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Brianne West’s tips for repurposing Christmas Waste

Tips from Ethique founder Brianne West on making it wonderful, not wasteful Christmas.

Reduce, reuse, reChristmas

Recycling is good and all, but if, despite your best efforts to reduce waste over the holidays, you still end up with a fair amount destined for the bin, the best thing to do is find new lives for the items. Repurposing magically eliminates waste – because it’s suddenly not waste at all. Here are our top tips to repurpose that Christmassy waste.

Save the wrapping

The one good thing about plastic-lined or foil wrapping paper is that it’s super easy to peel tape off it. Even paper wrap with tape will still have fairly serviceable bits – and any fabric or gift bags are easy keepers. Gather up all the wrap and ribbons you can find, fold them and tuck them away somewhere safe. All that should go into the bin (and hopefully the compost) is paper that’s ripped to shreds. Your future self will thank you when you have a huge and eclectic mix of second-hand gift wrap options.

Reuse Christmas cards

Unless you have particularly effusive friends and family, you’ll find most cards will have writing on one side only. That means the other side will be blank – and it’s also the side with the pretty picture. Cut the writing side off, and use the blank side as a new card or cut it up for gift tags. Simple, but genius!

Save, share and freeze food

Food waste spikes around this time of year, and is a significant problem in general. So, plan to send everyone home with leftovers – either ask that they BYO containers, or break out your stash of glass jars. The rest? It goes into the freezer in usable portions – sauces go into ice trays, and freeze portions of pie or cake on a tray before popping them into containers. That means you’re more likely to actually eat it all.

There are also plenty of recipes and ideas for using up festive leftovers. An alternative that always appeals to me: have a leftovers party. Invite friends over on Boxing Day and ask them to bring their leftovers. It means you get to sample other people’s Christmas wares, instead of eating the same food for three days straight. And last resort? Your worms or compost will be pleased to share in the Christmas bounty.

Craft it

Wine bottles, corks, all those extra toilet rolls, ribbons, wrapping paper – if you stop to think about it, these are all quite beautiful items that represent decades of human ingenuity. They’ve reached the end of their intended life, so they go in the bin – or do they? With a bit of craftiness, these bits of rubbish can be beautiful again. Here are some ideas to get you started:


Send your tree back to where it came from

You love that piney goodness from a real tree, but what to do with it once Christmas is over? Please don’t send it to the dump – where it will decompose without oxygen and produce more methane, which is far more damaging than CO2. Instead, make the most of that beautiful tree! You could try replanting it or look into nearby services that will turn your tree into very useful mulch. You can also strip off needles and store them in small jute bags – natural Christmassy air freshener! If all else fails, chop it up for a NYE campfire or let it rot down on your property to provide habitat for wildlife and feed your garden. To avoid all this, consider buying a potted Christmas tree next year. You can find them in most gardening stores.

Donate it to schools and day-cares

Pack up all the bits and pieces into clean, usable collections and you’ll find local schools are more than happy to take your old boxes, cracker toys, paper, ribbons, decorations and bottle corks and caps. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with a bunch of it arriving back in your house in the form of your kid’s art!

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