Everyday Enviro with Elise: Minimising waste at the Christmas table

Everyday Enviro with Elise: Minimising waste at the Christmas table

By Elise Catterall  December 21st, 2023

'Tis the season to be sustainable! As we embrace the festive spirit, let's also be mindful of the environment and make conscious choices to reduce food waste and lower our ecological footprint while enjoying our Christmas lunch (or breakfast, or dinner).


Here are some tips for an eco-friendlier Christmas table:

Ditch Disposable and Plastic: Say no to disposable plates and cutlery. If you need extra tableware, consider borrowing from friends and family.  Worst case scenario, hit the Salvos to stock the cupboard and then donate everything once you’re done.    

Say Farewell to Paper Serviettes: Bid adieu to non-recyclable paper serviettes. Opt for reusable fabric napkins that can be laundered and used indefinitely. 

Embrace Plant-Based Foods: Lean towards a plant-based Christmas feast. Plant foods have a lower environmental impact compared to animal products so consider incorporating more vegetarian and vegan dishes into your holiday menu. If you choose meat or seafood, prioritise sustainable and ethical options.   

Make Smart Packaging Choices: Purchase in bulk to minimise packaging; Select larger containers instead of multiple single-serve ones to reduce both waste and environmental impact; choose cardboard, paper, ceramic, glass or aluminium. 

Opt for Local, Seasonal and Unpackaged: Sourcing local, seasonal and unpackaged ingredients and foods supports local producers, minimises transportation emissions and cuts down on packaging waste. Beyond reducing waste it also fosters community. Even if you are shopping at a supermarket, you can take your own produce bags, choose only loose items, choose only Australian grown, and only buy seasonal foods.  

Opt for "ugly": Choose ugly, odd or misshapen vegetables at local markets, grocers and supermarkets is often cheaper and just as delicious. This reduces food waste at the farm level and at the shop level. 

Make don’t buy: If, for example, you fancy gingerbread men? Find a recipe and make some rather than buy them as packaged biscuits.  Fresher, cheaper, healthier and no waste – plus it can be an really enjoyable experience.  You can also give them as gifts.  

Check the Australasian Recycling Label: When buying packaged items, look for the Australasian Recycling Label to check if and how you can recycle or dispose of them.  For recycling tricky items, book a  Recycle Smart pick up (for example, for Styrofoam, soft plastics, etc), check out Recycling Near You and find your nearest dropoff so that you don’t add to landfill.   

Embrace Waste-Reducing Meal Planning: Plan your meals thoughtfully to avoid over-shopping and over-preparing. Coordinate with family and guests so there are no double-up. Dig out your Tupperware, defrost your freezer and clear out your fridge to make space for leftovers. Divide leftovers with family. If the amount of food left is more than you can consume through leftovers, consider using the Olio app to share excess food within your community. 

Reduce cooking times: Opt for energy-efficient cooking methods like slow cookers or pressure cookers – it also keeps you out of the kitchen. 

Recycle cans and bottles: When it is all done and dusted, take empty bottles and cans to your local container recycling depot to earn or donate while responsibly recycling.   

Get composting: Composting is the best way to handle food waste, after avoiding making it in the first place. If you don't have a council provided compost bin, use the Sharewaste app to connect with composters and worm farmers in your local community, ensuring food waste stays out of the red bin and landfill. 

This holiday season, let's make conscious choices that not only bring joy to our celebrations but also contribute to a greener, more sustainable planet. 



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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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