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13 ways to have a more conscious Christmas

Want to tread a little more lightly on the planet while
you’re spreading that festive cheer? Here’s how!

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it's easy to get swept away by the flurry of festive activities, lavish decorations, and the race to find the perfect gifts. However, amidst the joyous chaos, there is an opportunity to celebrate a conscious Christmas with a deeper sense of purpose and mindfulness. Why not take a moment to reflect on the impact of our choices and actions?
We share 13 thoughtful ways to transform your Christmas celebrations into a conscious and meaningful experience, where each choice contributes to a more sustainable and joyous holiday season. From mindful gift-giving to eco-friendly decorations and embracing the spirit of giving back, these suggestions will inspire you to savour the true essence of Christmas while making a positive impact on the planet and those around you.

1. Change your perception of gift-giving

Most people would much rather receive a small, thoughtful gift than an overload of items that will probably never be used. There are a few wonderful ways you can offer something unique and tangible, including the gift of an experience. This could be in the form of wellness or massage vouchers, movie tickets or even a hand-drawn card offering a special home-cooked dinner. Some more ideas include garden work or babysitting services. Time is a precious thing you can offer and it's always a well-received idea. If you'd like to buy a physical present, why not support local makers and businesses? Farmers' markets and artisan homewares stores are wonderful places to look.

2. Create your own Christmas tags

The personal touch is everything, and by creating your own tags using cardboard, stamps, scissors and a bit of ingenuity, you'll make recipients feel extra-special.

3. Don’t leave everything to the last minute

Get your Christmas shopping done now! We've all experienced the stress of traipsing around stores trying to find the perfect gift, which so often ends in unnecessary purchases simply for the sake of getting it done at the last minute. Taking time early to map out the experiences and gifts you'd like to offer your loved ones will keep you feeling calm and organised. It's not an earth-shattering idea, but it does make all the difference.

4. AMP's top three

AMP is a KiwiSaver and managed fund provider that puts sustainability at the core of its investment philosophy to support the good, avoid the bad, reduce its carbon footprint and advocate for change. Here, AMP New Zealand's sustainable investing analyst Livvy Mortimer shares her top tips for a sustainable Christmas.
Handmade Eco-Gifts
Opt for eco-friendly and handmade gifts that highlight New Zealand's unique culture and natural beauty. Consider crafting your own presents, such as hand-painted river stones, homemade preserves or knitted scarves using locally sourced materials. These sustainable DIY gifts are not only budget-friendly, but also show your creativity.
Beach Clean-up Party
Instead of a traditional indoor feast, take your Christmas celebration to the beach. Bring the community together and organise a beach clean-up with your friends and family, followed by a picnic or barbecue. Not only does this help keep New Zealand's beautiful coastal environment clean, but it provides a unique and sustainable way to celebrate too. You can also minimise waste by using reusable picnicware and enjoying locally sourced, zero-waste snacks.
Kiwi Native Tree Revival
Instead of purchasing a traditional Christmas tree that might end up as waste after the holiday season, why not go green with a native tree-planting tradition? In New Zealand, you can participate in tree-planting initiatives to help restore native forests. Your contribution not only benefits the environment, but also provides a meaningful and sustainable Christmas tradition.
To learn more, visit amp.co.nz

5. Devour eco eats

If you're creating or contributing to the feast this Christmas, look to support local growers and artisans where possible. You may even like to create a plant-based menu full of fresh, vibrant flavours. If you're cooking meat, choose free-range and organic if possible, and if the budget allows. By focusing on quality over quantity, this can reduce your impact on the environment in many ways. For a double dose of goodness, cook up a storm and make extra portions for those who need it most, like new mums or people recovering from surgery.

6. Look out for others

Check in on elderly neighbours to see if they need help decorating, shopping or getting to the post office, and take time to enjoy a cuppa and make conversation with those who would love a listening ear and some warm companionship. If you're guilty of being a bit cliquey in the office, ask someone new to coffee, lunch or post-work drinks. Invite those who might be spending Christmas Day alone to spend it with you and yours.

7. Sustainable wrapping

It's hard not to fall for Christmas wrap, but if the mountains of glossy paper left over after the gift-giving extravaganza leaves you wincing, why not wrap your gifts in fabric this year? Furoshiki is a Japanese style of wrapping, where the gift is encased in fabric and the corners tied in the middle. You can use secondhand linen fabric to keep costs down, or even a tea towel, scarf or napkin does the trick. Newspaper and brown twine is another eco-friendly option, while cotton drawstring bags are ideal for jewellery, soaps, perfume, cosmetics or vouchers. Larger tote bags are perfect for books, calendars, diaries and other flat items, and anything else sits happily in a coloured sack. Essentially, you're giving your recipient two gifts in one – lucky them!

8. Embrace the mismatch

Is furoshiki not your style? Throw out the idea of needing to have the matching wrapping paper and ribbon. Get creative and unearth old rolls of wrapping paper that have been stuffed into the back of the cupboard, then reuse old ribbons. An assortment of colours and styles reigns supreme this year – and it's easier on the planet and your wallet too. Tuck leafy foliage or a fragrant flower into your ribbon or gift wrap for an eco-friendly flourish!

9. Contributing to the Wishing Tree

Spread the joy and donate to New Zealand's largest and longest-running gift collection drive – the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal. Leave a present (unwrapped and brand-new) under the Wishing Tree at any Kmart store, or make a monetary contribution in store or online. Suggested gifts include headphones, backpacks, console games, jewellery and haircare appliances, with Kmart encouraging gift givers to keep older kids in mind too to ensure nobody misses out!

10. Give back

Light up another Kiwi's Christmas with the Salvation Army. Visit salliesgiftsofhope.org and choose from "Christmas Kai" (from $30), "A Gift Under the Tree" ($60), "Whānau Support" ($100) and more. You can even give a present on someone else's behalf – perfect for hard-to-buy-for loved ones! Also consider donating your time, resources or money to local animal shelters, charity or foundations that are close to your heart.

11. Extend an olive branch

Have you fallen out with a friend or family member this year? While some issues are insurmountable, life is short and it might be the perfect time to make up.

12. Go all in!

Are you ready to set yourself and your family a challenge? Try giving only gifts that are upcycled, recycled, secondhand, homemade or regifted. Just be sure the original gifter isn't at your celebration, unless they're likely to laugh! If your family is willing to forgo gifts altogether, maybe you could instead donate that money to a worthy cause you're all keen to get behind.

13. Be kind to yourself

While you're busy spreading kindness and cheer during the festive season, remember to take time out for yourself and do something that makes you feel good. Treat yourself to a mani-pedi, massage, ocean swim or a good book.

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