10 ways to reduce waste at Christmas with kids

10 ways to reduce waste at Christmas with kids

By Alyce Kirk
Christmas is a jolly time of year but it can often be a wasteful time, add in a couple of friendly critters and having a less waste household seems daunting and overwhelming. Here, mother of two, Alyce Kirk shares the ten ways that she cuts down on waste and bumps up the glee!

1. Donate unwanted toys

Prior to Christmas we do a big clean out of anything the girls don’t play with anymore. Some toys are still in very good condition, but may not be age appropriate anymore. We tend to give these to younger cousins and friends, or our childcare center so others can continue to get use out of them.
This frees up a lot of space for the inevitable influx of gifts from well meaning relatives. It also teaches my girls about the importance of giving while also preventing unused toys from ending up in landfill. 

2. Use art to make Christmas card and wrapping paper

We're a crafty household and do a lot of craft at home, and at childcare, and at school. While we keep a few very special pieces, the rest tends to overtake the house. Re-purposing this art to make homemade cards and gift-wrap is a great way to ensure it gets another life. Plus it’s a lot of fun, and gives the girls a sense of pride to see loved ones admiring their work.
Don’t have kids? Get creative with gift-wrapping ideas, use newspaper, reuse old gift-wrap, or look into the Japanese art of Furoshiki, which is wrapping gifts in beautiful materials.
We made this snowman at work using plastic medication cups (washed after use obviously!) which I think turned out pretty awesome!

3. If you give stuff stick to the want, need, wear, read rule

When choosing gifts for the girls I try to stick to four types of meaningful gifts. I recall a few years ago watching my eldest daughter ripping open gift after gift completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff! We now give four gifts, something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. I put time into researching thoughtful things that my girls will love. This also allows me to buy better quality items that are less likely to break and then have to be sent to landfill.

4. Give experiences not stuff

I am a huge fan of buying experiences for people. Last year my husband and I got each other tickets to see a band. I’ve got the girls season passes to zoos, museums, and aquariums on past Christmases. This has the added bonus of giving opportunities for us to spend time together throughout the year which is really important to our family. 

christmas lights

5. Buy local or secondhand

If I need to buy a gift I do checkout my local Salvation Army. I almost always pick up a great book or two, and the Salvos had helped fill our board game cupboard. If I need to buy something new I try to support local businesses, visiting the markets are a great place to find beautiful handmade gifts which have less of an impact on the environment that other options. 

6. Make your own gifts

Now I do happen to be quite a crafty person, so making gifts doesn’t seem as daunting as it might to other people. I once handmade an entire ice cream stand out of cardboard and felt for my daughters birthday, and another time a pair of silk and lace fairy wings. If I can’t find the perfect thing, I’m not afraid to have a go at making the perfect gift. 

7. Don’t be guilted into keeping up with the Joneses

This year I know families who are buying all their kids new bikes, or another new laptops. It’s easy to feel like you are depriving your kids of something that every other kid is getting. But. I don’t need to buy things just because everyone else is, and you don’t either! I always explain to my kids why certain toys are not great for the environment and we explore alternatives that have less of an impact. My eldest is of an age now where we can have chats about consumerism and marketing strategies, she’s getting great as spotting the latest fad for herself. 

8. Make decorations out of stuff you already have

sea salt

I avoid buying single use decorations, I haven’t brought any new decorations this year but do have a lot of plastic baubles and tinsel that I reuse from previous years. The girls and I also make decorations too, look up a simple salt dough recipe and get creating. Cut out snowflakes or make paper chains as a way to recycle paper. Google has loads of ideas on ways to make Christmas decorations out of bottles, cans, magazines etc… you are only limited by your imagination.  

9. The tree


Now this is a tricky one, the great debate on what is more sustainable. I personally already own a plastic tree, and as long as a keep using it and it doesn’t end up in landfill, this is the most sustainable choice for my family. However, I know a lot of families who purchase live trees each year, again, as long as it is composted properly this might be the right option for your family. Do your research and see what is the best fit for you. 

10. Food

Plan your menu, only buy what you need, and whatever is not used compost ( or give to the chickens in our case)! Christmas is a time of over indulgence for many of us; keep reducing food waste in the back of your mind when making food purchases. Many people panic about the shops closing for a day or two and over buy. If you know you are going to be away over the holiday period, buy less so it doesn’t go to waste. 

Alyce Kirk, is Banish's resident Parenting Editor and mum of two girls who is kicking goals when it comes to reducing her families footprint and wants to empower her kids to make the best choices for our beautiful planet.

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