This is a special time of year for many of us, when we can enjoy relaxing, spending time with our loved ones and indulging in a little welcome excess. An oversupply of food and gifts is pleasurable of course, but it can come with a damaging cost to the planet.  Worldwide, waste generation increases considerably over the holiday period.

“This is a special time for year for many South Africans, but we need to take care of our planet as well as each other. We must do our part to protect our precious environment. Fortunately, there are easy steps we can all take to lessen our impact,” says Justice Tootla, managing director of waste management company Averda.

Here are ten simple ways to make sure your festivities have a lighter environmental footprint:

  1. Plan ahead; by getting organised you will avoid that panicked last minute rush and purchasing unnecessary items. Instead, take a moment to take stock and assess what you actually need rather than end up with three sets of Christmas lights. 
  2. Green your decorations. Why not ditch the tacky plastic and try something more creative and sustainable to brighten your home? You could seek inspiration from nature and choose living plants and natural decorations as your theme. Or up-cycle, making new decorations from old Christmas cards and other household items that would otherwise be thrown away.  Consider making your own crackers with treats inside, rather than useless plastic that will only end up in landfill. 
  3. Choose gifts with care. Gifting can cause a lot of waste. Gifts for kids, examples are plastic toys and other such items that are not long-lasting and often end up being thrown away. Make sure that you’re buying items that will be put to good use, for a long time. Or better still, gift an experience, for example a subscription, a concert ticket, or a spa day. A memory lasts a lifetime.
  4. Consider the miles! As the saying goes “local is lekker”, besides being great for our economy, it means a reduction in pollution caused by the shipping of goods. Why not check out local Christmas markets, they usually sell gifts made from recycled materials or homemade gifts which are also a great option, showing people that you’ve given their gift a lot of thought.
  5. Perfect your packaging. Thousands of miles of wrapping paper are wasted over the festive season.  Rather ditch the paper completely – saving money and trees – by using alternatives including cloth, old magazines, kids’ discarded comic or even old maps that have been collecting dust. Tied with string, these can look very chic. 
  6. Switch to e-cards – If you are a family that likes to send out Season’s Greetings cards, it’s easy to switch to digital options, saving on postage and ensuring delivery! There are many creative and easy apps that you can use. 
  7. Love your plates and cutlery. When having your “Brady Bunch” over for dinner try to avoid the temptation of using disposable plates and utensils which might seem like the quick and easy solution to cleaning up. The long-term effects of disposable items on the environment are damaging.  So, it’s time to take out granny’s fancy China dinner set and clean up time can become a family tradition. 
  8. Minimise your food waste. Leftovers can be delicious and there are so many recipe ideas online. Alternatively, why not make a less fortunate person’s day by donating the food to those in need.
  9. Celebrate our environment by leaving it beautiful. We all like to be outside at this time of year, but when heading to the beach it is your responsibility to make sure that no unnecessary waste is left behind that could very likely land up in the ocean. Adapt a reducing, reusing, and recycling mentality and incorporate practices like carrying reusable bags into your daily routine to reduce waste. When heading to the beach, pack a pair of gloves, hand sanitiser, and a bucket or bag to clear any waste, helping keep our waterways clear of harmful and protecting marine life. 
  10. Finally, make recycling easy for all the family. Reducing waste and litter is ideal, but let’s also try and recycle as much of the unavoidable waste as possible. Have a recycling bin handy when the family are opening their gifts and ensure recyclable packaging including paper, card and plastics are captured. But please don’t put non-recyclable items such as polystyrene or food items in with your recycling.

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