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Green Holidays

Christmas-decorations-staffnews.JPG1. Shop locally
2. Shop Fair Trade

3. Buy sustainable gifts
4. Give a gift that keeps on giving
5. Wrap presents with recycled paper or fabric and avoid ribbons
6. Turn Christmas lights off overnight
7. Spend lots of time with family and friends
8. Buy locally-grown produce for your Christmas lunch
9. Give charity, home-made or e-cards
10. Make a donation to a good cause
11. Buy Green Power
12. Pool your holiday shopping into fewer bags and say 'no' to plastic



1. Shop locally

Supporting local businesses helps maintain a healthy local economy and reduces greenhouse emissions by avoiding the need to travel long distances in the car. See Leichhardt's Sustainable Shopping Guide.

2. Shop Fair Trade

Fair Trade is an international certification and labelling scheme, established in 1992 to ensure producers are paid a fair price for the sustainable production of the goods they grow. There are 18 Fair Trade Labelling Organisations around the world, including one in Australia. Fair Trade gives smaller growers a secure market for their produce, encourages commodities to be sustainably grown and helps consumers understand the connections between products we use every day and the processes required to make them. Check out Leichhardt Council's Fair Trade information.

3. Buy sustainable gifts

Think sustainably in gift giving and you’ll come up with some interesting new ideas. There are many unusual and useful products on the market which have been designed with the benefit of modern technology and a desire to reduce our impacts on the environment. Solar-powered torches, radios or garden lights make great presents for people who enjoy things for the home or are interested in alternative technologies. Gardeners might appreciate a water efficient hose nozzle or a hamper of garden goodies to keep their garden looking good despite water restrictions. A compost bin or worm farm will forever eat up a household’s kitchen waste and provide a permanent supply of home-made fertiliser for the gardener’s plants. Buying more sustainable products for Christmas reduces the impacts on the environment for the life of the gift, supports innovative new ideas and usually provides an interesting talking point on the day. See eichhardt's Sustainable Shopping Guide.

4. Give a gift that keeps on giving

Many charities and environmental organisations offer gift services which not only solve the problem of the gift for the person who has everything, but also help others or the environment for years to come. You can buy a goat to provide years of milk to family in Bangladesh or organise for trees to be planted to offset the emissions from someone’s car for a year. You can give a charity subscription, or sponsor a child to provide on-going help to people in need. Perpetual gifts often cost very little yet mean a great deal to the people who benefit from them – and, of course, those who receive them.

5. Wrap presents with recycled paper or fabric and avoid ribbons

All the paper, ribbon and other gift decorations we use to make the holidays exciting and special take a great deal of resources to make. Most of it is thrown away to landfill by 9.00am on Christmas morning. Buying gift-wrap made from recycled paper supports reuse of recycled goods and dramatically reduces the amount of natural resources needed to make it. Raffia or fabric ribbon can be used time and again and, at the end of its life, is biodegradable. Tinsel, metallic or plastic gift-wraps never break down into the soil. They cannot be recycled and will end up as landfill. Choosing recycled wrap closes the loop in the manufacturing process and minimises the impact on the environment. You can also get creative and wrap gifts using fabric, tea towels, wool or reusable bags.

6. Turn Christmas lights off overnight

Part of the pleasure of Christmas is the light decorations which brighten our streets and homes. Turning Christmas lights off overnight helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it reduces electricity use. Turning lights off when they are not needed is a good habit all year round. Overnight at Christmas it avoids wasting electricity when its not needed and reduces the risk of lights being accidentally left on all day.

7. Spend lots of time with family and friends

Sustainability is all about balancing social, environmental and economic factors. Spending time with family and friends makes us – and them – feel good and it is very important in our lives as social creatures. When time is so short for most of us for most of the year, the holidays are a good opportunity to catch up with people, relax and enjoy their company. It is also an ideal time to make contact with people we haven’t had a chance to see for ages and to let people know how we feel about them. If you know someone who may be on their own at Christmas, invite them along to enjoy your company and bring the social back into their life.

8. Buy locally-grown produce for your Christmas lunch

Buying locally-grown produce helps the local economy and is better for the environment because the produce hasn’t needed to be transported long distances in planes, ships or trucks to get to you. Make a point of asking your suppliers where the product has come from and, where possible, choose to buy local. Most commercially grown produce looks good and is free of blemishes thanks to the pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers used to grow them. While these chemicals have helped to contribute to an abundant and regular food supply in Australia, they do have a negative impact on our air quality, soil and waterways, as well as our own health. Buying organic helps support organic growers and the organic food industry. The holidays are a special time, so treat yourself and your guests to the special delights of organic food. See Leichhardt's Sustainable Shopping Guide.

9. Give charity, home-made or e-cards

Card giving is an important part of the holiday tradition. It is a time to touch base with old friends and let people know you are thinking of them. By sending charity cards you are giving twice because your purchase supports a good cause as well as sending good wishes to friends and family. Home-made cards add a personal touch to your message and usually cost much less. E-cards are available  free through a number of national or Internet sites, and come in animated or static format. They are probably the most sustainable option, taking into account the energy and costs to run a computer, because they require no trees to be felled, bring cheer to the recipient and, usually, cost nothing to send.

10. Make a donation to a good cause

The holidays are about giving – and sharing – and there are many people locally, and globally, less fortunate than ourselves. Take a moment to give to a charity this holiday season and help someone else enjoy the day. Buy yourself a present for the year by signing up for a monthly donation to a good cause. In Australia, charitable donations are, after all, tax deductible.

11. Buy Green Power

Another way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to buy Green Power for your event. Green Power is an accredited program which guarantees electricity supplied from renewable sources, such as solar or wind-power. Everyone with an electricity supply can choose to source some or all of their electricity from Green Power through their electricity supplier all year round. One-off events can also be given a more sustainable touch by opting for Green Power for that night only. For more information see the Green Power website.

12. Pool your holiday shopping into fewer bags and say 'no' to plastic

Part of the pleasure of holiday shopping is the satisfying weight of shopping bags demonstrating progress in present buying. But, every one of those plastic bags contributes to the six billion plastic bags used – and dumped – in Australia each year. Consolidate your shopping into fewer bags and say no at the check-out for a bag for a single item. In doing so, you will reduce the impacts on the environment from the manufacture and disposal of plastic bags and reduce waste. Better still, take re-useable bags with you and avoid plastic bags altogether.