Guest blogger, City of Cockburn Sustainability Officer, Melanie, shares some tips to make your Christmas a greener and more sustainable one

I’ll have a green, green Christmas!

Elvis famously sang about his ‘Blue Christmas, but your friendly crew from the City of Cockburn Sustainability team like to keep it clean, green and healthy at Christmas time.

Christmas is a time for peace and reflection, but it’s hard to find peace when you’re feeling like everyone wants a piece of you, right? The aggressive advertising simply doesn’t stop at this time of year, and notions of Christmas, whether you come from a Christian or a non-Christian tradition, somehow seem to get lost in the new consumer paradigm.

But there are wonderful ways to enjoy a peaceful and ethical Christmas, without breaking the bank or polluting the planet – and now your sustainability team would love to share some of our best tips for making your Christmas greener. Here we go…

How Green is your Christmas?

It’s Christmassy and it’s green

The Ideas List – Shop ethically

Here’s a short list of incredible ethical businesses which can support your sustainability journey this Christmas season.

That’s a Wrap! – It’s what’s on the outside that (also) counts

Use environmentally friendly wrapping paper

Choose wrapping paper made using fibres such as hemp or paper using recycled content. If you’re really keen you can even make your own recycled paper using a paper making kit.

Avoid buying glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper

This kind of ‘paper’ is difficult to recycle and can’t be composted. It also breaks down very slowly in landfill creating dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. Foil gift wrap is also harder to reuse, as it creases and tears easily when the gift is being unwrapped.

Reuse gift wrap where possible

If you open large gift packages with care, the paper can be set aside for re-use for other gift-giving occasions. Fancy ribbons and bows, of course, can be stored in a box until next year when you’ll appreciate having them around and not having to buy new ones.

Use tape sparingly, or not at all

If you’re going to use ribbon to finish off your wrapping, you may not need to use tape. By not using tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse.

Try a little Furoshiki

The Japanese art of gift wrapping using material is a great way to re-use your sewing scrap offcuts!

Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap

There are many options which are cost-free, attractive solutions. Gift bags can be made using fabric scraps or pretty tea towel, or wrapping can be made using comic strips from the paper, old calendars, maps, posters and more. How about baking a fruit cake and wrapping it in a tea towel, tied together with ribbon? It looks fabulous and the tea towel becomes a good memento of the delicious gift.

Be creative – it often costs you less and means more to your gift recipient.

Reused christmas wrapping paper

One library staff member’s family has been reusing Christmas wrapping paper for many years. Some of these bits are over 10 years old!

Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! – The three Rs

We use so much ‘stuff’ at Christmas time that making a positive commitment to ‘reducing, reusing and recycling’ can help to reduce our environmental footprint significantly.

Reuse or recycle gift packing materials

Bubble wrap can be stored for reuse, or recycled. Cardboard boxes should be opened flat and set out for recycling. Storing and reusing these boxes is even better as no additional energy is used in remanufacturing.

Save any special gift wrap, ribbons and bows

When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper for reuse. Creased wrapping can be ironed flat. Ribbons and bows are easy to save and reuse. But if you can’t reuse your paper wrapping, put it in your recycling bin, not your general waste bin. Planet Ark will recycle cards – so make sure that when you’ve finished enjoying your cards, you recycle them also.

Recycle old electronics

New flat-screen computer monitors, laptops, cameras, mobile phones, MP3 players and other electronic items are common holiday gifts. Older models which are being replaced, whether or not they are in working order, should never be discarded to a landfill. There is likely to be an e-waste recycling facility near you so make sure you drop off your unwanted electrical equipment and never put it in your bin or on your verge.

Grab a festive bargain from your local tip shop!

How about paying a visit to out terrific Recycle Shop at Henderson Waste Recovery Park to pick up some second hand bargains and keep valuable materials out of landfill? You can find some great resources for your up-cycling projects there too!

Say Yes to ‘Re-Gifting’

There’s much discussion about the etiquette behind the ‘re-gifting’ trend, that is, to pass on a gift you received but don’t need. From an environmental perspective – re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping (or discarding) a gift you don’t need is wasteful

The Gift of Time – the gift of you! 

Gifts of time and service require few natural resources, and are personal and memorable. The gift of YOU – your time, energy or expertise is as ‘giftworthy’ as anything you can put in a box.

Play to your skills

If you have some mad skills yourself, think about the friends and family who would love it if you offered your time. So often we spend more time at work giving our skills to an employer, than we do offering them to our loved ones!

How many parents would love a gift of tutoring for their child? How many busy pet owners would love a gift of dog walking? And it can even be an opportunity to bring generations together – what about younger relatives giving their time to older relatives to teach them the mysteries of social media to keep in touch with family?

A home-made coupon book for household chores, gardening, massages, dinner parties, picnics, hugs or just visits could be as valuable to older family members as a physical gift.

The list of services is only limited by your imagination – or, to make it really simple – why not just ask people what you can do for them!

Leading with Love & Ethics – Give unto others

Giving Kids a sense of what Christmas is really about

Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and community and instilling the values of sustainable living in children, friends and community. Understanding poverty and need can support a wonderful legacy of giving and selflessness in children. Call it Christmas spirit or social sustainability – it’s positive for people and planet.

A great way to teach children about the spirit of during the holidays is to ask them to pick a toy that they don’t play with very much, and donate it to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter or charity, or to help choose a gift for a child in need, or even help fundraise for groups supporting children’s charities.

Giving to Charity

Purchasing the gift of clean water, livestock, school supplies or even funding teachers or aid work in developing countries can give both giver and receiver a warm glow at Christmas time. So can purchasing carbon offsets for a friend’s car travel or even donating to an environmental or social charity on behalf of a friend or family member.

You could even send a charity gift voucher and let your loved one choose their charity of choice or donate to worthy projects

Think about where and how your gifts are made

Christmas is a time for giving… but it’s always worth ensuring that what you give to someone you love isn’t taking from someone less fortunate.

Let’s give thoughtfully this Christmas and keep our gifts ethical. The Australian Fashion Report sheds light on what the industry and individual companies are doing to address forced labour, child labour and exploitation.

And Oxfam provide a handy buyers guide this Christmas to help you find a better option at a glance!

Say YES to DIY! – Because no one else can do it yourself

Food Glorious Food

In Australia, so many of us have more than we need in terms of material goods. Your time and energy, and culinary creativity, are just as valuable as that store-bought, disposable gift so few of us truly need.

In truth – time spent in the kitchen is probably no more than the time spent gift-hunting online or in crowded shopping precincts. The gift of food is personal, easy on the environment, and not likely to go to waste.

Jams, marmalade and lemon butter are classic holiday gifts, and baked goods, sweets and truffles are always appreciated. Chilli oil or home-made vanilla essence in collected jars and bottles made a gorgeous, inexpensive gift.

Homemade chutney, pickles or sauces make tasty gifts, and if you have access to a dehydrator, dried fruits, preservative-free fruit leathers or ‘sun dried’ tomatoes can be popped in cellophane and tagged with love.


Up-cycled vintage clothing makes a lovely gift if you have sewing skills, as does furniture which is ‘old made new again’. Do It Yourself – it’s so much more rewarding.

Or go the whole hog and have a Totally Handmade Christmas!

Challenge your family to have a hand-made / home-made Christmas – get them to think creatively about all the wonderful home-made, crafty and delicious things you can make, for little money but with a whole lotta love and get the whole family involved – from the youngest member to the oldest!

Check out amazing craft and DIY websites for great ideas – like this one –


Thanks Melanie for all those green Christmas tips.

Let us know, in the comments section below,  if you also have other tips for making your Christmas more sustainable.