for your grandma or your best mate, there’s something for everyone – it could be something with monetary value, like a skydiving voucher, kayaking trip or pottery class (everyone knows grandmas love skydiving).


Photo by Angel Grimaldi


But it could also be something with a more personal touch, sharing something or somewhere you love – like a guided hike to your favourite waterfall or a weekend away camping. Teaching a skill or writing a song, a home cooked meal or epic sunset picnic. The experiential possibilities are endless. 

Get Crafty

Use your hands and the power of the internet to make something amazing. Depending on your skill level, ability to learn from YouTube videos and proximity to Bunnings (or a tip shop), you could make anything! From wooden nest boxes for birds and possums, a paracord survival bracelet or maybe even a plywood canoe

If you’re in north-east NSW, Wild Search are doing a DIY Christmas Gifts workshop in Byron on December 6th making natural products like beeswax wraps and body scrub.

Think Outside the Gift-Wrapped Box

Giving gifts does not have to mean buying shiny new things – second hand shops often have completely unique items. You could also re-gift something of yours that you no longer use. Get a bit wild and gift someone a piece of the Daintree rainforest or adopt them a quoll.

Try to avoid toys with batteries (or get rechargeables), buy local and buy less. 

Trade In The Tinsel

Tinsel, glitter, baubles – they’re all just shiny plastic, and we all know that plastic is not planet-friendly. Instead, try DIY alternatives – tinsel can be replaced with ribbons, paper chains or some Pinterest-worthy Aussie bushland wreaths. Make your own glitter with a hole punch and some gum leaves, decorate with flowers and use reusable fabric napkins instead of disposable. You can even make your own Christmas crackers, with just a toilet roll, some repurposed gift wrap and most importantly, your favourite Dad jokes.


Photo by Angel Grimaldi

Festive Food

While eating your way into a food coma is always a fun way to spend Christmas day, there are ways to do this more sustainably. The best thing you can do is eat local and in season produce (check out your local farmers market). A British study found the carbon footprint of the average Christmas meal was the equivalent of 6000 car trips around the world. A large part of this was from the turkey. 


Photo by K. Nelson


Switching meat dishes for plant-based is an easy way to cut down on the footprint of your feast. If you are buying meat, choose organic, free range and small-scale farms. Avoid packaging where possible, and serve the food on real plates not on single use plastic. 

Food waste is a traditional part of most Christmas banquets, with an estimated 10% ending up in the trash. Compost food scraps while cooking and make the most of your leftovers. Plan to reuse what’s left and freeze what you can’t eat. If you’re in the mood for a white Christmas, spend some time in your freezer before the Christmas feast – clean it out, defrost it and make space for more efficient food storage.  

Thoughtful Travelling

Whether you’re wanting to spend time with loved ones, or to get as far away as possible, there are better ways to travel. Big adventures don’t have to mean big air miles – instead of travelling across the world (or even the country) check out some microadventures in your own backyard. Use public transport where possible, or if driving long distances think about offering any spare seats on a ride sharing website. 


Photo by Angel Grimaldi

Change Up Your Tree 

Skip the plastic tree and instead buy a native Aussie tree that you can plant at the end of the Christmas season. If you’re still feeling crafty, make one out of driftwood or decorate a pineapple, for a tasty treat you can eat at the end. If your heart is set on that pine-scented traditional tree, get one in a pot that can live in your garden and come visit for the silly season. For a really wild option, try decorating a tree in your garden with bird seed bells and peanut butter smeared pine cones – a happy Christmas for the birds and an awesome way to encourage feathered visitors.


Photo by Caitlin Weatherstone

Lighten Up

Use LED or solar powered Christmas lights, and switch them off when you’re not at home.

It’s A Wrap

Instead of buying shiny paper, use old fabric, recycled gift paper, magazines, calendars or even newspapers. Over 8000 tonnes (about 50,000 trees worth) of wrapping paper is used every year! Use ribbon or twine instead of tape. Best of all, make the wrapping part of the gift by using beeswax wraps and reusable bags or containers.  

If you’re got other tips, tricks or Christmas puns then we’d love to hear from you. We wish you a merry Christmas and an epic new year.

Feature photo by Angel Grimaldi