Written by Julia Schafer
In Australia, there is no point dreaming of a White Christmas when the temperatures soar and the air conditioners are cranking, so what I’m dreaming of this year is a Compostable Christmas. A Christmas that respects our Planet and its resources and reduces our reliance on single-use plastics, glitter, and sap happy greeting cards. Are you with me!
In our home in order to reduce the waste that goes into landfill we employ four different methods; recycling, reusing, worm farm, and compost heap (yes it's not really a proper bin method as yet, more like a dig-a-trench and bury-it-a method). So last year I decided that when we had our fourteen family members over for Christmas lunch, we would do things a little differently…
Since we had recently moved to acreage and were surrounded by the amazing bush in the Scenic Rim I chose to theme our Christmas as “An Aussie Bush Christmas” and to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. Every part of Christmas was planned out consciously using the Planet as my lens for the decisions I made.
Here are five of the things I did to make our Christmas as compostable as possible and I share these with you because I hope you may choose to use them this year with your family.
Best to start with a BIG bin and label it COMPOST so that your guests can make use of it on the day. After all, you don’t expect them to take a shovel and bury their own compostable rubbish, do you?
It's true, they may need a little educating to get this right, to separate out recyclables, reusables, and general rubbish, but hey that’s part of the role of an imperfect environmentalist, isn’t it?
1. Brown paper packages tied up with string… these are a few of my favourite things (sing it for me people!). Australians use over 150,000 kilometers of wrapping paper every Christmas. This is enough to wrap around the world's equator nearly four times, and most of it is thrown into the general waste (landfill) bin because it's not compostable or recyclable. This is mainly because of the toxic dyes, glossy finish, and glitter that all contribute to environmental pollution.
Solution? You can buy brown craft paper on a roll that is way cheaper by the meter than wrapping paper and is total, 100% compostable. Wrap the parcel, write a message of good cheer right on the package and tie it with hemp, jute, or cotton twine maybe incorporating a sprig of rosemary or gum leaf and voila your wrapping is compostable!
If you are a bit crafty a few years back I made fabric sacks for all the Christmas presents. They looked amazing under the tree and once the frivolity of the present opening died down they were folded up and put away in a box with the decorations for next year.
2. I love my eclectic collection of op shop-bought plates but as the hostess, on the day I certainly don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen washing them up, so I opted for compostable plates. They are a perfect beige colour to go with my decor and are quite sturdy, particularly for a “sit down” meal.
I draw the line at the disposable cutlery though and opt for the family silverware (which my darling Mum cleans and polishes each year) and real glassware because I can’t abide single-use plastics and am happy to stack glasses in the dishwasher. So compostable plates, bowls, and side plates are a winner!
3. Napkins - While I have a selection of linen and cotton napkins they all seem to come in a four or six-place setting NOT 14! So I went for compostable napkins as well. They suited the theme, are very earthy, inexpensive and you can fold them into artistic shapes or tie them with string and present them with a sprig of bush foliage. At the end of the meal they just get buried in the ground with the rest of the compostable Christmas fare.
4. Table decor has changed for me over the years as I have been striving to become an imperfect environmentalist. Plastic baubles and wreaths have been replaced with decorations that are felted, tin, and hessian, and last year I repurposed an old bamboo wreath, wove eucalyptus branches through it, added a handwritten banner and some tree bark to make it fit my bush Christmas theme and all of it was… you guessed it, compostable.
The table runners were the same brown craft paper strewn with lovely fronds of eucalypts from our garden, layered with the compostable plates topped with sustainable Christmas crackers, gleaming silverware, shiny glassware, and napkins adorned with rosemary sprigs, my festive table was on theme and on point to leave a lighter footprint on the Planet.
5. Christmas cards like wrapping paper are nearly always shiny, printed with toxic dyes, or sprinkled liberally with micro-plastic glitter so if you can they are best avoided. If you have to buy cards, look for ones made out of recycled paper printed with water-soluble dyes and inks and free from glitter. These will be able to go in the recycling bin, worm farm (soak in water first), or compost bin.
According to statistics Australian's waste output increases by 30% overall during the Christmas period, so anything you can do to reduce this will help our environmental impact.
Packaging, food waste, and general consumption are the three main areas to address as a family, so being conscious as a consumer when you go Christmas shopping is the biggest takeaway. Before you put it in the trolley ask yourself these three questions; “do I really need it?”, “where will this end up at the end of its useful life?”, “Is there a sustainable alternative?” My creative brain actually enjoys the challenge of seeking alternatives and thankfully many companies are now offering products that are more eco-friendly, you may need to shop around a bit further or pay a little bit extra but I think the Planet is worth it? Don't you?
Wishing you all a very Merry Compostable Christmas Julia Schafer is passionate about sustainable living, believes that the future of food production is Urban Gardening, and is a self-confessed Power Tool Princess.