Have an Ethical Christmas!
Christmas is coming! Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, a time to see friends and family, and share great times together. Christmas is also a time to think of others and bring some festive sparkle into their lives.
Everyone wants to enjoy themselves at Christmas and sometimes all of the excitement can be turned into pressure by advertisers trying to get you to spend, spend, spend! So we thought it would be good to have a look at the ways you can make Christmas less wasteful but at the same time more happy for everyone!
Gifts for Friends and Family
So the first thing you might think of when Christmas is approaching is gifts, now there might be plenty of ethical gifts to choose from but it still can be hard to pick the right gift for relatives you may not see often so what do you do if you really don’t know what to get?
Well this might sound miserable, but why not forget presents all together?? Of course you might want to discuss this first! But if you have a large family and you all feel under pressure to get gifts for each and every one of them, then why not agree that you don’t need to, and perhaps just get gifts for close family, or the children. If you have a big Christmas gathering, buying gifts for everyone is inevitably going to result in people getting gifts that they don’t really want or will use so this will help reduce waste and unnecessary spending.
Buying clothes can be a minefield, will you get the right size, will they like it, will they even just begrudgingly wear it the next time they see you pretending they like it? A few ways you can get round this, perhaps ask someone who is close to them if this is something they would actually like and wear, and make sure you as their size!
Always include the receipt or gift receipt and tell them the receipt is with it just in case, this saves a bit of embarrassment, they can pretend they like it and then sneak off back to the shop to exchange it for something they will get use from. Another option is to get them a voucher for their favourite shop so they can pick something they like, however try not to get one of the plastic voucher cards!
We are 100% against fast fashion, so we’d always recommend buying something that is made to last! Buying Fairtrade and organic clothing is one way to ensure the clothes you are buying are not just cheaply made fast fashion.
Spending the right amount can be tricky too, Christmas can be hugely expensive so splashing out the cash isn’t going to help your wallet and the people you are buying for will probably appreciate something that relates to them, that you have put thought into over something flashy and expensive.
It’s important to spend appropriately, sometimes it is difficult for people who aren’t so well off to keep up. You may think you are being more generous by spending a lot of money on presents for friends but don’t forget this can put pressure on them to spend a large amount on a present in return, so remember you don’t need to go overboard!
There are certain family members who would be horrified at the idea of not giving present, yep that’s the children! If you have a few children round at Christmas then you can end up buried in packaging from presents. Children’s toys can often be the worst items for packaging, particularly plastic packaging. This is because the toys are trying to directly appeal to the children so putting them in big, bright colourful packaging, and having the toy visible through a plastic cover is fairly common. It’s not until all of the presents have been unwrapped and the wrapping paper, boxes, plastic that you realise the true scale of the waste!
So what can you do? It may be tough as children may have very specific toys they want so you can’t really pick and choose a more ethical alternative. Plastic seems to have got into all aspects of our lives and toys are certainly no exception. So what do you do? Well it is hard not to get toys without plastic so if you need to you should by toys that will last. A good quality plastic toy which can be enjoyed for years and then passed on is much better than a cheaply made throwaway plastic toys.
There are better alternatives however, with companies like Green Toys who use recycled plastic for all of their toys and package them in minimal cardboard.
But one thing that is making a big comeback is wooden toys! Wooden toys have a much nicer feel than plastic and are loved by children and have a timeless feel, plus won’t be resulting in bits of plastic floating round in the sea for hundreds of years!
The main thing is to avoid falling into the trap of buying lots of stocking fillers and plastic tat which will only be played with briefly.
But even the best, most loved toys have a lifespan, because children grow up and grow out of them and they are forgotten about (I’m hoping this doesn’t sound too much like Toy Story 3!). But this doesn’t mean they should go to waste, you can always pass them on so they can continue to be enjoyed! And if you go for well made toys they will have plenty more years left in them.
Friends and family – this is probably the easiest option, if you have friends or family who have children a bit younger then it is great to be able to pass on them on directly and see them being enjoyed all over again.
Have a car boot sale – OK so maybe not actually at Christmas time, do it in the summer sell your old toys and keep the money to go towards Christmas
Schools, Nurseries or children’s hospitals – they will always be in need of extra toys so give your local school or nursey a call to see if they will take them
Charity Shops – You don’t need to pick a children’s charity, pick the one that means something to you and donate your old toys to their local shop. They will be able to raise funds from them and they will go into the hands of another happy child.
Give away your own hidden away toys – as adults we still may have some toys hidden away in a loft somewhere. There is nothing better than passing on your own toys that you played when you were young to your own children, nieces and nephews and seeing them enjoy them! It makes a really nice gift for them and they will probably be amazed when they realise you used to play with the same kind of toys they love!
Christmas Jumpers are for life, not just Christmas!
We’ve already mentioned ‘fast fashion’ now you might struggle to see Christmas jumpers as fashion items but the principle is the same. As a general rule of thumb, the more unfashionable a Christmas jumper the better! But this has led to a boom in cheaply made Christmas jumpers available from discount fashion chains. They know the jumpers aren’t likely to be worn many times so they try to get away with making them as cheaply as possible, as customers they buy them for next to nothing they perceive little value in them and has less trouble just chucking it away. 95% of Christmas jumpers bought contain plastic, so they are only contributing to the plastic waste problem.
Being ethical at Christmas doesn’t mean being a spoilsport and it’s the same with Christmas jumpers, if you do buy one, buy one that is designed to last and actually be worn so you can use it year after year, the older and more years it has been used the more authentic it is!
You could go one better and make your own Christmas jumper, get an old jumper out of the cupboard and go to town, just make sure you leave your sense of taste and style at home when you make it!
Christmas decorations are for you to enjoy, not to impress people on Instagram
Do you remember before smartphones and social media, when you used to decorate your tree, take a picture then pop down to the local shops to get them developed, get a few hundred pictures of your tree developed, and then get them enveloped and into the post to your network of friends, family and just about everyone else you know? No?? Well neither do we actually! But if you think about it, that is what people do now for Instagram, no longer can you get those old tatty decorations out of the loft, with the angel on the top you made when you were at school, oh no, that would not look right for Instagram, your Instagram ready tree must be perfectly curated to this years style, which of course will require another trip to the shops as last years’ decorations no longer cut it! So this year, why not decorate your tree for yourself and your family to enjoy, not impress on Instagram.
Cut down on waste
Cutting Waste – Decorations – One of the best things about Christmas decorations is that they last for years.
Another great idea is to make your own decorations, like paper chains using brightly coloured card – and if you store them carefully they can be used year after year. Making your own paper decorations is a great way to spend time with your children, and to teach them the importance of creating your own rather than buying.
When it comes to buying, try looking in charity shops first for some vintage decorations, or look for handmade and minimally packaged items to reduce waste.
Cutting Waste – Food – We’re all guilty of overindulging over the festive period, but that doesn’t mean we have to be wasteful. According to some statistics, approximately 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussels sprouts are thrown away every Christmas. The best way to tackle food waste is to only buy what you need and are going to use, which means less will get thrown away.
Another great idea is to buy local. Get your veggies from local markets, or get them from organic delivery services to cut out on wasteful packaging that supermarkets tend to use. Don’t forget to take your reusable produce bags so you don’t need to use the plastic ones most shops tend to provide.
Instead of buying mince pies and other festive food from supermarkets which come in endless amounts of disposable packaging, why not take a whack at making your own? Something about making your own mince pies for your family and loved ones to enjoy makes them feel so much more special, and you could even give them as a gift!
Cutting Waste – Wrapping – Using recycled and easily recyclable wrapping paper is an excellent way to reduce waste this Christmas. The production of recycled gift wrap uses less resource than non-recycled, making it a more environmentally friendly option. It’s important that you recycle your gift wrap after you’ve opened all your gifts on Christmas day, and encourage others to do the same, or it will just end up going to landfill.
One sustainable tradition from other countries, such as Japan, is wrapping gifts in fabric, which can then be reused by the recipient rather than thrown away. We think this would be a great tradition for us to adopt here in the UK, it would make Christmas less wasteful for everyone. To get you started on using fabric wrap, we’ve started stocking reusable gift wrap from Wrag Wrap, which includes double sided fabric wrap, reusable bottle bags and a set that includes both!
If you do still have to dispose of some waste after Christmas be sure to use an eco friendly or biodegradable bin bags.
Do something for others at Christmas
Invite someone you know – The more the merrier! If there is a friend or neighbour you know who will be alone at Christmas, invite them round, it could mean the world to them
Volunteering at a soup kitchen – This one is actually better not to do at Christmas, the number of people volunteering at Christmas spikes every year, whist this kindness is great, there are few people volunteering at other times in the year. So make a promise and set a date later in the year to volunteer.
Take a dog for a walk – Dogs deserve to have fun at Christmas too! A Christmas walk is a tradition for many families, so why not contact your local RSPCA centre and sign up for voluntary dog walking.
Give to your local food bank
December is the busiest time for food banks, so why not take part in #foodbankadvent which is a reverse advent calendar, so instead of eating a chocolate from your advent calendar each morning (although technically you still could!) you donate an item to your local food bank every day in the run up to Christmas.
Make a donation to a children’s charity
There are many great charities to choose form such as Barnardo’s, Save the Children and Action for Children
Can’t afford to make donations, donate your blood!
It’s not always easy for everyone to be able to donate money to charity or to be able to give up time to volunteer, so one great way of doing something amazing is to give blood. Pop in to your local donor centre in December to give the most valuable gift.
Get your Children into the spirit
Looking forward to Christmas and making it a fun time for yourself is certainly nothing to feel guilty about, but over the years as you grow up it becomes less about you and more about others. Remember back to when you were young, Christmas was an amazingly exciting time and in your mind it was probably entirely centred around yourself and what presents you would get!
So it’s a great idea to get your children to see the world doesn’t just revolve around them, Christmas is about helping other people as well. They are too young to be buying presents so why not get them to make presents for family members, this gets them to think about others, and what they would like, not just which toys they want for Christmas.
Could you go vegan?
Turkey Christmas dinners are estimated to be 13% down this year. More and more people are going vegan so even if you aren’t vegan, why not give it a try. If you are having a vegan Christmas, or catering for vegan or vegetarian guests it might seem a challenge if you’ve never cooked a vegan main dish before, but avoiding meat, fish, dairy and animal products isn’t that hard! Vegan Christmas meals can be absolutely delicious and packed full of festive flavour too.
We’ve already written a handy guide on how to go vegan at Christmas.