A sustainable Christmas/ solstice/ end of year

Sometimes end of year celebrations can feel like they are just about consumption. Certainly, with Christmas celebrations, presents and travel, most of us do clock up some extra impact. We offer these ideas as practical ways we can reduce our impact over the new year period.

food & drink

Christmas celebrations involve food; luckily for us we live in the southern hemisphere and Christmas falls in summer – meaning there’s plenty of fresh food in season. Remember to buy local (watch out for those grapes from California!)

Where you can, avoid the mega stores such as supermarkets – support local shops and buy organic or biodynamic. Even better, get to know your local food co-op if you have one.

●    FoE Melbourne food co-op: http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=co_op/home
●    National list of food co-ops: https://www.facebook.com/notes/quirky-cooking/bulk-food-co-ops-in-austra...
●    Where to find farmer's markets: http://www.farmersmarkets.org.au/markets
●    there is a great blog for the 100 mile diet – eating food from within 100 miles of Melbourne: http://www.ethical.org.au/100miletrial/

If you eat meat, think about buying organic and free range.

If you eat fish, check out the sustainable seafood guide: http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/Sustainable-Seafood-Guide-Australia...

Buy Fairtrade coffee, tea and chocolates that ensure a fair price for farmers in developing countries. http://www.fairtrade.com.au/

Remember that ‘Australian owned’ doesn’t mean ‘made in Australia’ – check the labels closely, you may be in for a surprise.

If you have the time why not do some gleaning (sourcing and picking unwanted fruit or vegetables) and turn wasted fruit into jams or other presents?
See: http://www.communitygarden.org.au/

Cut down your Christmas beer miles and drink a local brew. It takes fossil fuel to transport beer from around the globe or interstate. Smaller breweries will also often have less greenhouse emissions so opt for a local beer. The same goes for local wines.

gifts & shopping

Think about giving a gift that will help the world's poorer communities. Gifts range from $10 to provide seeds for a community to a boat for $152. http://www.oxfamunwrapped.com.au/

You can also support Friends of the Earth without being a consume-aholic. Even if you can’t get to the food co-op store at 312 Smith St, Collingwood, Melbourne, you can now shop online. Visit http://shop.foe.org.au/merchandise/

For a bit of fun you might want to check out the Adbusters website, where you can download a ‘holiday gift exemption voucher’ to give to your friends. http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd

When buying gifts, think about where it has come from – is there a non-sweatshop version available, or an Australian-made option? Is it something that will be long-lived, fixable or recyclable? This year’s super fashion is next year’s junk – so go for style, not fashion! You could even be super radical and buy second hand presents and if you get a gift you don’t plan to use, don’t hoard it, give it to an op shop. You could always make a present yourself rather than buying something.

Various resources:

Accredited brands of clothing. http://www.ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au/accredited-brands/

For a list of ethical outdoor equipments brands, check here.

For a list of Australian made outdoor products and gear, check here.

Buy a potted tree that can be reused or planted out in the garden after Christmas. A native cyprus can make a great Christmas tree. For people with a traditional garden why not think about giving them some local indigenous species – good for biodiversity, and great for reduced water usage.

Buy gifts from local craft stalls or farmers markets. You'll be supporting local artists and farmers, rather than mass-produced merchandise made by offshore companies. Where to find farmer's markets: http://www.tradewatch.org.au/localfood/index.html

personal is political

The struggle to protect the environment doesn’t stop over summer …. In fact it’s a favourite time for dodgy governments or companies to get up to no good. Please consider supporting an environment group like Friends of the Earth.

Expand the mind! Books on natural history, or the environment, social justice, life, and the universe can make great summer time reading. Why not support your local progressive bookstore (and check out the activist DVDs and docos while you’re there!)

and new year resolutions ...

Five great starting points for a more sustainable new year. And if you're already done or are doing these things, keep on going!

●    commit to ride your bike more. Make a commitment to not drive distances less than 2 kilometres
●    if you have to fly often for work, set a target for doing at least some meetings by teleconference this year
●    switch to new green energy at home (ie new wind energy). For a listing of the relative merits of each green power option, check: http://www.greenpower.gov.au/home.aspx
●    get political! Personal behaviour change is necessary but not enough to meet the challenges we face with global warming. Get active in, or financially support, an environmental organisation
●    do a carbon footprint analysis of your lifestyle. This will allow you to identify where you can make the greatest reductions in your contribution to climate change. http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/human_footprin...

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