A Very Sustainable Christmas
Ah Christmas, a time for plastic wrapped gifts, eating turkey sandwiches until it hurts, and spending so much money come January, you can’t afford to leave the house.
Luckily that’s not what Christmas is all about!
I’m Alice, and I’d like to share with you some tips for a very festive, very budget friendly, and very eco friendly Christmas.
I’m going to break this down into sections so it’s easy to follow, and please be warned, you are about to read the words ‘Christmas’ and ‘Festive’ around a million times.
One thing that always gets me about Christmas is the rush to wrap presents into the late hours of Christmas Eve with rolls and rolls of shiny wrapping paper, only for the presents to be ripped open not 12 hours later on Christmas morning. That shiny paper had a terribly short life cycle and what’s even worse is that it likely won’t be reused, and can’t even be recycled.
So here’s a few suggestions of how you can wrap presents without having to spend a penny on wrapping paper:
I’d like to think I’m not the only person that has a drawer full of folded up wrapping paper, gift bags and boxes, and all of the trimmings, in a cupboard from last year’s Christmas ready to used for this one. It’s a hard life being the only one folding up discarded wrapping paper on Christmas day but it’s worth it for next year when I don’t have to spend a penny on buying it new. Bonus points for saving ribbons, bells, bags and gift tags!
If you’re new to the reuse wrapping game then don’t worry! There’s still time to start a collection before the big day. First off, ‘Who Gives A Crap’ toilet paper comes wrapped beautifully decorated paper ready to be used for wrapping presents so you can now make it a festive tradition to treat yourself to some fancy bamboo toilet paper in the lead up to Christmas.
If you’ve been getting more deliveries recently, which can come in a variety of size cardboard boxes with packing peanuts shredded paper and tissue paper, save all of them! They are perfect for wrapping presents. I also like to keep hold of ribbons and trinkets from packaging. Even cutting the ribbons out of the tops of the inside of clothes can make cute bows for decorating presents. I also can’t deny that wallpaper makes a great wrapping paper for heavier and bulky presents, it’s pretty sturdy so you can even make gift bags out of it! Newspapers, magazines, and even those annoying pamphlets full of Christmas products that you never asked for but always seem to get through the door can make great wrapping paper too! Granted you might not want depressing headlines all over your favourite cousins Christmas present so keep an eye out for cheerier newspapers and magazines which you often get for free in supermarkets and shopping centres.
And finally, you can even make reusing a tradition, my mom and one of her close friends, who both happen to have Birthdays in December, have been gifting to each other using the same gift bag for coming up to a decade. It goes to one friend for her birthday, back to the other for the next one and then back again for Christmas!
I have to admit I’ve stopped sending Christmas cards at this point. I just can’t justify the paper usage and the carbon emissions for postage. But if like me you don’t have the heart to stop sending Christmas cards to elderly relatives and that one person who just loves an elaborate Christmas card to sit on their fireplace, consider buying these from local makers, at charity shops, or even make your own! We love the selection of locally made cards at Kist.
And if you can’t quite get let go of their Christmas cards sending tradition how about you elf yourself? Why handwrite dozens of cards when you can snap a picture of your merriest self and watch it come to life as a dancing elf? Or better yet a quick catch up on zoom or FaceTime in the lead up to Christmas could mean 1 million times more than a card or digital dance. Perhaps a festive FaceTime is the 2021 edition of sending a Christmas card.
If you do happen to receive a lot of Christmas cards, make it a New Years day tradition to take a pair of scissors to all of your favourite festive scenes. They make great tags for next year’s presents. Or just save them to put up again next year!
Choose eco-friendly and independent businesses. Sure Amazon is convenient, but Jeff Bezos won’t do a happy dance every time you buy something. There are countless incredible local and eco businesses who, thanks to the pandemic, are relying on the next few months to keep their businesses open. Chances are you will also find a much more personal, and get even sometimes personalised gift, from the shop round the corner, or the person who crafts from their spare room.
De-stigmatise Secondhand. Charity shops are one of the best places to hunt for unique gifts that are affordable and sometimes still brand new. Antique Centres, rummage sales and secondhand selling apps are also great places to hunt for gifts. And you can often find secondhand but still brand new items in their original packaging for a fraction of the price of like for like items in the shops. Why not drop by the Gate Church Carbon Saving Project community wardrobe and see what you can find.
What is the ultimate way to ensure your gifts are unique? Make them yourself! Food based gifts are cheap and relatively easy to make but are some of the best received. I can’t think of a gift more thoughtful than a hamper of homemade goodies. And if you’re feeling brave, a handmade or up-cycled project is a labour of love that will most like be cherished forever. We have a Christmas cake recipe bag which makes a great Christmas gift.
If shopping and crafting aren’t really your thing, or you just don’t have much time to spare this year. Secret Santa is a great way to save money and avoid buying unnecessary gifts, especially if you get your whole family involved. You can set a budget that works for everyone and ask for exactly what you’d like! No more running around on Christmas Eve for that one hard to buy for person, and no being inundated with socks or bubble bath from everyone you know.
On the off chance you do get inundated with gifts you just can’t see yourself using… here’s a couple of suggestions:
- Regift! There’s absolutely no shame in gifting a present forward to someone who you know will love and appreciate it!
- Donate it! There are plenty of organisations that make sure to gifts in the hands of those who may ordinarily go without.
- Donate it! (but not straight away). Charity shops benefit most from new items or items with plenty of life still left in them. So unwanted gifts are ideal… however they tend to get inundated with these kinds of donations in January so if you can hold of a couple of months when donations are a bit lower it will be even more appreciated.
- Give a gift of kindness. Sure you may not need another pair of fluffy socks but someone experiencing homelessness, or a neighbour who is struggling with their heating bills might really appreciate them.
THE COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS
Who doesn’t love an advent calendar? A whole 24 days of waking up to the first task of the day being eating chocolate!
If you tend to go for the prepackaged kind, most of them can be recycled if you separate the plastic, paper and foil. You can even use them again by melting chocolate and refilling the moulds. They also make great moulds for baking, Play-doh and clay so are definitely worth keeping hold off for future craft projects.
If you want to switch to something with even more reuse potential, you could invest in a wooden advent calendar which you can fill up yourself. Or better yet, make your own! You can put numbered stockings hanging on the wall, sew some pockets into a piece of fabric to hang on the wall, or make it as simple as numbered paper bags. What’s great about these options is that you can personalise them, make them for the whole family, switch to vegan chocolates, or forego the chocolate altogether in favour, well whatever is your favourite.
If you’re going out to celebrate with family or colleagues, choose a local restaurant or bar over a chain (and I’m totally bias, but better yet choose a vegan restaurant!) At The Little Green Larder we are huge fans of Rad Apples and Loco Ritas.
Host your own Christmas potluck where everyone can bring food in reusable containers and takeaway leftovers so nothing goes to waste.
Make your own mulled wine and drink locally made beers and wines. You can even make your own cocktail syrups and flavour shop bought gins with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pine.
“Deck the halls with foraged holly fa-la-la-la-la-la”… those are the lyrics right?
Natural materials are a great way to decorate for Christmas, whether it’s making your own wreaths from holly and pine, hanging cinnamon sticks and pine cones, slicing and dehydrating oranges, or filling them with cloves, natural decor is guaranteed to look and smell beautiful. You can incorporate foraging into a winter walk or carolling session and pick up pine cones and holly along the way.
If you’re looking to add a little more colour, secondhand decor is the way to go. Check charity shops, reuse centres and Facebook Marketplace for everything from trees to trimmings. You might end up with decor so bright you can forego the Christmas lights!
If you’re don’t have a lot of space to store decorate you can create a Christmas card tree on a wall, and use paper and foil garlands and lanterns which fold up to a fraction of the size and make paper chains and snowflakes. These make a big impact but can fold down to fit into just a shoebox so you can keep reusing rather than having to buy and let go of new decorations every year.
Alongside paper chains and snowflakes, there’s plenty of ways to DIY decorations from materials at home. You can cover old baubles and festive cardboard shapes in strips of fabric, puts fairy lights and candles in old glass bottles and jars and that’s just a couple of ideas of making decorations without buying any craft materials.
THE BIG DAY
Go vegan! With turkey shortages predicted for this year, maybe now is the time to question whether you really need a bird on the table at all. Or any animals for that matter. You can buy, or even make a plant based alternative to every traditional Christmas dish and it’s getting easier and easier than ever. Never before has there been so many plant based bacon options to keep your tempeh pigs cosy for Christmas dinner.
Make your own. It’s cheaper and uses much less plastic to bake and cook everything from gingerbread houses to roasties for the big day, and most things can be made ahead of time so you don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen. Here at the larder we have pre made Christmas cake kits, and now is the perfect time to pick up all of the packaging free ingredients you need to make your gingerbread cookies, mince pies and stuffing.
Ignore the best before. Chances are you will have a lot of food to eat over the Christmas period and there’s a chance some of it won’t make it to the table before it reaches its best before. Chances are if it’s a couple of days past best it’s still totally fine. There’s plenty of recipes online for using up leftovers, lots of things can be frozen, and if you just can’t get through it, you can share with neighbours, donate or pop on a food sharing app anything you know you want be able to eat.
On the flip-side if you don’t quite have enough food to see you through the festive period, the good news is there is plenty of food surplus to be rescued this time of year, you can check community kitchens and fridges, food sharing apps, and even supermarkets which often give veg away for free after Christmas Day. There’s also likely to be a huge amount of reduced food in Supermarkets (festive and non festive) as they overstock the shelves, which can sometimes cost pennies if you go at the right time of day.
It’s way more sustainable to cook one big Christmas dinner than to have everyone cooking and celebrating in their own homes. A great excuse to invite everyone around and save on heating and lighting bills for some, whilst getting a few extra hands to help in the kitchen. Know someone who might be celebrating alone? Invite them over. And ask guests to walk or carpool. It’s not only great for the environment, but for building community and preventing loneliness too.
One of possibly the best tips for a sustainable and pocket friendly Christmas is to forego the 25th of December. The benefits of this are endless! Pushing Christmas back by a few days, or even a month, can make a huge difference. Think about it; you can get all of your food and presents much cheaper as the demand has gone down. You can even get food from food sharing apps and organisations from those who bought too much. You get to avoid panic purchases and overbuying because you have more time to prepare, or DIY instead of buy. You will probably find it easier to take time away from work and get quality time with family. You can even borrow decorations from a friend or family member who has packed them away for the year so you don’t have to buy your own. You get to keep your cards and decorations out for longer and you have given yourself a little festive pick me up to avoid the January blues.
And finally, however (and whenever,) you decide to celebrate Christmas, we hope you have a very merry one! Remember to be kind to yourself, people, and the planet.
The Little Green Larder
The Little Green Larder