The holidays are an expensive time, in a few ways. Firstly, they’re financially expensive. A study by finder.com.au found that Australians planned to spend an average of $1,325 over Christmas in 2018 – each! That’s a lot of bon-bons.

But there’s a second cost being paid over the silly season. Everything we consume, whether it’s presents, food, or miles travelled, adds to our collective carbon footprint. To help you do the planet a favour this Christmas, we’ve got 3 ways you can reduce your carbon impact this holiday season.

Of course, you should never feel guilty for enjoying Christmas, even if some of these tips aren’t right for you. But if you can have a great Christmas while keeping your environmental impact low, why not have both!

Green Christmas Tree with a red and gold bauble, reminding us that we can have a low impact christmas

Enjoy Christmas lunch, but hold the carbon emissions

The food we eat is big opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. And over Christmas, we eat a lot. Finder’s research found we plan to chow down on $122 worth of food on Christmas day – each! Add $131 worth of alcohol to that bill and you’re looking at a big, boozy footprint.

The first option is to eat less. Instead of serving up a Sizzler-worthy buffet, why not cook just the food you need? That full-belly-at-Christmas feeling isn’t really a good one, if we’re honest. You’ll also reduce the risk of food waste by just making what you need.

Here are some other ways you can make your Christmas meal a little more sustainable:

  • Eat more vegetables. For a meal that’s figuratively and literally greener, load up on fresh vegetables, rather than meat. Vegetables have a much smaller impact on the environment than meat, and can be just as delicious!
  • Eat more chicken. Some meats are ‘greener’ than others (don’t eat any that’s actually green). Beef and lamb are very resource intensive, while turkey and chicken cause a much lower environmental impact.
  • Go light on seafood. Unfortunately, a lot of seafood isn’t much better than beef or lamb, due to the fuel required by boats to catch them. Alas, shellfish like prawn and lobster are some of the worst offenders! It varies a lot though, so do your research.

Chicken on the table for Christmas make for a low impact Christmas lunch

Keep your presents low impact

Finder’s research found that Aussie families planned to spend $464 on presents – $8.8 billion overall. Not only is that a lot of dollars, it’s also a lot of extra stuff that we mostly don’t need, all of which has a carbon footprint.

The best way to reduce the impact of presents is to buy less! Making a pact with the adults in your family to just enjoy each other’s company is one option, or you could try a Secret Santa. That way everyone gets a gift, picked just for them.

Whether you’re buying one present or ten, here are some other ways to lower your gift giving impact:

  • Make something yourself. Build a coffee table from from driftwood or old furniture. Or you could make wooden toys from a coffee table. If you sew you could turn a pile of band t-shirts into a doona cover. 15% of Aussie’s are already making gifts, according to finder – why not join them?
  • Buy essentials items, instead of luxuries. Socks get a bad rap, but they get used! You can always buy a nicer version of an essential item to give it a special touch. Protip: It’s not bad manners to ask someone what they actually need!
  • Re-gift. Yup, we said it, and finder found that around 13% of us admit to re-gifting. But seriously, if something would be more useful to someone else, give it to them! Just try not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
  • Buy a membership. Instead of buying a physical product, why not shout Netflix or Stan for a year? Instead of getting a car for a new driver, why not get them a GoGet membership?

One Christmas gift on a white background, a single gift means a low impact Christmas

Travel light

Finder found that Australians plan to spend an average of $444 dollars each on travel in 2018. That includes fuel, flights, car rental, and snacks, presumably. But all travel has another cost, a cost to the environment.

Luckily, travelling a little more sustainably can also save you time and hassle. Of course if you’re not a GoGet member, now is a perfect time to consider joining – you avoid having to pay for and look after a car all together.

Failing that, here are the best ways to keep your transport impact low:

  • Use public transport. Trains and buses still run over the holidays – some days even get extra services. If you can get a train where you need to go, you’ll also avoid Christmas traffic.
  • Carpool. Be organised ahead of time to try and fill your car. Not only will this prevent emissions from a second vehicle, it’ll also reduce the overall traffic and save you money.
  • Travel off-peak. If you have to drive, don’t do it on Christmas day. Driving at night or on less busy days will reduce the hours you’ll spend in traffic. This is good for the environment, because car emissions tend to increase as traffic gets heavier.

A toy train on a Christmas set, illustrating that we can get the train at Christmas, not drive

Enjoy a safe and sustainable holiday

As we mentioned, it’s important to not let these tips get in the way of a guilt-free holiday. Do what you can, but the main thing is to stay safe, especially if you’re on the road. Whether you’re taking a GoGet car for the holidays, travelling in your own vehicle, or as a passenger, no one will mind if you’re a little late.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC and SBS.