Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas

The team at RooCreate have put together a list of eco-friendly Christmas ideas to help you and yours to celebrate the season in a smart, simple and sustainable way.  We hope that our list inspires you to make a few changes this year!

Homemade Gifts

Handmade gifts are a great plastic-free solution to Christmas presents

How about homemade gifts like baked goods and other food items?

Some ideas: paintings, photographs, pottery, ceramics, sewing, knitting, woodworking projects, or handmade ornaments. The sky is the limit here!  Create it yourself or purchase locally sourced gifts and food.

The best places to get locally sourced gifts and food in Wollongong is at the Friday Markets (Wollongong), Coledale Markets,  Foragers Markets (Bulli) as well as the  Flame Tree Co-Op. A bit further afield are the Berry Markets, located on the South Coast.

If you are thinking of something handmade, but are not handy yourself, why not browse Etsy?

Use Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

Choose recyclable wrapping paper.

Every year, Australians throw out over 6,000 tonnes of wrapping paper at Christmas. This equates to rubbish that covers about 60 square km!

In order to reduce the impact wrapping paper has on our environment: avoid metallic or glossy wrapping paper and choose recyclable ones instead.

You can go a step further and use upcycled paper to wrap your gifts in a unique and creative way. And, when it comes to making your presents sparkle, opt for Bio Glitter, a biodegradable alternative to plastic-based glitter. You can use it on your crafts, décor, and even for cosmetic applications.

Skip the Wrapping Paper

Eco-friendly, reusable gift bags are a great alternative to wrapping paper

There are countless ways of making your gifts look beautiful and presentable without using gift wrap. Why not try some eco-friendly wrapping paper alternatives such as reusable gift bags, boxes, baskets, or any other types of packaging that involve no folding or tape and are super easy to use the next year? You can go wrapping free and simply put your pressies inside a stocking instead.

Limit Christmas Food Waste

In Australia, over $7.2 billion is spent on food in December alone, and almost 20% of that goes to waste. Luckily, there are some simple, doable actions that we can take to ensure that we do our part in helping to reduce the millions of tonnes of food being thrown away during the Christmas season.

  • Eat leftovers!

    20% of food at Christmas goes from table to bin
  • Send your guests home with leftovers!  Save your old takeaway containers and send your revelers home with a few leftover nibblies from the evening.
  • For ‘bring-a-plate’ get-togethers – ask your guests to sign up for sweet or savory dishes to avoid doubling up.
  • Think about ways to set out food as you go – e.g. only put out half the biscuits from a pack, then top up as the plate gets empty through the night.
  • Look up creative ways to reuse your leftovers! has a whole section dedicated to Christmas Leftovers.  There are dozens of recipes that can help to increase the mileage of your Christmas feast from veggie frittatas to roast turkey pizza!

Give Digital Gifts

Some of the cards available at Australia Post.

Digital gifts are another eco-friendly alternative for Christmas. Australia Post has a wide range of gift cards from travel gift cards, to movie tickets, to ridesharing (Uber and Lyft), to app store apps (Google Play and Apple App Store).

For the handy person, why not give a gift card to a hardware shop (Bunnings and Mitre 10) to help repair what they already own?

For the reader in your life, how about a Kindle Books gift card?

Use A Potted Tree

Potted trees can be kept all year round!

Using a potted tree that you care for all year round and reuse again the next year is a great way of fighting the war on Christmas waste. Basically, you buy a live Christmas tree and there is no cutting involved. You simply use leave it in its pot and water it throughout the year until the next Christmas when you get to use it again. If this isn’t really an option for you, then why not plant a tree for the one that you cut down?



Make your own decorations!

Why not make your own decorations from all the newspapers, wrapping papers, and other assorted craft supplies you’ve been saving?

For instance, you could combine pine cones, glass baubles and a driftwood branch for a beautiful addition to your Christmas decorations. Don’t have a single creative bone in your body? Not to worry, you can simply head to the op shop and grab a tree or some pre-loved Christmas decorations from last year.


During the Christmas season, there are tons of people who are actually going without even barest of necessities. Why not donate some of your items to your local charities – particularly if you have more than you need? Anything from food surplus, clothes, and electronic items can be repurposed and will be greatly appreciated.

Why not give a card donating a chicken or a cow? Programmes like Oxfam Unwrapped and Heifer International allow you to donate clean water supplies, food, and farming supplies.

Select eco-gifts (or make your own)

Choose gifts that help to support our environment instead of killing it, and opt for eco-friendly options like cotton and hemp whenever you can. Consider things like homemade deodorant, soaps, candles, dishwashing liquid, scourers, and cloths.

Our friends at Ethique have a wide array of eco-friendly soap and shampoo gift packs available.  They have eco-friendly bars of soap and shampoo for all occasions.  Learn more about how RooCreate designed the Ethique Advent Calendar with 100% compostable materials. 

Another eco-friendly Australian company we are excited about is Curated With Conscience.  Their selection of artesian gift boxes have been selected for their exceptional quality and design, ethical sourcing and sustainability.  CWC have custom gift boxes with everything from barbeque supplies, to a home day spa, to eco cleaning kits to boxes with nibblies for your whole office.

From all of us at RooCreate, we hope that you have a joyful season with friends and family alike!

Is there really an island of plastic rubbish floating in the ocean?

plastic in ocean
The Trash Vortex, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or just the Plastic Island, this giant swirl of floating rubbish in the Pacific Ocean goes by many names. But none of them quite capture what it really is and why it’s so worrying.

In this article, we’re going to sail way out to sea and dive into what’s really going on.

What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

For a start, there is no island of garbage. If you sailed to the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch you wouldn’t see … anything, actually. Forget images of a stinky pile of junk picked over by a cloud of raucous seagulls. Most of the bad news is under the surface in billions of tiny little bits spread over a vast area of open water.

To get an idea of what we’re talking about, imagine the whole northern Pacific Ocean as a giant cooking pot. Coriolis effects, ocean currents and winds are stirring it in a clockwise direction. This kind of vast, yet very slow, whirlpool is called a gyre. This is our pot and we’re going to make a soup.

When we add ingredients, they, like in any swirling soup, all migrate to the centre. Natural processes, like runoff and erosion, are always washing ‘ingredients’ into the oceans and they collect in gyres all over the world. There, these natural ingredients form habitats for small marine creatures and spread nutrients as they decompose.

However, in the case of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (and the smaller but still concerning North Atlantic Garbage Patch), far too much of the ‘soup ingredients’ aren’t natural things, but rather bits of plastic, lost fishing nets and other pieces of artificial junk.

Further, while much of these artificial ingredients are washed into the ocean by natural processes, boats and ships actually just dump a fair bit right into the middle.

How big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The simple answer is: too big. Being more definite is harder than it seems. Even the term ‘soup’ oversells what is going on. The garbage is very spread out and most of it is specks of plastic floating below the surface.

At the edges there is very little of this rubbish and it gets denser in the middle. The total estimated weight ranges from 80,000 to 3.5 million tonnes. While there are occasionally large pieces (such as entire lost shipping containers), the most concentrated part of the soup contains around 100kg of plastic waste for every square kilometre. If that doesn’t sound like much, try this on for size…

If we convert the areas and weight into their equivalents as football fields and cigarette butts, then each football field of the worst part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains about 295 cigarette butts. And the ‘worst part’ covers an area at least the size of New South Wales.

turtle and plastic bag

The open ocean used to be incredibly pure

The concentration of rubbish in the garbage patch is way, way too much for the animals there to deal with. Why? Because this was a ‘clean’ environment in a way that’s hard for people to imagine.

Not many people spend much time far from land, so we landlubbers don’t grasp what it’s really like. Generally, there is nothing out there. Just water, a sprinkling of microscopic life and the occasional group of passing fish, seabirds, sharks or dolphins, etc. It would not make a very interesting nature documentary if they showed the reality that the open ocean is thousands and thousands of kilometres of water as empty as the sky.

This is why even the thin soup of the garbage patch is so concerning. It’s in an environment so pure that 100kg of junk in a square kilometre is a dramatic change.

What’s in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

There is a lot of different stuff floating around in the gyre. Some of it is completely natural (such as pumice and vegetation) and a fair bit of it man-made but biodegradable (such as wood and natural-fibre rope). These aren’t the worry. The problem is the amount of synthetic material out there. This is largely single-use plastic (yes, like straws, plastic bags and toys), bits of fishing equipment and chemical sludge.

The special issue with single-use plastic is that it doesn’t biodegrade, but it does disintegrate. This means the big pieces break down into the tiny individual polymer particles.

These are so small that the animals that are out there or passing through can’t help but ingest them, just like you can’t help breathing in some dust when the wind picks up. But as plastic is indigestible, it lodges inside the animals. It blocks their digestive systems while also slowly poisoning them. And as the little fish get contaminated, the bigger fish eat them. This process concentrates the pollution in the bigger sea creatures.

It might not be overstating things to say that every single large ocean-going animal – every whale, shark, tuna, dolphin and turtle – has this plastic poisoning to some degree.

How do we clean it up?

You’ll understand why this is a tough question given what you’ve just learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. How do you filter out sub-surface ‘plastic dust’ from hundreds of thousands of cubic-kilometres of water?

The most promising idea is from a crowdfunded company that started on the back of a TED talk given by Dutch teenager Boyan Slat. Called The Ocean Cleanup, his organisation is building giant pontoon-and-net devices designed to work as an ‘artificial coastline’ to trap plastic particles. The launch of the trial device is set for 2020.

Some scientists are critical of The Ocean Cleanup’s approach though, arguing the nets will make the problem worse and also attract sea creatures – which are drawn to any structures in their largely empty environment – to the most polluted places. Ongoing research is intensive.

How can you prevent plastic pollution in the ocean

There are several ways you can help avoid contributing to the problem of plastic in the oceans.

    1. Don’t buy single-use plastics. All the plastic packaging and bottles you buy contribute to the problem. Choose and reuse glass bottles or eco-friendly packaging options like cardboard and cloth. In fact, all of Roocreate’s packaging is biodegradable.
    2. Recycle. Wherever possible, you should recycle your plastic and buy recycled plastics.
    3. Join in a clean-up day. Either as part of a big event or just a small group, coastline cleaning efforts really do help.
    4. Spread the word and support legislative measures. Raising awareness of the issue with your fellow citizens and politicians can bring change.

RooCreate is hoping to lead the way in effective design and manufacture by saying NO to single-use plastic and ensuring that all packaging is biodegradable and will not harm wildlife or the environment.

Straws: single use plastic endangering our oceans

While it was once considered responsible behaviour to dispose of one’s rubbish “thoughtfully”, nowadays we know that simply “throwing away” our waste is not the solution our planet needs. In reality, there is no “away”, not even for the humble plastic straw…

Straws suck. Here’s why.

Our quest for convenience is costing the planet big time. The plastic straw is one of the most common objects found in our oceans, and unsurprisingly, they’re responsible for the death of many of our precious marine animals. Plastic ingestion or entanglement kills a whopping one million seabirds and more than 100,000 mammals every single year. Continue reading

Why reusable shopping bags make sense

Around the world single-use plastic bags – the ones you’d know from grocery stores, clothes shops and department stores – are going away. A relic of the throw-away culture that the world is rapidly leaving behind, there are still something like 150 million single-use bags chucked in the garbage each year in Australia alone.

  Continue reading

In the media: Suzanne Haddon’s new Wollongong business RooCreate wins a national award

** This article was originally published in the Illawarra Mercury on June 11 2018.  Story and photography by Greg Ellis.
Click here to read the full story.

Sustainable: RooCreate's Corey McGuigan, Lisa Diebold, Jessica Fosler, Suzanne Haddon, Renee Pyers and Alix Tennison. Pic: Greg Ellis.

 Sustainable: RooCreate’s Corey McGuigan, Lisa Diebold, Jessica Fosler, Suzanne Haddon, Renee Pyers and Alix Tennison. Pic: Greg Ellis.

Wollongong’s Suzanne Haddon is the winner of the Purpose Driven Entrepreneur Altitude Award at the 2018 Altitude Awards.

Mrs Haddon’s branding business RooCreate won the best business category in recognition of efforts to help the environment while doing business.

Women With Altitude and Mind My Marketing recognised the business for actively giving to community.

WINNER: Roocreate's Suzanne Haddon with Mind My Marketing's Belinda Tupou at the Altitude Awards 2018 in Sydney on Saturday hosted by ‘Women With Altitude’.

 WINNER: RooCreate’s Suzanne Haddon with Mind My Marketing‘s Belinda Tupou at the Altitude Awards 2018 in Sydney on Saturday hosted by ‘Women With Altitude’.

The judges noted how Mrs Haddon not only started RooCreate with the mission of eliminating waste in mind. But carried it through. “Through innovative sustainable packaging design, RooCreate removes unnecessary waste in product packaging without sacrificing design”.

They said RooCreate is reforming the branding industry. It offers a unique branding experience using biodegradable materials that produce a minimal carbon footprint.

Mrs Haddon said making a bold branding statement doesn’t have to be expensive or harmful to the environment. By maintaining simple green practices such as reducing the use of petroleum-based inks, using chlorine-free and recycled materials, and sourcing like-minded suppliers that offer environmentally friendly practices, businesses around the world can engage in eco-friendly commerce as a key part of creating branding materials.

“My team and I aim to revolutionise the branding industry by offering a unique branding experience using biodegradable materials that produces minimal carbon footprint and a cohesive and simple experience for consumers,” Mrs Haddon said.



What are bioplastics made of?

Plastics are all around us. Virtually every manufactured item either has plastic components or had plastics involved at some time during its construction.  Around 99.8% of the time, those plastics were made from fossil fuel sources. But that tiny remainder – 0.2% – represents plastic made from biological sources, including seaweed, plants and agricultural byproducts. These are the bioplastics, and their tiny share of global plastic production is growing every year.

At Roocreate, we’re excited about the capabilities of bioplastics.

The reason is that, to date, most of the bad press about plastics stems from the fact they are made with fossil fuels and don’t biodegrade easily. Bioplastics from renewable living sources however give all the convenience of conventional plastic without much of the pollution. And scientific advances are making them greener and more economically viable every year.

Seaweed bioplastics

While other feedstocks compete with crops for field space on Earth’s limited arable land and freshwater, seaweed comes from the vastness of the oceans. Requiring no irrigation and having the fastest growth rate of any plant (sometimes faster than the hour hand on a clock), seaweeds are an ideal candidate for bioplastics.

Specifically, these giant algaes suits use in polylactic acid bioplastics (PLA). It is a material that holds a great deal of promise to be the world’s leading kind of bioplastic.

While there are over 20,000 types of seaweed and kelp forests that rival the Amazon, the global annual harvest is very small. Further, this field is very new and only a few kinds are currently used for bioplastics.

These are not usually harvested from wild “sea forests”. Instead, they are cultivated intentionally, either close to shore or alongside fish farms and are naturally fertilised by fish waste (especially the nitrogen and phosphorus that is otherwise washed away). When the time is right the seaweed is harvested, brought ashore, dried, milled and treated to extract the lactic acid needed to create PLA.

Cassava starch bioplastics

This is what we use here at RooCreate! Cassava is a tropical food crop. Its various names, such as manioc and tapioca, all refer to the roots of vigorous, drought-tolerant shrubs in the euphorbia plant family. As harvested, cassava is at once poisonous and almost pure starch. After lengthy treatment for safe human consumption, it provides a lot of energy but otherwise lacks nutritional value. For these reasons, it is an ideal feedstock for starch-based bioplastics.

The factors that make cassava so promising for bioplastics (and biofuels) are interlocking:

  • It grows well in impoverished or dry soils that are marginal for other crops
  • Take out its water weight and cassava is 95% starch
  • It is poisonous and requires lengthy and costly preparation to make it safe for human consumption.

Yes, despite cassava being vital for food security for millions of people around the world, it is toxic (sometimes lethally). After harvest, the roots require thorough washing, peeling, preparation and cooking before they can be eaten. This can take days. For industrial uses, neutralising these natural poisons is not important – greatly increasing the economic case for cassava starch’s use in bioplastics.

The crop shows great promise given that thermoplastics derived from various sources of plant starch currently dominate bioplastics around the world – accounting for about half of global annual production.

Can plastics actually be green?

Bioplastics is a rapidly developing field. Scientists around the world are using advanced chemistry to make regular breakthroughs in developing new materials, reducing ecological impacts and making growing the feedstocks more profitable for producers.

At the same time, sources for these new bioplastics are being developed to fit in with existing sustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices, often through using waste or byproducts. Making plastics green is the goal.

As the field continues to enlarge its current 0.2% share of the world plastics industry, you will see bioplastics around you more and more.

Bioplastic facts

  • They are certainly better for the environment overall, but not all kinds of bioplastic biodegrade. Some rarer kinds are even more stable than traditional plastics.
  • Most bioplastics are derived from some kind of saccharide or “sugar”, such as cellulose, glucose or lactose.
  • While the field is developing rapidly, bioplastics are nothing new. Both cellophane and celluloid are bioplastics and have been around for more than 100 years.

In the media: Suzi Roo gets creative at the Wollongong Innovation Campus and the world benefits from her packaging app

** This article was originally published in the Illawarra Mercury on May  24 2018.  Story and photography by Greg Ellis.
Click here to read the full story.


You have heard of Suzi Q. Well what about Suzie Roo?

The University of Wollongong Innovation Campus was the setting for the launch of an innovative new Illawarra business called RooCreate on Wednesday night.

Rooland founder Suzanne Haddon has more than two decades of international experience branding and packaging for some of the largest and highest profile brands in the world.

She even ran the business from the Whitsundays for a while after moving to Australia from North America.

But she was lured to Wollongong by the surf and now the whole region is benefiting as he business grows and evolves and more jobs are created.

Mrs Haddon moved into iAccelerate two years ago specifically to develop a new arm to her business and Wednesday night was not only the realisation of a dream but a chance for friends, colleagues and employees to celebrate.

RooCreate streamlines the packaging of a business for enterprises around the globe.

Mrs Haddon wanted to develop a smart, simple, sustainable packaging process to make it easier, more affordable, professional, environmentally friendly look.

“I love packaging and I wanted to create an app or some kind of online platform where people can go an get really innovative package design,” she said.

In the media: From Starbucks and Nike to an innovative global sustainable Wollongong branding and packaging business for Suzanne Haddon

** This article was originally published in the Illawarra Mercury on May 22 2018. Story and photography by Greg Ellis.
Click here to read the full story.

Innovators: Rooland and RooCreate's Corey McGuigan, Lisa Diebold, Jessica Fosler, Suzanne Haddon, Renee Pyers and Alix Tennison next to surfboard art by Zac Bennett-Brook of Saltwater Dreamtime. Picture: Greg Ellis. Innovators: Rooland and RooCreate’s Corey McGuigan, Lisa Diebold, Jessica Fosler, Suzanne Haddon, Renee Pyers and Alix Tennison next to surfboard art by Zac Bennett-Brook of Saltwater Dreamtime. Picture: Greg Ellis.


A Wollongong businesswoman who has worked on branding for some of the biggest companies in the world before moving to Australia is launching a second arm of her business on Wednesday.

Suzanne Haddon runs a branding firm called Rooland that works for clients far and wide doing everything from graphics to illustration.

But she is also highly experienced in packaging for major brands around the globe and has come up with an innovative idea that can streamline the process for many other businesses.

RooCreate is focused on smart, simple, sustainable packaging that can be adopted easily and quickly to support a brand and image with an more affordable, professional, environmentally friendly look.

“We have always been sustainable and environmental. I love packaging and I wanted to create an App or some kind of online platform where people can go an get really innovative package design and packaging you can’t find anywhere else. One of the hard things about packaging is that it is really hard to source and find the right suppliers and get a great price and great design,” Mrs Haddon said.

The structure, look, feel and everything that goes into a package is what RooCreate works on. Mrs Haddon said packaging is becoming very innovative and can be made out of many different materials.

“Knowing what the correct material is for the client and making it work is what we do. I went to school in packaging/design in Los Angeles and I studied the structure, form and how to construct a package properly and add the graphics and everything,” she said.

“From there I wanted to create something for people who have a product and are very interested in environmental materials to be able to go online and buy direct without having to come to an office and meet with someone. I am just trying to streamline the process and make it simple and affordable.”

Creative business: The Rooland and ReCreate team outside the iAccelerate building on the University of Wollongong Innovation Campus. Picture: Greg Ellis.

 Creative business: The Rooland and RooCreate team outside the iAccelerate building on the University of Wollongong Innovation Campus. Picture: Greg Ellis.

From 25 years experience in branding and packaging one of the things Mrs Haddon has observed is one of the biggest expenses is the meeting time.

“I thought if we can cut out some of the parts that cost the most money and get a client the best design, the best package and the best material in one place it is a going to be a win-win situation. My passion is the best possible design work and creation of these packages for our clients anywhere in the world”.

Mrs Haddon said in the process she wanted to be 100 per cent sustainable. RooCreate doesn’t want to use anything that cannot be recycled.

“There are a lot of materials out there that are fantastic that we want to explore and push and expand on. We have now eight products online. It can go huge. We can design our own custom shapes. People can then choose a package they like and have it refined to the size they want.”

RooCreate is about streamlining the process to give businesses a big head start in their decision making.

There is an online brief they can fill out which quickly gives her team a good understanding of what is being sought. From that a more detailed brief is created and sent off to the designer. That is followed by an opportunity to be able to see the design in 3D as part of a streamlined digital creative process.

“We have developed the online platform,” Mrs Haddon  said.

“Now we are developing a workspace where you can go online and see the designs we have created or you can add your own designs and actually visually see it on you desk. RooCreate is an online platform. We developed it here at iAccelerate. The reason we moved into iAccelerate two years ago was to expand on this idea.”

During the last two years the Rooland team has grown from two to six. Originally Mrs Haddon and one other designer were working from her home in the northern suburbs after she relocated from the Whitsundays where she lived for four years and worked on her own for clients in America.  She moved to Wollongong because she loved surfing and the beach. And brought with her 25 years experience as a designer. That followed six years studying packaging, design and branding at prestigious schools in the United States.

After graduating Mrs Haddon quickly found herself working on the product packaging for some of the big brands in the cosmetic industry. She was then headhunted to work for companies such as Nordstrom, Nike and then Starbucks for six years.

“I loved working at Starbucks. I went from being the senior designer to being a design director. I was one of the lead designers on the whole team of over 40 designers. We developed the new store experience. I was the head of the team developing the in-store experience. Every package that went in store and all the graphics. We created the look and feel of every store going forward. After we accomplished that I started designing for the international stores. Starbucks in each country had a different look and feel appropriate to their culture”.