Christmas means different things to different people. For me, it’s all about creating memories, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying great food and memorable experiences together. But one thing that bothers me is that Christmas has become so commercialised. It’s not about lavish gifts, luxury and excess for me, and over the past few years, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the festivities. So this year, I’m taking it back to basics and remembering what Christmas is really all about. I’m planning to spend less but spend better, and make Christmas more about the things that are important to me, while being more environmentally friendly at the same time.
Five simple switches for an environmentally friendly Christmas
A present with a handmade touch is so much more thoughtful, personalised, and special than an off-the-shelf option. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to hand-made gifts. You can get creative baking tasty biscuits, making scented soaps and fragrant candles, experimenting with resin and clay creations, designing photo books and artwork, or knitting cosy scarves and hats. Whatever you set your mind to, you can guarantee that the lucky recipient will be over the moon because they’ll know their gift is made with love. The great thing about hand-made gifts is that they’re unique, not surrounded by unnecessary plastic packaging, and your project will even keep you busy during lockdown!
Just like hand-made gifts, there’s something special about making your own festive decorations too. I’m not talking about the paper chains we made as children (although that’s fun too!), but instead, I’m talking about more grown-up home-made decorations that add elegant Christmas ambience to your home. So pop your hat, gloves and scarf on, and go for a walk in search of holly, pine cones and mistletoe. Use them to make your own wreath to hang on your front door, or sculpt it into a seasonal table centrepiece. Or why not make DIY Christmas tree decorations; try drying out slices of oranges and stringing them together in a chain, decorating oranges with fragrant cloves, tying bundles of cinnamon together with ribbons (the smell doesn’t get more festive that this!), or moulding and painting clay baubles for your tree.
Ditch the glitter
We’ve been recycling our Christmas wrapping paper for years, but for a long time we didn’t realise that glitter and foil papers can’t be recycled. Once I discovered this, we made the switch and ditched the glitter. We now opt for recyclable packaging without metallic and shiny bits. And it certainly doesn’t have to be boring just because it doesn’t sparkle! There are loads of stylish wrapping papers available, but keeping in the spirit of a home-made and hand-made Christmas, last year we bought rolls of plain brown and plain red wrapping paper and decorated it ourselves using potato prints. It was a fun and nostalgic activity, and each piece of wrapping paper was unique. We printed the brown paper with green Christmas trees and the red paper with white snowflakes, and it was very effective!
This year, it’s more important than ever to shop local and support small businesses who are struggling to survive after COVID. Instead of heading straight to Amazon or the big and busy shopping centre to source your Christmas gifts, why not explore Etsy, find a Christmas craft fair or visit local shops instead. You’ll make someone’s day by ordering from their little independent store, making all their time and effort worthwhile. Their products are often produced on a smaller scale, but I find it to be more meaningful knowing that my purchase has made a difference to a hard-working individual. What’s more, for the environmentally-conscious among us, shopping local helps to reduce your carbon footprint at Christmas, so you know you’re making a difference on more than one front.
Last but not least, Christmas is the ideal time for buying eco products and reusable items as gifts. I sometimes find that some eco products are more expensive and I can’t justify ‘splashing out’ on them throughout the year. But there’s no reason why I can’t add a few to my Christmas wish list, or even buy them as gifts for others to help them become more environmentally friendly too. Another idea that I love is a Secret Santa charity shop challenge. Many people never set foot in a charity shop, but they hold all sorts of treasures if you look hard enough and they prevent unwanted items going to landfill. We’ve all received Secret Santa gifts that we don’t want and we’ll never use, so setting a charity shop challenge is a great alternative. Set a £5 or £10 spending limit and see who can find the best pre-loved treasure for gifts. It’s a great way to inject some feel-good fun into your Secret Santa while helping a good cause along the way.
There are so many ways you can make your Christmas more environmentally-friendly and we don’t all need to do it perfectly. If we all did a handful of little things, we’d make the world of difference xx