Everyday Enviro with Elise: easy low waste gifts

Everyday Enviro with Elise: easy low waste gifts

By Elise Catterall  December 20th, 2022

It doesn't need to be said that Christmas is peak consumption season. The giving of gifts, which are often not wanted or needed, and the huge amount of accompanying packaging waste, makes it no surprise that we encourage you to consider zero waste gifts for your loved ones.


While searching for unique zero or low waste gift ideas, I stumbled across the Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades, a workshop centre that is dedicated to teaching – and reviving – a wide range of unique trades and art methods.  The centre, based in Ballarat in regional Victoria, teaches a diverse and fascinating range of techniques and skills, from knife making, long bow making and armouring to furniture making, silversmithing and dry-stone walling.

Obviously gifting a workshop ticks the low waste gift box, but there is so much more that is special about workshops at the centre.  First of all, I love the idea of breathing life into forgotten trades that have low impact on the earth, but I also think it is fantastic to be teaching skills that can have a functional practical application. Long bow making or armouring isn’t hugely called for right now but the exacting techniques do require you to be intensely present and mindful. These trades and techniques have been responsible for building the society we are in and there is a beauty and dignity in honouring that.  

Learning these skills also shines a light on what is involved in making quality, long lasting pieces, which crudely juxtaposes more modern manufacturing processes, which create items with a shorter lifespan and have little regard for sustainability.

On the flip side, the centre provides an avenue for artists and craftspeople who work with these techniques, helping to ensure these skills aren’t lost to the ages.

Not too far away from the centre (relatively) in Bendigo, you will also find the Lost Trades Fair.  Held annually, the fair brings artisans, craftspeople and the public together. It showcases trades like stonemasonry, leatherwork, woodwork, blacksmithing, silversmithing and many more.  At the fair, you can meet the makers and learn about their processes and the history of their trade or skill. 

The goal for both the centre and the fair is appreciation not only of the trade itself, but of the benefits of slow production over fast production - a critical step in curtailing our currently excessive consumerism.  If it also leads to inspiring zero waste gift ideas or a desire to learn about or make something by hand using centuries old techniques, then that’s a double win.

If you aren’t local to Ballarat or Bendigo, there are other places you can do workshops in old trades, whether it be silversmithing, blacksmithing or leatherwork.  A simple search online will bring up your closest options.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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