Photograph of red traditional Chinese New Year decorations, including paper cuttings and lanterns. Photo by Aerian Yu on Unsplash.

Celebrating a Sustainable Lunar New Year: 8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Festivities

As the Lunar New Year season approaches, many of us are preparing for the festivities. For those of us who celebrate, buying new clothes for visits, filling our homes with decorations, and curating our snack selections are rituals that mark this time of the year.

While the Lunar New Year festive season is one of abundance and new beginnings, many traditions we follow can be wasteful - excessive snacks that become food waste, new clothing that sits unused in our wardrobes, single-use decorations that end up in the trash. As we try to lead sustainable lifestyles, how can we adapt our new year traditions to be more environmentally friendly? 

In this post, we explore 8 ways we can adapt our traditions and move towards environmentally sustainable Lunar New Year celebrations, from preparation to post-celebration wastage.


1. DIY Decorations

Pineapple-shaped Kokedama (moss balls used as planters) laid out across a white fabric backdrop. Pineapples are considered lucky fruit in Chinese culture for the Lunar New Year as the Chinese word for pineapple sounds like 'fortune coming your way'.

Traditional decorations fill our houses during the Lunar New Year, symbolising prosperity and warding off evil spirits. While many of us opt to buy our decorations new every year, the constant purchase of these single-use paper and plastic decorations generates lots of waste. 

Upcycling previous year’s ang paos (red packets) to make DIY lanterns, fish, and other simple decorations is another great way to reduce wastage by making use of materials we already have and would otherwise throw away. 

Looking to include some green in your house this year? Come buy some traditional plants or make your own Pineapple-shaped Kokedama at our February Farmers’ Market!

If DIY decorations are not an option, there are still ways to reduce waste when making purchases. Avoiding zodiac-themed decorations and opting for other auspicious motifs like fish or peonies can give us decorations that we can reuse year to year.


2. Rethinking ‘new’ clothes 

Clothes rack at a thrift shop showing formal shirts in various colours.

Buying new clothes symbolises a fresh start for the new year, and the lead-up to the festive season usually means buying new clothes for Lunar New Year visits. While this tradition came from a time when new clothing was only purchased or made once a year, our current times look different. The availability of new clothing for purchase year-round and the growing textile waste from the fashion industry are perhaps a sign to reconsider this tradition. 

Consuming consciously around the Lunar New Year does not mean that we have to break tradition. Opting to buy clothes that we can wear for work or occasions throughout the year can be one way to avoid single-use fashion. Only buying new clothing during this season is also one way to consume sustainably while keeping the tradition alive.

Otherwise, rethinking what ‘new’ means to us can be one way to reimagine this tradition. Rather than purchasing newly stocked clothes, we can get them from thrift stores or fashion swaps like those hosted by Cloop or The Fashion Pulpit. This way, we can still get clothes that are new to us while reducing waste from the constant drive for new products.


3. Sustainable Spring Cleaning

A person putting a bag of clothing into a yellow textile recycling bin set up by textile recycling company Cloop.

The process of spring cleaning before the Lunar New Year symbolises letting go of the old and making space for new beginnings to our lives. However, the process can generate huge amounts of waste as we throw out old items, especially if these are still in usable condition.

Rather than putting all our old items in the trash, we can pass them on to people who might need them. Freecycling app Olio is a great platform to give away old belongings to neighbours who might need them, keeping them out of landfills and preventing unnecessary new purchases.

Otherwise, making sure our trash items are appropriately recycled can help close the loop of production and prevent waste. Sorting our waste by material and ensuring that it gets put in the right recycling bin keeps our waste materials in the production loop rather than ending up as trash. Donating old clothing to your nearest Cloop bin also helps reduce waste and keep trash out of our landfills.

 

4. Giving Old Items a New Life

A poster for Repair Kopitiam sessions. Repair Kopitiam is a community-led workshop that teaches attendees to perform basic repairs on items.

Poster courtesy of Repair Kopitiam.

Rather than tossing out old items that are a little worse for wear, we can opt to repair them and give them a new lease of life, too. Items with minor damages can be easily repaired instead of being thrown away.

If you’re unsure how to start, come down for an upcoming Repair Kopitiam session hosted at our Henderson premises to give your items a new lease of life while learning from a community of repairers. 


5. Cutting Back our Hong Bao Waste

A gold and red hong bao (red packet) that is traditionally given out in Chinese families during the Lunar New Year. The hong bao is embossed with a gold 'fú' character, which represents wealth.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Giving and receiving hong bao is a staple of the Lunar New Year, and something that many look forward to during the festive season. However, the printing of new cash notes and new red packets every year consumes huge amounts of paper, plastic, and ink resources.

Electronic red packets sprung up during the pandemic to keep traditions alive amid changing times, and they can still be used now to combat the waste from red packets and fresh notes.

When buying red packets, opting for timeless designs without zodiac animals allows us to keep extra red packets for another year. Purchasing designs sealed using slots rather than glue also makes them more easily reusable in future seasons or for events such as weddings and birthdays.


6. Sustainable Feasting

A top-down photograph of hotpot soup and ingredients, a dish traditionally eaten at reunion dinner during the Lunar New Year.

Photo by Cera on Unsplash

The Lunar New Year is a time of abundance, wishing for a prosperous year ahead. Having excess food during these times is a wish for similarly fortunate times in the year ahead. However, this tradition can give rise to high amounts of food waste.

Saving leftovers from our meals is a simple way to combat food wastage in this festive season. Eating reunion dinner leftovers on the first day of the Lunar New Year is also a traditional practice that signifies excess and prosperity being brought forward into the new year. Storing bones from meat-based dishes to make stocks later also helps us make the most use of the food that we have.

Going plant-based is another way to eat more sustainably in the Lunar New Year. With a significant vegetarian population in the Chinese community, vegetarian recipes such as chap chye are not hard to come by. Opting for vegetarian catering during company or family celebrations is another way to try eating plant-based this festive season.


7. Shop sustainable snacks

Product images of Singapore-based chocolaterie Mr Bucket's Golden Prosperity box, including images of bonbons and chocolate bark.

Photographs courtesy of Mr Bucket Chocolaterie.

Snacks are a key part of Lunar New Year visits, both to provide to visitors or as gifts for family, friends, and loved ones. Lunar New Year celebrations would be incomplete without red-capped containers filled with goodies.

Bringing your own containers from previous Lunar New Year celebrations when buying snacks from your neighbourhood shops can help minimise plastic waste. 

Purchasing snacks is a great opportunity to support sustainable local businesses. Snacks like The Moonbeam Co’s spent grain granola make for unique snacks for visitors. Singapore-based chocolaterie Mr Bucket is selling limited edition Chinese New Year gift sets containing a range of artisanal chocolates made from sustainably-sourced cacao beans farmed across Asia.

Interested in these snacks and more? Purchase them at our Petal and Paw Farmers’ Market in February!


8. Dealing with Post-celebration Waste

Two people at a City Sprouts planter-making workshop, using recycled materials to create planters.

Visitations, celebrations, and gifts can often leave us with waste at the end of the festive period. 

Rather than just tossing packaging, red packets and gift boxes in the trash, finding ways to reuse them helps save on resources in the future. Elaborately decorated gift boxes can be reused as decorative storage boxes, or even when gifting in the future. And snack containers and tins make great storage for tea leaves, coffee powder, spices, and other supplies.

Initiatives for reuse and recycling have also popped up in recent years. Most banks collect red packets for recycling in the period after the festive season (and POSB and DBS outlets even collect them year-round). Recyclopedia regularly spotlights recycling initiatives, including post-festive season donation drives such as snack containers for small businesses and home-based bakers!

We have a community recycling initiative coming up next month, so stay tuned on our Instagram and Telegram channel for more details.

 

Celebrate Sustainability in Abundance

The Lunar New Year festive season ushers in a year of abundance and prosperity. While some common practices in this time can be wasteful, we don’t have to break tradition to be sustainable. 

Want to pick up unique and sustainable snacks and gifts for the Lunar New Year gifting season? Come by our Farmers’ Market on 3rd February to pick up products from local sustainable businesses for all your visiting needs. 

Wishing you a prosperous Lunar New Year!

 

(Header photo by Aerian Yu on Unsplash.)

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