SEI News: Our Staff and Key Researchers Share their Tips for Having Sustainable Christmas

SEI affiliates share their sustainable Xmas tips

We’re forecast to waste 35% of our food over Christmas, which will mainly end up in landfill. A staggering 53% of Aussies are expected to throw away at least one unopened gift this festive season. With lots of festivities on at this time of the year and laughter being shared, it’s also a good time to reflect on the environment and our carbon footprint. From re-using Christmas lunch leftovers for another meal to giving someone a present made from recyclable materials, we can all make our 2015 Christmas a bit more sustainable.

We’ve interviewed various affiliates across the Sydney Environment Institute to gather their sustainable tips:

1) What’s your one suggestion for people this Christmas to make it that little bit more sustainable?
2) What sustainable or environmental issue should people reflect on this Christmas?
3) What’s something sustainable you will be doing yourself this Christmas?

Associate Prof Bill Pritchard, Convenor of the Food, People & the Planet node


“Don’t over-buy food in the frenetic few days before Christmas. Think of creative ways to re-use your Christmas lunch. Remember that roast vegetables make great salads and sandwiches.”

“Think about the state of the world’s oceans. A lot of Australians will be having seafood for Christmas but how long can we sustain the world’s oceans?”

“For the first time in several years, I’ll be having a small Christmas dinner, just with my immediate family. And my vegan daughter suggested we make it a 100% vegan day, which we’ve all agreed is a nice variation to the usual. I know that veganism is not for everyone, but cutting back on meat, by having the occasional vegetarian or vegan day, at least, is good for the planet.”

Dr Frances Flanagan, Research Affiliate


“Connect with an organisation that is dedicated to collective action on climate change. It could be  Greenpeace,, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, or one of the many groups allied to Lock the Gate  – whichever you choose you will be sure to find inspiring people full of hope, energy and practical strategies for fighting for a safe climate.”

“In Australia, it would have to be fossil fuel subsidies. The Australian people, through their taxes, give coal, oil and gas companies around $4 billion in subsidies every year.  To stay within the 2 degree target for global warming, 90% of Australian coal reserves have to stay in the ground. Why are we paying people to dig this stuff up? We live in a democracy, if we work together we can change this grotesque scenario.”

“Spending time with my family, reading books, cooking (using solar!), visiting some of Sydney’s gorgeous parks and beaches and generally trying not to buy too much stuff.”

Michelle St Anne, Executive Administrator


“Don’t buy the crap – think  of a donation, or a chicken from Oxfam… maybe even doing something nice like cooking a lovely dinner.”

“Think about the weather, plan the meal around it, and what you can do with the leftovers. Jamie Oliver has great ideas.”

“Sorry friends no Christmas cards from me…e-cards all the way! For those without emails (like my Mum) a big fat kiss instead.”

PhD student Lisa Heinze, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies


“With the silly season upon us, there are countless gatherings with co-workers, friends and loved ones, and it can be tempting to buy something to wear. But whether it’s a gorgeous dress for that special event, or the Santa hat for the family barbie, before you reach for something new, take a pause. Consider what you already have in your wardrobe, what you may be able to borrow from a friend or pick up at an Op Shop. If you’re heading to a really fabulous event, try one of the designer dress rental shops and add the ‘Wow’ factor for a fraction of the price (and a fraction of the eco-footprint).”

“Waste is a huge fashion concern, in Australia we send an average of 30kg of textile waste per person to the landfill every year. The increase of ‘fast fashion’ businesses in our country raise many environmental and labour concerns, and waste is at the top of the list. Many of these fast fashion items are designed to last less than 10 wears and end up in the landfill sooner than well-made fashion pieces. So although that $10 singlet or $20 pair of boardies may be looking like a great, affordable gift idea for that hard-to-buy-for nephew of yours, you may want to reconsider.”

“I actually have few ‘fashionable’ activities planned this Christmas! My biggest ambitions are to reconnect with nature by camping, bushwalking, paddle boarding and surfing (well, continuing my surf lessons, anyway), and to spend time with my dear friends and family.”

David Ritter, CEO Greenpeace Australia

David Ritter

“Using this easy and independent guide, why not make the switch to green electricity for your household?”

“The biggest environmental issue of our time is us!  Only people power can stand up to big polluters and complacent governments, so why not spend Christmas thinking about how you are going to get involved?  (Hint: we’d love to have you as part of the Greenpeace family!)”

“Lots of messing about in the garden and making stuff out of string, cardboard and left over bits of what-not with my kids will be high on relaxation and fulfilment, and very low on environmental impact.”