If you haven’t yet watched the new David Attenborough documentary (A Life on Our Planet) then you really should find 90 minutes to sit down and take in what he has to say, or his witness statement, as he calls it. At 93 he has had an amazing life and this film is a powerful statement of what the human race is doing to our planet and what we need to do to save it (there is a hopeful message in it I promise!!)
I had already been contemplating Christmas being different this year, not least with the impact of Covid, but this programme made me stop and reflect on the impact of our celebration of Christmas on the environment and actually the ethos behind it.
Christmas is a season that is, in theory, defined by generosity and kindness, however it seems that it really is also now associated with being a time of abundance and materialistic consumerism from presents that are gifted, to how you decorate your home to what you serve up for your Christmas meal.
Unfortunately this also means that, whilst this may be very enjoyable for some, it can also be incredibly stressful for others and the end result for EVERYONE is creation of huge amounts of waste, whether that is wrapping paper (quite often not recyclable due to the glitter content or being foil based), plastic packaging, Christmas trees, leftover food or unwanted presents that are simply thrown away.
Did you know that each year at Christmas…
- 108 million rolls of wrapping paper are thrown away (enough to wrap the island of Guernsey) along with 54 million platefuls of food and 6 million Christmas trees
- almost 100 million black bags are filled with 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from toys and gifts
- over 21 million people in the UK receive at least one unwanted gift and 5% of those then throw them in the bin
It’s scary stuff when you think about these facts and figures and although I had already decided to continue #secondhandseptember (only buying preloved clothes for myself and the cubs for the rest of this year) I also decided to challenge myself to see how I can change the family perspective on Christmas, how we celebrate it and the gifts and traditions we adopt to try and minimise some of the negative impact of the festive period.
So in this blog I thought I would share some of my ideas so far and resources that might help. I just have to convince the rest of the Twinkling Tiger family to get on board now (the absence of an Argos catalogue seems to be helping!!) and convince Sparklebell (our pensioner aged Elf on the Shelf who loves a plastic Shopkin!!) to follow suit!
If you want to be really eco-friendly when buying your gifts this year then ideally try to buy gifts that are non-plastic, sourced locally and sustainably and are from a small business.
Here are some ideas to help:
Experiences - There are a huge number of experiences to choose from and I love doing this for gifts. Creating memories with loved ones is far more special in my opinion than material possessions although clearly this year you will want to make sure there is some flexibility around dates and Covid disclaimers!! From vineyard tours (try Flint Vineyard) (maybe not one for kids!!) to afternoon tea, from zookeeper experiences to race car driving, from theatre tickets to zorbing – there is normally something you can find to suit most people and most budgets if you put your mind - to it.
Try browsing some of the bigger experience day websites like Buy a Gift or Virgin for ideas and then see if you can find someone locally who you can buy direct from … they will definitely appreciate it.
Vouchers or subscriptions - Some people prefer to give a physical gift I know but magazines (try this site for some ideas), days out, country parks or museum memberships (try Norfolk Museums) or subscriptions will keep on giving all year which might appeal to some. Check out attractions near where your recipient lives for ideas or go for a national option like National Trust or English Heritage for annual passes. Think about hobbies and interests for magazine subscriptions or vouchers (check out this site for some more ideas) …. crafting, travel, music, current affairs, fashion, there will be a publication or shopping voucher that will work for nearly any interest.
Charitable gift – If you want to be truly selfless then think about gifting charitably … you could give a donation, plant a tree for someone or sponsor an animal (checkout Concern for a great choice of gifts like providing a goat or a school starter kit for someone in one of the worlds poorest countries)
Make your own – If you have a talent try making your own gifts for people. Make food gifts like chocolates, jams or home brew and even turn them into a home made hamper or if you can sew, knit or craft then be creative and make personalised gifts for people. I do love browsing Pinterest for inspiration when it comes to making things!
If you are still stuck and worried about buying something that might go to waste then the best idea may just be to ask your friend or family member for ideas so you know you are going to gift them something they really want that will be appreciated and put to good use.
A huge amount of Christmas wrapping paper is not able to be recycled either because it is foil based, has glitter in the decoration, is actually not paper or has been laminated. One way to test if your wrapping paper is recyclable is to do the ‘scrunch’ test …. try to scrunch the wrapping paper into a ball, if it remains scrunched then it is probably able to be recycled. Personally I love the look of Planet Wrap It who can provide recycled (and recyclable) paper, paper tape, twine and accessories.
There are however lots of alternatives to the traditional paper method of wrapping your presents … try some of the following:
Furoshiki and fabric wrapping – Furoshiki is a Japanese method of wrapping gifts using fabric that can obviously be used again and again! Have a look here for a tutorial on how to wrap using fabric. You could even use tea towels to achieve the same result ... maybe not your old and worn out tea towels but there are some really pretty ones out there with Christmassy designs or even plain coloured ones you could finish off with some Christmas ribbon, paper tape or just knot them in the Furoshiki style!
Reusable gift bags – Instead of wrapping put gifts in re-usable fabric gift bags that can be used for years to come and add a special touch to your presents. Either have a go at making your own (there are some really simple ways of doing this and I love this version which uses old clothes for the material!) or, if you are just time poor (or not at all crafty, then buy the ready made. I love the look of the ones from Suffolk company Little Home Eco.
Paper recycling – Try recycling your recycling! Kids drawings, newspaper, parcel paper …. make some truly personalised wrapping and let the children help you get creative!
There are ideas out there on eco friendly wrapping and far more than I can share! Check out https://ecothriftyliving.com/ for lots of wrapping information and even a course on how to become an expert in sustainable wrapping!
And if you really can’t bring yourself to let go of the good old Christmas paper then think about how you could recycle it …. Keep any reusable paper for next year, shred it to use as protective packaging for your parcels, or use sections as polishing cloths for streak free windows.
Christmas trees - I always thought that an artificial tree was a good option for the environment as opposed to a real one (plus it is less messy!) but it turns out that you need to use it for 20 years for it to actually be greener than a real one! We are at about 18 years this year but think it will be our last with various branches being held up by bits of string so I know feel a bit disappointed that it has not been as worthwhile as I hoped!!
There is a problem though that real trees may be more environmentally friendly but only if they are disposed of in the right way. The current stat is that 7 million real trees are dumped every year rather than recycled.
If you are in for the real fir tree this year maybe investigate renting a tree. There are companies like Love a Christmas Tree who will deliver a tree for you to have up over the festive period and then come and collect it and re-plant it when Christmas is over. If you do want to buy your own tree make sure you shop as locally as possible and visit Recycle Now to find your local recycling centre so you can dispose of it responsibly when you are done.
Lights – If you are using Christmas lights (and nearly everyone does!) then LED lights are better than the traditional twinkling incandescent lights and, of course, harness the suns energy (the little of it we have at the moment!!) and use solar powered lights for outdoors. LED’s use up to 80% less energy and solar powered obviously doesn’t use your energy supply at all. You can also put all your Christmas lights on timers to make sure you only have them on when you really want them and keep your energy usage and bills down.
Decorations – Most decorations can be stored away for the rest of the year and recycled each Christmas which is obviously good for the environment however if you are looking to add to your decorations or are starting afresh then here are a few pointers:
- Invest in a re-usable advent calendar. There are lots to choose from or even have a go at making your own (try Etsy for some ideas and inspiration). They can be fabric, cardboard or wood and can hang, stand or string! You can then fill them with your choice of treats … from the traditional chocolates and sweets to small gifts, jokes or even treasure hunt clues. Our wooden rotating Christmas tree calendar is filled by Sparklebell the elf each year and is about to have its’ 10th outing (let’s hope she is not in Covid quarantine this year or else it might stay empty!!)
- Crackers really are a Christmas tradition for a lot of families but also create a lot of waste … I am not sure I can think of much, if anything, that comes out of a cracker that does not end up in the bin whether that is the contents or the construction materials and are often mostly non-recyclable. There are lots more crackers becoming available that are made from recyclable materials and also now more and more that are designed to be re-used and you can fill them with your own mini gifts and treats. Have a look here at what you can buy or some ideas on making your own.
And of course, I couldn’t finish this blog without mentioning my favourite part of Christmas … Christmas Jumpers!! Always check for preloved jumpers for you and the family … they tend not to have had the wear that other clothes do because they are so seasonal (although I do wear mine constantly through December I have to say!) so make great secondhand purchases. Obviously check out the Twinkling Tiger Christmas shop for little people and your normal auction sites, preloved clothes shops (like my fave Take Two who also sell online) or online retailers (check out Thrift Plus who donate 1/3 made from every purchase to charity) for the rest of the family.
I hope you have found this blog informative and of some help with your Christmas planning and preparation this year. A bit early maybe but I would like to take this opportunity to say Happy Christmas and thank you so much for all your support in the first 6 months of Twinkling Tiger coming to life. I hope you enjoy the (hopefully less wasteful!) festive time and fingers crossed we will all be able to enjoy spending time with our nearest and dearest to celebrate in December!