Christmas is almost upon us it feels and whilst it is known as the time for giving, in my opinion it is also a time of extreme wastefulness and an abundance of packaging! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas: the food, the tipsiness, the decorations; but this year the thought of Christmas has also got me feeling slightly anxious about how to try and manage it in a more eco-friendly way. So, here are my 5 tips for trying to keep the festive feeling without simultaneously undoing all the environmental good work of the rest of the year.
No. 1: Ditch the glittery / foil effect wrapping paper
Of course you could ditch wrapping paper altogether and purchase some festive cotton to make reusable wrapping paper, but this may not be practical if you are giving presents to people you either don’t see regularly enough to get it back from, or who you suspect may not reuse it themselves. By all means re-use wrapping paper received in previous years and likewise, hold on to any wrapping paper this year that can be used again. If it’s not been ripped then really it doesn’t need to be binned, it can just be reused. Some wrapping paper is recyclable – generally speaking if you can scrunch it up and it stays scrunched then that means it can be recycled. However, wrapping paper covered in glitter, foil, laminates, dyes, ribbons or mounds of cellotape CANNOT be recycled; so just don’t buy it and make sure any tape etc is removed from the paper before you put it into the recycling box. Some councils still won’t accept wrapping paper anyway, so you may need to take it to your local recycling point instead. Likewise, no glittery cards as they can’t be recycled and try to make the switch to a paper tape instead of a plastic based tape.
No. 2: Try to buy ethically and locally where possible
Yes, buying mass produced tat is probably cheaper, but it also won’t last as long, probably won’t have been produced in a sustainable way and won’t give that massive corporation the same fist pump moment that a local businessperson gets when they make a sale. (Speaking of which, we’ll have a few great gift ideas for sale on our stalls in the next few weeks!) Be more selective with what you buy and BUY LESS. Christmas doesn’t need to be this crazy extravaganza of unwanted gift giving. Which leads me onto my next pointer…
No. 3: Buy experiences not gifts
There is nothing worse than an unwanted gift and to be honest sometimes I think that we have been goaded into buying more and more for people: items that they simply don’t need or want. I certainly struggle to think of things that I really need when asked, as I tend to buy bits and pieces as and when I need them. I have found in recent years that I have enjoyed experiences as presents much more than tangible items: a soap making course, a dinner out or a day out at the farm with the kids. It doesn’t’ need to be pricey, as a parent I would even appreciate the offer of babysitting as a gift! Save on wrapping and cut down on unwanted gifts, it’s a win, win.
No. 4: Think about your Christmas tree carefully
If you already have a fake tree then fine, the best thing to do now is keep it in good nick for as long as possible since the environmental damage has already been done. They’re generally made out of plastic and metal, are non-recyclable and may well have been made in China (added carbon footprint of transport), so to offset this you will need to use it for as long as possible (10-20 years) rather than getting a new one every few years. Real Christmas trees are generally treated as a farmed crop, so buying a cut one isn’t as bad as cutting down an endangered species, but if you want to have a close-looped system, then buy your Christmas tree as local as possible, mulch it after it’s past its best and use it as a fertilizer in your garden. You can buy trees with their root balls still attached, but they take a certain amount of work to keep them alive: acclimating to the indoors, keeping hydrated in our heated houses, having a hole ready dug for planting before the ground is frozen and being suitable for the local soil/climate to name but a few. If anyone has had success with sustaining a Christmas tree like this, I’d love to hear about it!
No. 5: Make some natural decorations
I’m not sure why it is that people take a beautiful natural item like a Christmas tree and throw a load of plastic crap all over it! I have never been a fan of tinsel anyway but now, with my more environmentally friendly mindset, I am even more boggled by how people can be continuing to buy such an ugly, polluting item (plasticky, glittery foil = defo not recyclable). If you are buying decorations then try to think consciously: wooden or fabric perhaps. But why not have a go at making some of your own? Some little decorated pine cones, sprigs of holly tied with twine, natural stars made out of sticks, little bundles of cinnamon and star anise or some oranges studded with cloves, all make lovely tree or house decorations and are not tricky even for the most artistically challenged of us.