Guide to a simpler festive season

I love the buzz of the festive season - the socialising, the onset of summer weather, the palpable pre-holiday excitement. But there are a few things that the festive season brings that I’m not such a fan of.

There’s the slightly frenzied and overwhelmed mood, the crazy spike in spending, consumption, and waste, the traffic jams… It’s not that great for our own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of the planet.

The awesome news is that there are some simple things we can do to make the festive season a bit lighter. Easy changes that free up time, energy, and impact and reconnect us with the stuff that really matters.


Yep it’s as simple as that. So often we’re rolling on autopilot. We do things because we always have, we feel like we should or maybe everyone around us is doing it. Taking a conscious moment can be an amazing way to reconnect with what’s really important.

Maybe the list of presents doesn’t need to be quite so long, maybe we don’t need the last minute, late-night supermarket trip, or maybe we don’t need to update the Christmas decorations this year.

I know my kids would rather we went for a bike ride or watched a Christmas movie together rather than sitting in a queue for a car park at the mall.

Simplify gifts

I get it - gift giving can be a tricky one to navigate. Having conversations is the best way to find a way to make things work for everyone, and here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Keep it simple: The gift list can easily spiral out of control. Take the time upfront to agree on who is buying for whom and consider limits on quantity and costs.
  • The gift of giving: Check out your favourite charities, so many of them now are offering fun and unique ways to give a donation in place of a gift. Or head over to the The Good Registry, they offer vouchers so recipients can chose the charities they care about to donate to.
  • Experiences over things: Events, tickets, memberships, subscriptions, lessons – they’re the gifts that keep on giving.
  • Practical things: I love the mantra ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read’ - it’s a great way to keep things on track.
  • Handmade: I know this can be the last idea you want to hear when you’re already juggling the Motherlode - but something as simple as shortbread in a jar makes an awesome gift and takes less time than heading to the shops. Or if ‘making’ really isn’t your thing - there are so many amazing local artisans around who have done all of the making for you. 

Conscious food

Every year at Christmas, the watercooler chat is all about how much longer the queues at the supermarket are. We seem to be constantly buying more - but the crazy irony is that the festive season also sees a massive spike in food waste.

  • Stick to your list: Yep I know it sounds obvious, but it works! Sticking to your shopping list will save you money and means you don’t get sucked into the temptation of buying more than you need.
  • Love your leftovers: Over the festive season, every second meal at our place is I have a rotating selection of leftover friendly recipes including, wraps, quesadillas, pizza, frittata, and salads.
    For any food that I’m not going to use, I throw it in the freezer to save it from going to waste.

Keep up the good habits

When we’re out of our normal routine it’s easy to let our habits relax. Don’t get me wrong, there are some habits I love relaxing over the holiday period, but there are some that are super easy to keep up that are lighter on the planet.

  • Pack your reusables: When we’re out, I always make sure I throw in a few reusable containers, bags, and coffee cups. You never know when they’re going to come in handy - sometimes the containers are used for buying sausages on the way to a BBQ, bringing leftovers home, or shell collecting at the beach!
  • Package free shopping: If you’re away from your usual habitat and keen to keep up the package free shopping, check out the incredible regional shopping guides from Hannah and Liam at The Rubbish Trip. I love using the guides to reduce my packaging waste, explore new places, and meet the locals who are on a mission to do better by people and planet.   
  • Stay sorted: If you’re away from home, check out the local council website to find out what can be recycled. When it comes to composting, I’ve been known to pack up food scraps and bring them home for my worms, or there’s a brilliant platform called Sharewaste where you can find locals who are happy to compost for you.

A lighter festive season doesn’t need to be a big deal, it’s about rolling with the changes that work for you. It’s about the power of small shifts that have a big impact for us and the planet.


Nic Turner is a founder and behaviour changer at Mainstream Green. She is on a mission to make sustainability easy, normal and feel good. Her book "Living Lightly: The Busy Person's Guide to Mindful Consumption" is released in NZ on 6th Jan 2021, at all good bookstores.