So one of the most wasteful seasons is upon us – that time of year when we all feel obliged to buy one another gifts, just because it’s Christmas. So how do we turn our season of goodwill into a zero waste Christmas?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have once again done their evil deed and encouraged most of us to buy things for ourselves, friends and family we probably didn’t really need. Up-graded that smartphone to the latest model when our current one works perfectly well for example. This point was well proven this year as Cyber Monday’s revenue was driven by smartphones with sales hitting an all time high at $1.59 Billion.
Sadly analytics illustrate that in the US alone, Cyber Monday broke all records with over $1 Billion more spent online this year, totaling a staggering $6.59 Billion, while Black Friday online sales were not too far behind at $5.03 billion.
So how do we stop ourselves from being tempted to enter Christmas retail madness? How do we ignore those comical and ‘must have’ gift trends that come and go? Those plastic Fidget Spinners are a classic example, currently the height of fashion, but we all know they will end up discarded and replaced by the next craze on the block.
Enough Is Enough
Long fed up with buying presents just for the sake of it, I thought I’d share some of my top tips with you on how I make my Christmas as zero waste as possible.
1. Peruse the Local Antique Shops
My youngest daughter loves retro china and there are always hidden treasures to be found.
2. Organic Candles
Always a popular with friends and family and at the end of their life can be used as a drinking glass or a small vase.
3. Gift an Experience
These have always gone down so well with my family – from track and spa days, to adventure weekends in the mountains. There are many companies offering experiences in Hong Kong. Gift Something is one with its selection of high-end gifts, while the latest VR experiences offer packages from as low as $33 per hour.
4. Girls’ Night In/Night on the Town
My eldest daughter lives locally, but we both lead such busy lives we rarely have time to catch up. So we regularly gift a night together; a homemade ‘take out’ with a bottle of sparkle or a night out in the city – cocktails and dinner always go down well. We’ve been using this card for several years now, but we never know when we’ll receive it back.
5. Adopt a Pet
Perfect for someone who loves animals but does not have the time or space at home for them. The SPCA saves 1,000s of animals every year and only 1% of their funding comes from the Government. The charity depends upon the generous Hong Kong people to enable them to continue their work of helping animals in need everyday. All donations over the amount of $HK100 are eligible for tax deduction in Hong Kong. Or support an international organisation such as WWF and gift a subscription.
6. Start Baking and Creating
My Millionaire Shortcake (pictured above) and homemade cookies go down a storm with my sons. I also reuse any glass screw top bottles and make liquid goodies – my Limoncello, and botanical gins have proved most welcome as gifts. And the bonus is if they return the bottle they get the same again next year!
7. Recycled Toys
eBay is great for discovering quality for secondhand toys, or do what I did and buy up complete Lego sets from a neighbour’s son who had no interest in them and so were in pristine condition. Lego is great as it recycles indefinitely, but it is so expensive. In the UK you can buy a membership to Lego, which is an excellent idea. Check out your area to see if there is something similar, or you could organise your child a special party by hiring the toys – the Hong Kong Toy Club’s mission is to ‘deliver joy’.
8. Enjoy A Good Read
My husband always appreciates an Amazon voucher for his Kindle ebooks. Two years ago he bought me a 12-month Audible membership, perfect for car journeys and a great listen for drifting off to sleep when your eyes are too tired to read.
9. Christmas Tree and Decorations
Importing trees into Hong Kong from the US has caused much controversy on Facebook recently, owing to the contribution this makes to the carbon footprint, and so avoiding buying one altogether is always recommended. I’m lucky enough to have a garden and last year bought a small, sustainably and ethically grown tree with roots for replanting in a pot each year. It’s enjoyed summer and is currently waiting patiently outside to shine again during the festive season with its outdoor solar lights.
But why not decorate your locally grown house plant, or create your own tree by upcycling? There are some fabulous ideas on Pinterest; above are a couple that feature in pubs.
The traditional alternative to a real tree is an artificial one, again not ideal as it’s usually made of non-recyclable PVC. It’s been estimated that you’d need to use a PVC tree for at least 20 years to make up for the amount of energy used in its production. Some artificial trees are made of more environmentally friendly materials today, so it’s worth shopping around. With this option it’s best to choose with care and keep your tree for as long as possible.
My artificial tree is now 17 years old and so still has some way to go. We store it carefully and each year it comes out as good as new. I bought traditional baubles and tinsel with my first ever tree many moons ago and they’re still going strong. We added one or two each year – each holds a special memory and everyone takes great delight in hunting out their favourites when they visit. Brian sits proudly at the top – he’s a hand knitted snowman I made as a gift for my daughter when she was three and at 29 she still squeals with delight when she sees him. We’ll share him with you on Instagram nearer to Christmas.
Be creative and use nature’s naturals to decorate your home. We make our own organic decorations – so easy and great fun to make. Please don’t use glitter; icing sugar to dust rather than artificial snow is also a perfect substitute.
10. Sending Cards and Gifts
Around 9,000 trees are cut down to produce approximately 180 million red packets (lai see) used in Hong Kong. By adopting some of the suggestions above, the need for packaging is removed.
I always used to support my favourite charities by buying and sending their cards; now the majority of friends receive an e-card and I donate to charity instead. Any cards I receive are made into gift tags the following year.
Finally, why not use old magazines or newspaper to gift wrap – I have a friend who loves to travel so she always gets the travel pages. I use string rather than Sellotape and if they unwrap at mine I pinch it back and reuse it in the garden! Also gift bags can be recycled again and again.
Happy zero waste compliments of the festive season everyone!