Sustainable giving – a gift for nature

A world-first open platform to help reduce plastic waste and encourage sustainable solutions is being launched in time for the biggest waste dump of the year – Christmas. With approximately 30 per cent more waste produced at this time of year, now is the perfect time to start being more sustainable, if you haven’t already.

I’M PLASTIC FREE is a free platform to find eco services and products for consumers and businesses and provides up-to-date independent research – no greenwashing – and information for living more sustainably and ethically.

‘If every person made one or two easy changes using eco-friendly materials instead of single-use plastics, the impact would be enormous,’ says founder, Simona Paganetto. ‘Reuse and repurpose are first, so there’s no waste, but when it’s time to replace your item, we provide a platform that makes finding and choosing an alternative easy.

At Christmas, this can really add up. Australians use an average of eight metres of paper for Christmas gifts. That might not sound like much, but it adds up to around 150,000 kilometres of wrapping paper. Enough to circumnavigate the globe four times.

‘We’re talking about something that is just ripped away and discarded, and if it’s got any type of foil or shine on it, it can’t be recycled,’ says Simona. ‘Don’t forget the ribbon and tinsel too, which are made from plastic.’

A different approach can make a huge difference. ‘Firstly, reusing paper, ribbon and tinsel is great,’ she says, ‘but if you don’t have any to reuse, there are many alternatives.’ I’M PLASTIC FREE has a handy Christmas checklist to help.

‘If every Australian family wrapped just a quarter of their presents in reused or alternative-paper options, it would save enough paper to wrap around the circumference of the earth,’ says Simona.

It’s not just the presents we’re wrapping, it’s the presents themselves. According to Finder, this festive season, Australians are expected to spend $27.3 billion. Of that, about $8.2 billion will be on presents, many of them unwanted according to a 2019 survey that found 53 per cent of Australians received at least one unwanted present. That’s a lot of dollars spent on stuff people don’t really want (and a lot of plastic too).

In fact, way back in 1993, then Yale University economist Joel Waldfogel, wrote a paper on the economic impacts of unwanted presents called ‘The Deadweight Loss of Christmas’. This now famous paper suggested that between $10 and $33 was wasted for every $100 spent.

Based on these findings, Australians are going to waste between $820 million and $2.7 billion this Christmas on unwanted presents. ‘This is an enormous amount of money and resources wasted,’ says Simona, ‘and is a good reminder to us as we go into the festive season to start changing these spending habits.’ I’M PLASTIC FREE has creative and eco-friendly suggestions for reducing this waste.

As well as wrapping and presents, food waste is also a huge problem at Christmas. Of the $4.98 billion Australians are expected to spend on food, about one-third will be thrown out. In addition, with only 30 per cent of households in Australia with access to FOGO (Food Organic and Garden Organic) services, most of this excess will go to landfill. This is not good news for the climate, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) reports that food rotting in landfill releases methane 28 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

‘Throwing food away not only creates methane in landfill, but it also wastes resources used to produce that food and uses plastic to package that food,’ says Simona. ‘Consciously thinking about reducing the amount of food you are buying and how to use leftovers, are two really good ways of helping to reduce this waste.’

I’M PLASTIC FREE has year-round solutions for those just starting out on an eco-friendly journey to those ready for more advanced solutions. But why wait? For maximum impact, start this Christmas and give a gift to Planet Earth.

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