Guest Blogger Krystal Sayer of the Eco Society shares how to have a Merry zero-waste Christmas
Krystal Sayer doesn’t let her sustainable intentions fly out the window with Santa’s reindeer
It’s crazy how one small change in my daily habits reshaped my life, then the life of my husband and influenced those around us. In April 2016 I made a rule for myself: if I didn’t have a reusable coffee cup, I would either have a coffee in or no coffee at all.
My husband and I have been lucky enough to travel to many beautiful places around the world and have seen first-hand the impact humans have on the environment. When we settled back in New Zealand, we knew we had to make changes. That is where our sustainable journey began.
Today, living life more consciously is the norm. We produce very little waste and almost no plastic, all because of that first coffee-cup rule. Everyone believes small changes can’t make a difference, but I can assure you they do: big change starts small.
I started The Eco Society blog as a place to share our journey towards living more sustainably, to tell the story of what we do, documenting our achievements and struggles along the way. We live in a compact apartment in the city centre, with no outdoor space and no car. We love eating out, exploring the city and catching up with friends.
Life without a car is great; it saves us thousands of dollars a year and dramatically reduces our environmental impact. We walk most places and use public transport and the odd taxi/Uber when we can’t. We have ditched single-use plastics for reusables and take our food scraps to the community garden where it gets composted.
Other than simple swaps like using a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, switching to wooden dish brushes and tree-free toilet paper, we’ve made a conscious effort to shop package free. In turn, this change has helped us buy in season, eat healthier, support local businesses and even be more creative in the kitchen.
Every other weekend you’ll find us at the farmers’ market with a basket filled with reusable produce bags and a mismatched collection of containers. We also head to the bulk food store where we stock up on wholefoods using our repurposed jars. It’s rare for us to visit the supermarket and when we do it’s for the few items we can’t get elsewhere. Where we can’t avoid packaging completely, we buy in paper, tin or glass packaging which can be recycled in New Zealand.
To get to where we are didn’t happen overnight – it has been a journey and we’re far from perfect. It can seem overwhelming and daunting in the beginning, but it’s important to remember to start small, do want you feel comfortable with and then, when you feel confident, introduce another change.
At Christmas, it can be particularly challenging to maintain a zero-waste lifestyle, especially when it comes to decorations and gift giving. It’s a time of year when we need to get creative to stick to our values. Simon and I typically don’t exchange physical gifts; instead we book in a trip, adventure or an experience as those memories tend to last a lot longer.
We also like to support small local businesses. In recent years, my go-to gift has been homemade sugar scrub for the girls or bulk-bought chocolate-coated almonds for the guys, both presented in a recycled jar. Sometimes we opt to support a charity such as Oxfam Unwrapped which gives someone living in poverty the chance of a better life.
I still like to decorate the house even though we are seldom home on Christmas day. Our number one rule is: use what you have first. So, we’ll be re-hanging decorations we already have rather than buying this year’s trend. To mix it up a little, I’m going to use a fallen branch from a friend’s garden as our Christmas tree dressed up with DIY decorations. It’ll look just as good – and no tree to dump in the landfill.
It’s important for us to make eco-conscious choices all year round because, whatever the season, one small change really can make a big difference.
Krystal blogs at www.theecosociety.co.nz