Celebrate sustainably this Lunar New Year

Published: 20 January 2023
Photo credit: Nicole Cleary

It’s time to welcome the first new moon of the calendar with Lunar New Year, featuring a frenzy of food, fireworks and family.

Originating in China and observed by its neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Korea, as well as Asian communities across the globe, Lunar New Year ushers in a new beginning with celebrations of abundance and prosperity.

The colour red is featured prominently across the festival in clothing, decorations and gifts, symbolising success, good luck and happiness.

But many of our most treasured Lunar New Year traditions can generate unnecessary waste, so here are some simple ways to turn our red celebrations green.

Eco envelopes

During Lunar New Year celebrations, red envelopes filled with money are often exchanged between loved ones to bring good luck. This cherished custom can have a huge impact on our environment, but it’s possible to keep giving red envelopes while saving the trees and cutting emissions and waste at the same time.

In China, sending digital red envelopes through messaging app WeChat is already popular. If you prefer to give a physical gift, you can buy red envelopes without prints on them so they can be stored and used again year after year. You could also make them from recycled paper.

Share the love

A key part of preparing for the new year is decluttering the home and sweeping away bad luck. Instead of sending your unwanted household items to the tip, ask your friends and family if they could use an ice-cream maker or extra set of towels. You could also join your neighbourhood Facebook group and find a new home for your goods online. And for anything that is beyond its best, use our handy spring cleaning guide to learn more about diverting your waste from landfill.

Waste not, want not

Family feasts are the cornerstone of so many celebrations and Lunar New Year is no exception. Sadly, a lot of excess food can end up in the bin, with the average Victorian household throwing away $2,136 a year in wasted food.

Get smart with your festive meals by planning ahead and making a list before heading to the shops so you’re not tempted to over-buy. If you do have extra food when your meal is over, send your guests home with a container. And for anything remaining, be sure to store your leftovers correctly so you get maximum mileage from your hard work in the kitchen.

Food for thought

Speaking of food, celebrations like Lunar New Year are a great opportunity to consider planning a more veg-forward menu. Eating more plants is not only great for your health; it can also help to reduce our carbon footprint. Some also believe eating a vegetarian meal on the first day of the new lunar year will bring good karma, so what have you got to lose?

Whole fish is often served during Lunar New Year celebrations, so if seafood will be appearing on your table, be sure it’s sustainably sourced and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Check out 5 questions to ask when shopping sustainably for food.

Collective closets

Wearing new clothes can symbolise a fresh start for the new year. It’s also tradition to wear red clothes for Lunar New Year celebrations. But that doesn’t mean maxing out your credit card and contributing to the global issue of textile waste.

Instead of buying new, why not organise a clothes-swap with friends, family or colleagues to shop for clothes that are new to you. You could also visit your local op shops, or consider renting something from a dress or suit hire shop, or an app.

If it’s important to you to buy something brand new, check out 5 questions to ask when shopping sustainably for fashion.