“You’ll never do elf on the shelf,” a friend said, with some confidence. “In fact, I bet you hate Christmas altogether.”
I frowned, which probably didn’t help my cause. Had I transformed into an elderly man with a “pointed nose” and “thin blue lips” and suddenly started demanding to be known as Ebenezer the day December dawned? Just as I was wondering whether those odd dreams I’d been having lately were in fact ghostly visits, she added: “All the waste and consumerism must drive you mad.”
Ah ha. This theory – that because I *try* and live a more sustainable lifestyle I must be some sort of killjoy/grinch/grumpy old man – is familiar.
“Actually, I love Christmas,” I said. “I think it’s often when you get to see humanity at its best.”
Good things happen every day, of course. Random acts of kindness which might not change the world but could change someone’s life, even for an hour. It’s just we rarely hear about them at other times of the year while at Christmas it’s like we go looking for these stories. It’s a nice, much-needed, reminder that not all in the world is bad.
However, she was sort of right about elf on the shelf (although I’d never say never) and the fact that while it is the “most wonderful time of the year”, it is also the most wasteful. It doesn’t have to be though. I’ve found with a bit of thought (and even some fun) I’ve been able to cut back on the amount of waste we create (although I have big plans to do more).
Here are my five easy green tips for Christmas.
1. Reuse – the word on the street is that real trees with roots (ideally locally grown) are the best for the environment but I’ve had the same plastic tree for 13 years and it’s still going strong. Why not head up into the loft (or wherever you stash the Christmas decorations) and do a quick check of what you already have so you don’t buy new when you don’t need to? As you can see from the picture, we’ve also had some fun making our own too.
2. Cut out the cards – I think this is the fifth year that we haven’t sent paper cards but have instead donated the money (including what we would have spent on postage) to charity (we’ve given to Tommy’s this year). I had no idea this would be considered controversial by some. I don’t get, especially given the popularity of Facebook and telephones, why you need to send something to someone just so they can put it in the (recycling) bin. However, if you do want to send cards, there are good ways to go about it. Why not make your own using recycled paper (or get you children to do it as a “fun” activity, if you have them) or buy FSC certified ones at the very least.
3. Wrapping – one year, pre-Freya when I had all the time in the world, I made everyone a reusable bag and put their presents inside (thank goodness we have a small family). Another year I hand decorated brown paper (which my husband’s gran liked so much she kept and reused). Last year, with everything going on, it all went a bit wrong and I had to use wrapping paper. This year I’m using the last of it (which has been kept on top of the wardrobe for 12 months) but I’m already planning for next year. There are some fab ideas for alternative gift wrap here.
4. Food waste – you want people to be full but calculating how much to buy can be a headache. Ideally pick food with minimal packaging that is in season. Before the big day make sure you have room in the freezer for leftovers. Maybe ask for a compost bin for Christmas, if you don’t have one 🙂
5. Plan and save – in January I write a list in my calendar of all the people I need to buy birthday and Christmas presents for and during the year when I see something I think they either need or would like (even pre-loved) I buy it and then cross it out. This way they are getting gifts I have thought about rather than something I have panic bought at the last-minute which they might either never use or just give away. I also start saving any £2 coins I get to help pay for them.
So there you have it. Have you got any tips to cut back on waste this Christmas? If you’re looking for green gifts my friend Kate, author of The No Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting, has some top ideas on her blog.