If you’re keen to avoid wrapping paper altogether, consider the Japanese craft of furoshiki: gift-wrapping with fabric. Yoshie Kumagai, a furoshiki expert and gift-wrapping specialist, says the experience can look complicated but is not difficult.
“You can use any square shape of fabric; you don’t need any special tool,” says Ms Kumagai. “There are no rules for gift-wrapping with fabric.”
The practice ties into the Japanese word “mottainai”, she says, which means “what a waste!” but “also embraces the concept of not wasting resources but instead using them with respect and gratitude”.
Shop smarter – for the earth
Secondhand over the holiday season (and whenever possible) is never a bad idea. Op shops, Gumtree or FreeCycle are all top-notch spots to find bargains. Buying local also helps reduce freight and logistical impacts on the environment, supports small businesses, and can mean avoiding packaging altogether.
If you’re shopping firsthand, consider interrogating the environmental practices of the businesses you’re supporting. Do they have a benchmark for when they intend to stop using single-use plastics or a public goal for the composition of their packaging? Ask questions: you might be surprised to learn what your favourite brands are (or are not) doing.
The 2020 Salvos Stores Christmas report indicates that there is $669 million in present wastage each year. If you don’t want to buy material objects at all, consider an experience. Local council websites have event calendars from which you can book events in your area.
Small businesses, particularly craft- or hobby-based businesses, sometimes host events too: check out what’s on at your local pottery studio, music hall or cooking school. If you don’t quite know what experience you’re looking for yet, Eventbrite or RedBalloon make it easy to explore your options.
Make, make, make!
What better way to be environmentally friendly – and creative – than to make your own gifts. Personal and purposeful. Boutique candles in discarded tea cups, jars of bath salts interspersed with local flowers, bouquets of herbs you’ve grown in the months leading up to December 25, or dried fruits and no-bake cookie mixes in upcycled glass jars: the options are endless. Stuck for ideas? YouTube or Craft Bento are great places to start.
Sometimes, homemade gifts are the presents we – makers and receivers – remember most, says Bea Bellingham from Clay Sydney.
“Anyone can buy a present,” she says. “But something that’s made, that takes time, thought and effort; shows you care. You’re giving someone a little bit of yourself.”
As for what to do? She advises starting anywhere.
“I think starting anywhere that inspires you is a good place. Your loved ones will love that you’re sharing your passion and connecting with them in a new way.”
(Clay Sydney sell boxes so you can craft at home, make that perfect serving tray or candle holder wherever you are, and give it to your beloved.)
Bring the twinkle
What’s Christmas without tinsel? Without Christmas crackers? Without ribbons and garland? A more environmentally friendly one, that’s what.
Instead of tinsel, consider stringing up popcorn threaded onto cooking twine; drying orange slices and putting them on hangers; or braiding eucalyptus branches for a “very Aussie vibe”. Advent calendars are no longer a one-time thing: plenty of makers sell wooden ones to reuse time and time again. If you find yourself buying a new tree every year, you could rent a fake tree or plant a new tree (or four) in place of the fresh one you bring home.
And consider going LED with all those Christmas lights, indoor and out. Nothing says “Merry and bright!” like looking out for the future of our planet.
Riley Wilson is a desk editor at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.