A Conscious Waste Free Christmas
It is that time of the year again, the season of gift-giving and yummy kaikais. Together with all the fun and good times spent with family, opening presents and eating more than usual, there will also be an enormous amount of rubbish generated. Lucky for us, there are always options available to consider in reducing our impact on our already overflowing landfill this Christmas.
First waste reduction option to consider is your choice of gift. Avoid plastic gifts that break easy and end up in the rubbish faster than you can say ‘ho ho ho’. Support gifts that are made from recycled or upcycled materials such as the creative jewelry and bags made by ‘Circle Cook Islands, a local business that can turn popped floaties into fancy bags or aluminum cans into nifty earrings. There is also ‘Marama Moana’ who sell divine-scented candles and offers the option of refills using the same wax jar to reduce your overall waste.
Next, there are gift-wrapping options. Fancy wrapping paper used to achieve suspense and anticipation can be quite costly these days. To achieve the same job as a ‘kinder surprise’ consider using newspaper as a cost free alternative. A pareu could also be used to wrap gifts, ultimately being a multi-purpose gift. Two for the price of one, we like that!
Still stuck on a special gift to buy? Consider the gift of baking goods such as making a ‘Christmas Fruit Cake’ to match the Christmas spirit. Gifting a special plant could be another waste free option, whether it be an orchid or a cutting of your Tipani or Kaute tree, other natural ways to share the love this Christmas. There's also the option of gifting experiences as opposed to gifting material items. This could include a guided tour of the Takitumu Conservation Area (TCA) to reconnect with our native plants and birds. You’d be surprised at how many Cook Islanders have not yet visited the TCA. You could consider trying your luck fishing with one of the local game fishing charter companies. There’s SCUBA diving to also experience the serenity of our underwater paradise. More relaxing options could include a yoga class or massage offered at the many small local businesses found on island.
The celebratory drinks will be flowing this Christmas, and this will then flow onto bottled waste ending up in our landfill. Fortunately, there are refill options where you can take your reusable flagons or reusable bottles to both the Rarotonga Brewery in Nikao or the Bond Store for beer refills. Fun fact, every 2 liters of beer refill keeps 6 empty stubbies or cans out of your rubbish.
The refill options also include making the most of our free UV treated water refill stations around the island. Save on buying drinking water and of course less plastic waste ending up in our landfill. Yes, reusable insulated water bottles are still available at Te Ipukarea Society!!
As for cooking preparations, especially if you are roasting fish in your oven or umu, consider using banana leaves as opposed to aluminum foil. Be sure to seer the leaves over a flame for a few seconds to make it more flexible for wrapping. The leaves work really well and give the fish a nice flavour too.
While on the topic of food, try to avoid using glad wrap to cover food. Instead, use a pareu or table cloth to keep the flies off. This can then be washed and reused again and again. This also saves you money on buying gladwrap.
Today plastic waste remains a huge issue for the Cook Islands. We currently have no facilities to recycle plastic waste on island, so every bit of plastic that goes to the bin ends up in our landfill piling up over time. PET plastic bottles like the 1.5 L soft drink bottles are currently being trialed for offshore recycling but this is only in small trial amounts.
So even more the reason this season, to consider some alternative options to minimising festive waste.
Wishing you all a merry merry Christmas from the Te Ipukarea Society team. And three cheers to supporting more businesses and initiatives that support waste free cultures for 2024.