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Whatu ngarongaro he tangata toitū he whenua – people disappear but the land remains.

“Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”

As the Christmas season approaches, this question is even more ubiquitous than a warbling, Santa suit-clad Mariah Carey.

Whilst the NSPR team loves a good stocking stuffer as much as the next person, we’re also trying to find ways to minimise the environmental impact of our gift-giving. Here’s our top tips for enjoying a reduced waste, Earth-friendly Christmas this year.

Wrap it up

It’s a thankless task to be a roll of wrapping paper. Together with sticky tape and shiny ribbons, its sole purpose task is to provide your Christmas gifts with an additional layer of wow. But within moments of a gift being presented, those adornments find themselves torn asunder, discarded in a chaotic pile and left to be bundled into a wheely bin and sent to the landfill once the fleeting excitement of the moment has passed.

This year, why not thank the wrapping paper for its service and let it know that it’s time to take a well-earned retirement, then apply your creative energy to reimagining your gift-wrapping efforts.

If you are one of those people who unwraps a present by carefully removing each piece of tape before folding the paper neatly and saving it for an encore performance, you will already have a supply of pretty paper you can reuse. But if you’re just starting out on your sustainable Christmas journey, you can also reuse supermarket brown bags as wrapping paper. With a little glitter glue and some creative flair, you can set about swaddling your carefully selected gifts in bespoke works of craft magic. For extra credit, you might like to sign up your friends and whānau to join a local clean-up event.

Material benefits

If that doesn’t appeal, how about wrapping your gifts in colourful fabric bags which can be used again and again? You can find your inspiration in the Japanese art of furushoki, which traditionally use beautifully printed and hemmed silk or cotton squares of fabric, carefully folded and knotted to cocoon the gifts concealed within their soft folds.

These days, any type of fabric can be used, and it doesn’t have to be new or expensive. Many fabric stores sell remnants at vastly reduced prices, which can be used again and again for a variety of purposes – or you can create a new tradition with friends that involves exchanging gifts back and forth using the same piece of fabric every time. Another option is to use a selection of silk scarves  picked up from op shops: in doing so, you can spread the festive cheer even wider by supporting local charities.

If you’re sending gifts to loved ones far away, consider how you will send it. Better Packaging Co has a variety of shipping satchels, envelopes and courier bags made from waste, 100% recycled ocean bound plastic pollution (POLLAST!C) or partly made from plants and home compostable (comPOST).

A handy idea

Since we’re on a homemade roll, how about making your gifts as well? You don’t have to be a macrame master to create something special: it could be as simple as a calendar that features photos of whānau and friends. Websites like Snapfish and Vistaprint also make it easy to transform amateur works of art into diaries, cups, mouse mats and diaries.

If you’re buying for an aspiring Bakeoff champion, how about a jar filled with the necessary ingredients to bake festive cookies – just add eggs. Tie a ribbon round its neck, paste a personalised recipe to its front and you’re done! If you’re lacking inspiration, head to Pinterest for a casual browse: it’s a bottomless well of crafty inspiration for the home-made, sustainable gift giver.

Give the world

Do you have someone that’s hard to buy for? What about giving them something that will last long after the last scraps of Christmas ham have disappeared from your fridge? It could be something simple like a coupon for a free foot rub, or something a little more indulgent like a night away. Fun activities like an inspirational class at Good From Scratch cooking school or a slap-up dinner at QT Wellington’s Hippopotamus are a great way to create happy memories that will be treasured far longer than a pair of novelty socks, plus you can tag along for the fun!

Something for you

A sense of connection is something many people strive for at Christmas time, and a wonderful way to accomplish this is by choosing a charity to support. We’re not saying you have to give everyone a village goat (although it can be done, with a little help from organisations like Oxfam), but maybe you could say ‘yes’ to a beautiful Christmas bauble for Hospice New Zealand next time you’re in Farmers, drop a few non-perishable food items into the Food Bank collection at your local supermarket, or ask your whānau to donate to a favourite charity on your behalf.

We wouldn’t want to suggest that Christmas is all twinkly lights and gingerbread for everyone, all the time. We know that Christmas can be hard, lonely and painful – you could be grieving a loss, struggling to make ends meet financially or not in the best headspace for all that merriness and Michael Bublé. If you find yourself struggling, reaching out for help is a great first step: there are lots of wonderful organisations out there who do amazing mahi year round.

Give it up

If it feels like Christmas has gotten a bit too consumery in your household, you could consider choosing something to give up instead? Divert your weekly coffee allowance into contributing to your neighbourhood pātaka kai (food pantry), replace store-bought Christmas crackers with homemade party hats, or divert some of your gift-buying budget to a charity that’s close to your heart: maybe Breast Cancer Foundation or Men’s Health Trust.