Friday 22 November 2019

Dreamin of a Green Christmas?

Top 15 Tips on How to Have a Greener Christmas
Oh no! It’s that time of year again. The time when people spend too much, eat too much and fart way too much. I can't help the farting problem but would love to give some ideas on how to consume less and have a more eco-friendly Christmas to boot. I have tried some of these myself and even small changes can make a big difference!

1) Christmas Parties 

Avoid disposable plates at all costs. Bring out the mismatched cutlery and plates for sit down meals. Who cares if it doesn’t look perfect? Worried about the washing up? Why not get some volunteers to help.

Check out my recent post on products containing 100% recycled plastics, including washing up bottles. Why not grab a few Scrubbies too? (A natural, washable, compostable wash cloth). The pretty ‘unsponge’ cloth can be a talking point whilst doing the dishes! We make our own now too - see our store for more!

If you are keen to use something more lightweight for holding onto at parties (buffet type events for example) then check out some biodegradable wheat straw or sugar cane plates. Or look out for bamboo plates which are re-usable too. 

You can even buy plates made from palm leaves which look quite cool. Could start a trend among your friends perhaps! I haven’t tried any of these so haven’t reviewed any but a quick search on Amazon for compostable plates can bring up a lot of choices.

Check out non plastic straws including toughened glass straws, bamboo or silicone straws.

2) Christmas Crackers

Expensive these things aren’t they? Filled with plastic gifts and corny jokes too but for many they are still a tradition. 

For a greener option look out for plastic free crackers, word is some of the stores are beginning to stock them. Some shops, like John Lewis, WH Smith and Lakeland even sell ‘fill your own’ crackers if you wanted to add that more personal touch.

Alternatively there’s some DIY kits with various designs in the the Hobbycraft Site plus Dunelm have a selection of reasonably priced recyclable or make your own crackers.

Why not check out Etsy too for Homemade Christmas crackers. You may find some greener alternatives in there or get some inspiration for making your own.

If you use chocolates as fillers for your home made crackers, you can recycle foil wrapped chocolate wrappers but bunch them up into a ball first as small pieces can block the conveyor belts at recycling centres.

Any cellophane wrappers (be sure it is cellophane) can often break down in compost. This article ‘Can you recycle chocolate wrappers’ may help give you some ideas.

3) Advent Calendars

Sometimes the advent calendar contains a plastic tray which may not always be recyclable. You can search for greener alternatives that are just made from card instead such as Woodland Trust's Silver Birch Tree Calendar or Oxfam's Calendars.

For ethical advent calendars why not check out Unicef’s Paddington Bear Advent Calendar which shows you how your money is being used behind each window.

You can make your own too using card from cereal boxes perhaps, plus some artwork, pics of the family maybe, fave cartoon character images etc for top and bottom.

Cut card into strips and slot together to make 24 windows (make the outer frame 1st then cut grooves into length & width of card to make your inner sections - fill with choccies or whatever you like!) Score around 3 sides of each window to make a flap.

4) Christmas Decorations

Rather than buying lots of synthetic products for your tree why not make your own? Something as simple as fir cones, dried orange segments, felt or wool animals or even sticks of cinnamon or chains of popcorn can help. Or why not try some edible tree decorations such as cinnamon or gingerbread biscuits?

Children love making things so see if they can come up with any ideas. Paper chains used to be the firm favourite for keeping the kids quiet. You can make your own glue too just using flour and water to cut down on plastic tape. Or try out some origami snowflake decorations using tips from You-tube.

Check out this useful site too for tons of Christmas Craft Home Made Decoration ideas. The Works site also has some good ideas too in their Christmas crafts and gifts section.

Natural Christmas Decorations Image by Giftpundits

5) Eco Friendly Christmas Trees

Live or artificial? Artificial trees are sadly plastic however they do have the advantage of being used year in year out. Bored of your tree? Why not find a home for it via recycle (we did). Someone out there may love a free tree to adorn their homes.

Meanwhile, for living trees it really is sad when you see how many are scrapped each year – it breaks my heart. A news article in 2006 reported that 'Six million trees are thrown out after Christmas, creating more than 9,000 tonnes of additional waste. That’s about five times the weight of the London Eye!' (source The Independent.)

Some rental tree farms will let you choose your tree or even rent the same one back again the following year. You will need to keep them alive as they will be returned to the farm for safe keeping. 

Some rental tree sites include (Leicester/Coventry), (London area, 5ft trees sold out but 3 & 4ft trees in stock, be quick tho!) Also (Bristol, Gloucs, Cheltenham, Stroud, Worcs and Chippenham).

Some councils offer xmas tree recycling programs where you can have your tree shredded and recycled into wood chip. It breaks my heart but this is more preferential to them going to landfill.

An alternative is to plant in your garden or you can place an ad on freecyle or freelywheely to see if anyone has space on their land to plant your tree. The wildlife will thank you for it. If it’s taken by someone near you for replanting you could also watch it grow as you walk past. Old tree, new life!

6) Environmentally Friendly Wrapping Paper

Go old school and use brown wrapping paper. It can be jazzed up using cut out old xmas cards as gift tags and can be tied with old ribbon or string. Or brown paper tape can be used. Some folks have a go at potato printing to add a little personal touch, maybe get the kids to do a smiley face and dip it into yellow paint. Stars can be another idea for a simple added touch.

The brown paper can be recycled or in good condition can be used again next year. Using ribbon or string crossed at the front and back means you don’t have to use plastic laden tape either. 

Or use wrapping paper made from magazines. It’s more personalised then and doesn’t have to be all about Father Christmas and reindeer which is all made up anyway, I mean just how many reindeer would you need to pull along a fat geeza in the sky?

What’s wrong with normal wrapping paper I hear you ask? Sadly some wrapping paper can’t be recycled, especially the type that has a shiny coating. The best test, if you scrumple it and it pings back it is not suitable for recycling.  This BBC article on Christmas wrapping paper might be worth a read also.

Alternatively, you can buy recycled wrapping paper and gift tags at Ethical Superstore. Some wonderful tips here on eco-friendly wrapping paper including using old maps, some fabric plus a list of other options to get recycled paper, if you decide to do that too.

7) Non Plastic Gift Ideas

Give a gift of a day out for friend or relative maybe. Choose something they love such as a chocolate tasting day, spa visit, boat trip, balloon rides or more. Or place a gift token in their card for them to shop in their favourite store. 

A great idea is to send a box of ‘treat days’. Each envelope may contain a coupon or IOU. For example, I will make you a home-made chocolate cake, I treat you to a coffee and croissant, today we will go bowling – that sort of thing. The gift owner can then call in their favours when they’re ready or like a grandma did in Australia you can set 12 treats with each promised treat to be opened at the beginning of each month. Brilliant huh?

Green Gifts to Buy -  In my reviews section I have listed a few plastic free or plastic reduced products which could be of use for practical ideas. All products have been tested by me and more reviews will follow soon!

Examples include bamboo toothbrushes, cotton buds, non plastic razors, wax wraps, scrubbies plus silicone storage sets with grocery mesh bags.

8) Make Your Own Gifts

Ideas include home made products such as cookies, soaps, marmalade, marzipan sweets and fudge and so much more. The Spruce Crafts has some great projects you can try or Sainsbury’s Edible Gifts for Christmas for some yummy ideas. If you’re using glitter for craft projects remember these are often made from plastic –  Moral Fibres suggest some places where you can buy eco friendly glitter.

Here are some fantastic craft ideas to make at Christmas time – I love the idea of making a badge out of an old bottle top and snippets from old cards on top or the recycled paper beads using paper from glossy magazines, strung together as miniature garlands.

Heart Shaped Iced Cookies Image by Stefan Lorentz

9) Sending Festive Cards

A lot of people have switched to online e-cards which helps reduce use of trees. If you prefer to send a card choose some that support charities and have the FSC logo on the back (Foresty Stewardship Council) to ensure the trees are properly managed. Or check out recycled cards, at least you know the card stock has had a previous life and then recycle when done or use as home made gift tags for next year.

Glittered cards may not be recycling friendly as glitter is often plastic coated. You can however buy eco friendly glitter to cut down on the plastic consumption.

Tree Cards are a great idea, they are plastic free and 100% recycled, plus they plant a tree with every order and include a seed token. What a great idea!

They are individually priced with lots of designs (bees, cartoons, inspirational messages and animals) and you can also buy boxes of 10 in a limited design pack. Not all of them are Christmas, there are some thank you, anniversary and good luck cards in there too.

New for 2020: recycled wrapping paper is available from tree cards too!

10) Eco Friendly Toys

For young ones, ditch the plastic and buy wooden models. Little trains with wooden blocks as the tracks, can be fun for your little one to build and make their own choo choo noise. Get them back into reading books or buy them materials for a craft project you can do together.

I loved the suggestion that was going round on Facebook. Buy 4 things for your child, something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

It can be hard of course if their friends get lots more than them, but I wonder how many of those friends still value what was bought for them 2 weeks later and how many items just sit at the back of the cupboard?

11) Give Away / Sell Unwanted Items

Have so many things collecting dust? Don’t throw away old items. They can be sold online (facebook even has a marketplace available free to sell off unwanted stuff locally) or place an ad in your local store’s notice board to get some local customers. Send a message too to family and friends. If there’s enough interest maybe you can host a toy swap or clothes swap party just to give unwanted items a new lease of life. 

Donate any you can also to charities. In a post called ‘Secondhand September’ it was shocking to learn just how many clothes are disposed of instead of being passed onto others. If fabric is unusable they can be used for rags instead. Some eco sites even have videos on how to turn them into re-usable grocery bags (a home-made project for self later perhaps!)

I remember once turning an old woollen sweater into a dog pillow just by cutting the arms off and sewing the neck and arms together. The stuffing can be placed through the neck hole before sewing! For those wanting to minimise plastic fibres avoid polyfill stuffing. 

Look out for recycled wool fibre, cotton fibre or kapok.

12) Buy Antiques or Vintage Goods

Instead of buying new, why not visit an antique shop for some gift ideas? The product has had a previous life, is probably better quality than items produced today and more importantly won’t be made entirely of plastic! Plus, who knows, maybe it will increase in value over the years too.

You may see a pre-loved vintage item at a bargain price in your local charity shop!

Antique Pocket Watch Collection - Image by Giallo

13) Shop Locally or Bake

Farm shops are a great way to buy good quality produce. Our local one has a great plastic free fruit and veg section. If you do shop at the supermarket take along some of your own mesh bags to use for loose veg. I noticed carrots sold loose were cheaper than packaged in our local supermarket which is a good turnaround. 

Sainsbury’s are currently selling mesh bags made from recycled plastic (PET bottles in a previous life) for 30p a bag. The silicone storage set I reviewed comes with several mesh bags for your grocery shop which I carry around in my handbag.

Reduce food waste by offering left over meals for guests travelling home. You can make your own mince pies too to cut down on the plastic trays that often come with mince pies. Home cooking always smells nice and homely and the whole family can pitch in too.

14) Donate to a Good Cause

Ordering gifts from charity gift stores is a great way to treat your relatives and giving back to charity at the same time. Examples include RSPB (birds), RSPCA (animals), Woodland Trust (trees) and WWF (nature).  

If you have a lost loved one why not donate a tree in their honour through the Woodland Trust? RSPB can accept memorial donations and they have a book of remembrance at selected reserves.

Children often love animals so sponsorships may be a great idea. A stuffed toy is usually included in the membership pack. Try WWF Adopt an Animal - ideas include a penguin, jaguar, polar bear, tiger and so much more. Maybe your child can save up their pocket money to keep the sponsorship going, help them to put a budget aside to look after their adopted animal for future years.

Adopt a bee kit from Hilltop Honey is a novel idea. You get a newsletter, a passport with bee facts, pack of seeds, a mini pot of honey and a bee badge all in a little gift box. 25% go to the Honeypot Children’s Charity.

Or why not try Oxfam’s Life Changing Gift Card which can help you donate a chicken, honey bees, goats or seeds to a community. Check out some other ideas from Oxfam including on how to have a Green Christmas with the Kids.

15) Take Time Out for You

Take pleasure in the simple things. It’s hard during the rush of festivities to get everything just right. Frazzled tempers? Stressed out nerves? And we haven’t even begun yet! For me, my simplest pleasure is just taking a walk on Christmas Day. I especially love a chilly, clear, blue sky sunny day. Completely different to the White Christmas others may dream of (although I do love the pretty patterns sharp frost makes on the trees!)

So think of what takes you to your happy place, give yourself time to breathe and remember to ask for little helpers to pitch in. Folks work harder when they’re tasked with something they enjoy. Some prefer washing up, others drying, some love a good hoover up, work on people’s strengths. As long as people know who should be doing what it should all come together. Then you can take that peaceful moment to yourself.

Martin Lewis, a well known Money Saving Expert bought it home to me just what Christmas means, and it’s not all about presents. It’s probably more about ‘being present’!!

Here’s 41 great money saving tips from Martin. Grab a hot choccie and enjoy!

Hot Chocolate in White Ceramic Mug by Ylanite Koppens

Useful links for an eco friendly Christmas: