How To Have a Sustainable Christmas
Every year I cringe a bit at the amount of 'stuff' that we buy at Christmas. - Gifts, Christmas Jumpers, Food, Alcohol, anything glittery and sparkly. Everything to excess.....
Whilst I don't want to sound like Scrooge. I do think we can all be a bit more mindful at this time of year, buy a bit less, think differently, reduce your waste, with the added bonus of being a bit more creative! Aka Kirstie Allsopp!.
Lets start with gifts, I imagine most of your have done your Christmas Shopping by now. But I still think its worth a mention for those last minute presents and maybe for the next birthday.
We are as a family trying to reduce the amount of stuff the Children get given and that we buy for them ourselves this year. Partly so that they appreciate their gifts a bit more and because they just don't need it.
Admittedly we don't often buy clothes from Charity Shops unless its for things like Christmas Jumpers or Fancy Dress where I know it'll get worn once and then we can donate it back again. But we do often buy books and games from charity shops, and you can pick up some real bargains - for example I bought a slow cooker from a charity shop years ago and its still going strong and I use it all the time. Its definitely a good way to try and keep things in circulation rather than disposing or recycling.
Long Lasting Gifts
I just have to mention Lego. I know Lego does get a bit of bad press, but it is a winner with children and whilst I know its made from plastic. It also lasts FOREVER, and if you look after it you can pass it on, sell it, give it to charity or a friends children and it will still give them plenty of joy. Again its much better to buy to last, instead of throwing things away.
Many places are up and running again, and with the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine starting, more and more places will soon be able to follow suit. In the mean time there's still lots of socially distanced days out that you can do.
My children were given the gift of an 'adopted monkey' for their birthdays this year, from a family member, which gives them a years membership, and they've loved going to Monkey World to see their monkeys. They get regular updates and newsletters about how they're getting on. Its great to do things like this. Its a good excuse to get out for the day in the fresh
air. It might also help to delay getting a family pet if you're being nagged for this too!
Did you know that the amount of wrapping paper we use at Christmas on average could wrap around our planet 9 times!! - That's a lot of paper! - Paper you say - well surely that's recyclable. Its only recyclable if it passes the 'Scrunch Test' (i.e scrunch up the discarded wrapping paper if it stays scrunched then it can be recycled but if it springs back or unfurls then it is destined for landfill) Basic wrapping paper can be recycled BUT foil or glitter decorated paper has to go in the general waste, and once you add plastic sellotape and plastic ties, bows etc you've had it.
I've been experimenting this year with some more 'eco' wrapping ideas such as these:
Brown Paper - not the type with added glitter decorations, just the bog standard stuff, cheap and cheerful.
Garden Jute Twine - can be used to wrap around gifts to decorate or EVEN to replace sellotape if you've really nailed the art of folding/wrapping (I haven't yet!)
Sellotape - Whilst I'd love to think all my friends and family will remove any bits of tape before popping the paper in the recycling bin. - its highly unlikely. I've therefore been researching alternatives, and have come across paper tape. I've just gone for bog standard brown paper tape but you can also buy something called 'Washi Tape'. Originating in Japan, Unlike Western paper which is made from tree pulp, washi comes from Japanese Shrubs. Typically made from ganpi, mistumata or sometimes hemp it can be fashioned from almost any plant. Washi tape is made out of highly renewable resources and is biodegradable it comes in different designs and you can also write over the top of it if you wish, I haven't found it in the shops only online so you do need to be a bit organised and order a few rolls in advance of your evening(s) wrapping presents.
Gift Tags - last year I started buying just normal brown paper luggage labels, sounds boring but we've had great fun decorating them, we bought some wooden Christmas stamps, so we can decorate them, better than glitter and not as messy! I also recently heard of a great idea to re-use Christmas cards for the following year. Instead of throwing the entire card away cut out shapes from the front cover to keep and use as pretty tags.
Embellishments - In addition I'm having a go at drying orange slices in the oven this year, and combining this with cinnamon sticks- apparently its pretty easy (cue visions of burnt oranges stuck to the inside of my oven! - I'll let you know!!), or try pieces of Eucalyptus and Spruce and pine cones to decorate your pressies. There's loads of ideas on Pinterest.
Christmas Trees & Decorations
Here's a debate for you - Real vs Fake... I'll just let you argue the case for a bit with whoever is nearby!
I have personally always preferred a real Tree. The smell of Pine, the fun of going to choose it with the children, and It can be recycled afterwards. But I have often wondered if cutting down trees every year is actually harmful to the environment.
A recent article in the Guardian, outlines why real really is better than fake.
A 6.5ft artificial Tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions. which is more than twice that of a real tree which is burnt. Most local authorities now offer a collection service for real trees which they shred and use on gardens and parks -the greenest way to dispose of your real tree.
you can read the full article here
If you do already have an Artificial Tree, try and use it for as long as possible and then give it away rather than disposing of it. Or if you are looking to buy one try and buy it second hand.
I love Scandi style decorations - anything white or wood, and lots of greenery in the house. Mistletoe, Eucalyptus, Spruce, Holly and Ivy. You can create some lovely effects with some spruce decorating a mantlepiece with a few candles and fairy lights intertwined.
Try to stay away from floral Oasis though. I always used to create a table centre piece using Oasis. However in a recent article by 'Good Housekeeping' I discovered that Oasis contains the same amount of plastic as 10 shopping bags!!! its also non-biodegrable, non-recyclable, and toxic to humans and animals. - pretty bad then!! Read the full article here
So I've been looking at alternatives .....
Use pebbles and pine cones in a container to support greenery and flowers.
Lay Eucalyptus and Spruce down a table and intertwine with candles - I did this last year and it looked really effective.
Use containers to hold candles or floating candles. Fill the container with water and add cranberries, berries or greenery.
Just a word on candles. Try and use candles made from Coconut, Rapeseed, Beeswax, Stearin (vegetable wax) or Soy from a sustainable source instead of Paraffin which is bad for the environment and your health. Check out this handy guide for choosing your candles.
Food is high on everyone's agenda over Christmas, and something that we tend to over indulge in, and also waste lots of!
Thankfully veggies such as Potatoes, Carrots, Sprouts and Parsnips are all in season at this time of year, and can be bought locally. So do try and support your local shops and farmers markets. That goes for gifts too.
The Soil Association has a great guide on their website of what to do with leftovers from Christmas with some handy recipes to reduce the amount you throw away. check it out here.
Of course any food that you don't use or turn into something else just make sure it goes on your compost heap or in your food waste and not in the general waste.
So get creative, appreciate time with loved ones. be thankful for the little things, and all in all have a fantastic Christmas.
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