Written by Rachael Kelly
Illustrated by Laura Buckell
Christmas is well and truly underway – the lights are up, the mince pies are out and the streets are jam packed with shoppers. It’s the season for eating, drinking and giving, but there is a downside to this season of indulgence and commercialism.
Environmentalists argue that Christmas is nothing short of a festive fiasco, being the world’s greatest annual environmental disaster! This season of giving sees the UK alone using 125,000 tonnes of plastic to wrap their presents and if that isn’t enough, we send enough Christmas cards to cover the world’s circumference 500 times over.
I’m a self-confessed Christmasoholic and could never give up my traditions. However, there are some easy tips we can follow which enable us to give to our nearest and dearest in an eco-friendly manner.
1. “Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favourite things” – Julie Andrews had it right. Nothing beats a beautiful brown paper parcel. Recycled brown paper can be found in many high street shops (WHSmith, Staples, Paperchase) and is so easy to personalise. Grab yourself some reusable stamps, string and eco-glitter and go to town!
2. Use what you have – most households have thousands of pages of paper right under their noses. Tear up that old book you didn’t get on with, get rid of those trashy magazines and hold on to the weekly paper. All of these pages can be used as funky and thrifty wrapping paper.
3. Swap paper for threads. From old tablecloths, tea towels to tops, we all have plenty of rags lying around doing nothing. Wrapping doesn’t need to be paper and can look just as effective.
4. Start a tradition – the Christmas Eve box has been adopted as a nationwide tradition. Why not use a Christmas Day box or Santa’s sack? Reusable containers save on hundreds of pounds worth of wrapping paper and can easily be incorporated into your household’s festive traditions.
5. Nothing says Christmas like an old sock full of presents. Re-purpose those thigh-highs as stockings for all your friends and family. Why not grab a needle and thread and personalise them too?
1. Have you a pesky work secret Santa to buy for? Why not suggest only bringing second-hand or homemade gifts? Not only is it cost effective but the gifts tend to be more thoughtful and occasionally more bizarre, depending on the stock of your local charity shop!
2. Just like puppies, presents aren’t just for Christmas. Give an eco-gift that could last a lifetime and changes an eco-unfriendly habit, for example:
- Reusable make-up pads
- Shampoo / conditioner bars
- Shaving set subscription
- Bamboo toothbrush subscription
- Beeswax wrap
- Water bottle / flask
Great sites to shop from include: Ecovibe, Andkeep, Protecttheplanet and Treedom.
3. Treat yourself – forget material gifts and make some memories. Buy that special someone an experience or plan a day out. There’s less to wrap and it’s likely they’ll take you with them!
4. Nothing says Christmas more than something homemade. DIY gifts are more personal and memorable, requiring more time, effort and thought than something from the high street. Why not bake some Christmas treats or scrapbook a photo album of your favourite memories? Be creative and get personal.
5. What to give the person who has everything? Give a present for the planet! Make a donation in your friend’s name to an environmental charity. They’ll wear the smug glow of a do-gooder all season! Better still, your money will be put to good use rather than adding to £42bn spent on Christmas tat each year.
That’s a wrap! The above is just a handful of ways in which we can be more environmentally conscious this Christmas. We can also cook, decorate, travel and party more responsibly. There’s no need to put a dampener on your celebrations – just put the time in, do your research and think of the planet.
Rachael is a Classics Graduate from Bristol University who is now working as a Junior Project Manager at Immediate Media. In her spare time she writes freelance, largely on lifestyle, wellbeing and children’s literature.