Eco Christmas tips and tricks
So, with New Year’s resolutions out of the way, it’s time to focus on Christmas (wrong way round I know…)! Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, a time to catch up with old friends and family, to celebrate with loved ones, and of gift giving and receiving. As one of my resolutions is to cut down on my consumerist urges, I’ve asked for very little this year - I’ve yet to go fully asking for nothing as I love to give gifts and don’t want to completely deny my family and friends the chance to do the same - at least that’s how I’m rationalising it to myself!
That doesn’t mean I’m not aiming to have my greenest Christmas yet. I’ve been racking my brains and have come up with a few more tips on how to have an eco-friendly, sustainable Christmas, while not missing out on all the fun and games that go with it!
Gorgeous Green Gifts
The childhood excitement that accompanies going down the stairs to see if Santa has been never quite disappears, and finding what you’ve got in your stocking is still something people look forward to whether they are toddlers, teens, or older. For the perfect stocking fillers and gifts this year check out our shop here where you can find stainless steel straws, organic cotton totes, and handmade organic beeswax wraps.
But I’m not just trying to plug our goods! There are loads of other things that you can do to provide green gifts. One thing that I have done for the last couple of years as a gift for my mum, and that my sister in New Zealand has been doing for the whole family for a couple of years now is providing experience tickets rather than a physical gift. Everyone seems to have so much now that I actually struggle to think of things for some of the people I care about. Theatre tickets, cinema passes, seats to see their favourite band, all of these are great options. That’s not all though, a night in a hotel for a romantic getaway, or a cooking class, the lists is endless. Go for something you know they love, or introduce them to something you know they’ll like - I’ve done this before for my little brother, helping him discover a stand-up comedian from a slightly earlier generation!
If you don’t fancy any of the above, you can also invent your own experiences. Maybe a romantic pamper day for your significant other, or taking friends or family on a gastro tour of your favourite restaurants or bars. All of these will have minimal waste, and have the added advantage of sharing time and experiences with people you care about. At a time when people are increasingly connected to their devices, these memories can be really precious, and get us out of our social media bubbles.
Anything homemade shows real thought. A photo album of your favourite memories, or using one of your talents to share with that person what they mean to you. It will be unique, and from personal experience often even more appreciated than the gifts that cost the most money. Or how about some homemade food? I've previously received amazing chilli jam from my sister and my dad makes phenomenal quantities of kimchi which most people I know would be delighted to get!
If your friend or family member is also eco-minded, or if they have a bit of vintage flair, you could give them a voucher to go on a charity/vintage shopping spree! This will stop clothes getting thrown away, and also hopefully reduce people using as many fast/disposable fashion items. I’ve also used charity shops as a resource for buying gifts for young children of friends and family before. Whilst some people turn their noses up at receiving second hand gifts, this can be a part of the re-education process! My main point is look how much more and better gifts you can get for the same amount! Toys are so expensive nowadays (having a moment of melancholy reminiscence about the cost of things ‘when I was a lad’).
Speaking of charities, there are still a lot of ‘sponsor a family’, or ‘buy a goat’ gifts and similar. Find a cause that they care about and look it up. There will be a way to donate on their behalf. Another good idea is an online subscription. Although I’ve just said about how sometimes we should try to get out of our online bubbles, a magazine subscription, a kindle voucher, or a membership of spotify or google music will add no waste to the environment, and be appreciated by just about anyone!
I almost feel as though the possibilities are endless. If I am getting anyone something new it will be something sustainable, a reusable coffee cup, a refillable water bottle, something responsibly sourced from a company that pays attention to the world around us. Trying to be less consumerist and focus on improving the environment does not mean eschewing all of the trappings of modern life. Helping people to make little lifestyle changes is a good place to start. Most people are interested, they just don’t give it a second thought, and I know that even when I didn’t think about it I’d prefer to drink out of a lovely stylish receptacle, rather than a flimsy plastic bottle or a overheating cardboard coffee cup.
Finally, before I finish on presents, think about how you are going to wrap them! Leah, who writes a wonderful blog called Roots and Toots recently posted about eco Christmas present ideas in which she mentioned wrapping gifts in waste fabric, it’s plastic free and stops things from being thrown away. If you don't have scraps of fabric lying around you can also use clothes that you own, wrapping them in a beautiful scarf or a t-shirt before tying up with string. Just make sure you tell the gift receiver that it's not part of the present so you get it back! Another idea is that I always find there are newspapers lying around waiting to be recycled, whether it is the free local ad paper, or the Metro or Evening Standard in London. If you don’t like the way this looks I’ve seen them painted with Christmas trees and Santas before. Something else that I’ve seen is that every year, one family unwraps their presents super carefully… The paper is then folded and stored away for next year, when all the presents are wrapped in the same paper! It’s better than throwing it away, and if someone gives you a gift wrapped in paper that may contain plastic, or would be hard to recycle, it’s something that’s worth considering.
Responsible Revelry Recipes
As I said in my last blog, one of the reasons that I’m not starting all of my New Year’s resolutions early is because I can’t resist a Christmas Feast. No festive gathering is complete without lashings of comfort food, preferably washed down with one of my favourite Christmas tipples.
Managing Christmas fare can be tricky. Guests can include vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, omnivores, carnivores, and general picky eaters. There’s no perfect way to keep everyone happy, so I cook to the tastes of the ones that I know best and haven’t had too many complaints yet. One tip to do before the Christmas period this year is to head to your local zero waste shop (see some of our favourites here) and make sure that you are stocked up on all the herbs and spices that you’ll need for the Christmas break. Spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves get fewer outings during the year than they deserve, but it’s worth checking that you have them in and having a healthy supply as they ‘Christmas up’ any dish.
In addition to this get your tote bag on and head down to the market to make sure you’ve got all your favourite Christmas veggies. I love sprouts so much it makes me wonder what I made such a fuss about when avoiding them as a child. Parsnips, potatoes, various squashes and carrots all get plenty of outings during the rest of the year, but they get special roasted treatment at Christmas and I can’t get enough of them with a bit of salt, pepper, sometimes rosemary, and always a bit of paprika as a little winter warmer.
The most important thing for me, while trying to make food that is satisfying for everyone, is that it comes with as little waste as possible, and it is responsibly sourced. The other thing I try and do, and this is more because I love cooking than anything else, is try to avoid buying pre-made foods. I’ll make anything from scratch, from sauces and gravy to mulled wine. This is invariably healthier as well as meaning that you can know where everything comes from. I often find that mulled wine bought from the shops is so sweet that I can only have one glass before my teeth are covered in fuzz, and I don’t always want just one glass! Instead, I use a bottle of normal red wine, put on a low heat with cloves, cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, grated nutmeg, orange zest, a slice or two of fresh orange and two teaspoons of organic honey. I then heat, not letting it come to the boil, for around 20/25 minutes. Then I drain it and EITHER drink as it is, or add a nice extra warming tot of brandy (don’t do this too often). Give it a go, I guarantee it’s better than the pre-bought mixes, and less hangover inducing (as long as you go easy on the brandy).
Any Christmas leftovers can be covered with our organic, handmade, beeswax wraps which provide a great replacement for clingfilm or tin foil. Beeswax wraps are all natural, and have antibacterial properties so actually help keep your food fresher for longer. Leftovers are part of the fun of party season, having plates of them cold or repurposing them into brand new dishes. I love to mash a load of cooked veg up with potatoes and make them into little patties. These are delicious fried in a little oil with anything else that you’ve got, or even on their own.
Promoting Positive Party Practice
So you’ve sorted out your presents. The food and drink have been dealt with. You’ve organised a party, the invites are sent, and you’ve realised you’ve got ten guests and only enough crockery for four! This happens almost every time we have a dinner party, let alone a big Christmas get together (Kat tells me I’m a dropper - I’m sure it’s her, but either way we currently have only one big plate and the other one eats from a bowl most of the time). What we have found, is that people don’t mind bringing some spare plates and glasses around. We are lucky to have such helpful friends, and it can be a bit embarrassing calling up in a panic as they are getting ready to set off to our place, but it is better than using paper cups and plates. What we often forget is that most of these disposable crockery have a lining of plastic, similar to that found in disposable coffee cups, that stops them from being properly recyclable and will leach into our seas and oceans. In addition, I do the classy thing of drinking my wine from a tea mug, and encourage others to do the same. After the first couple of minutes of the party people are less self-conscious, and we save the good glasses for people we know will be sniffy about looking silly (looking at you again Kat).
We also have material napkins, so people don’t use disposable ones, and we wash and reuse them. Other tips are to make sure you’re buying drinks in glass bottles that can be reused and recycled. When you think about the state of the environment and the oceans, it’s really not an inconvenience at all.
I hope you’ve found my eco-Christmas tips useful, and if you’ve got any suggestions, that we can use for the future, please comment below! Have a great holiday period, and Happy New Year!