The past few years I’ve been feeling a touch “Bah, humbug!” when it comes to Christmas. It’s not the never-ending Christmas songs played in the shops, or the adverts, or even the naff jumpers. Rather, it’s the waste left behind. The mountains of wrapping paper, the gifts that may not last until the end of January. It’s a bit disheartening spending 364 days of the year trying to cut back on products, only to see one’s good intentions go out the window on 25th December. However, I’ve discovered some simple ways of reducing your environmental impact without turning into a complete Scrooge.
First, I love pretty wrapping paper as much as the next person; the collection at Hall’s Emporium of Fancy Goods right now in particular is very good. Although most (but not all) wrapping paper can be recycled, when you think about it logically we are spending money on a single-use product that is designed to be removed.
Instead of going down the paper route, you could put smaller gifts in tote bags or other reusable bags. This can serve as a gift itself and save you time on wrapping. And in the first bit of shameless advertising – I have several such tote bags available for sale in the MissElaineous shop (including one featuring Chippenham), and others are available through Redbubble. My favourite type of reusable bag are those made by Onya: they fold up easily and are perfect for tossing in a handbag, rucksack or coat pocket. I regularly give them as gifts and they make great stocking fillers.
You can also reuse paper products and wrap gifts in a slightly different way. There are magazines and newspapers of course, but do you have an out-of-date road atlas sitting in the boot or the bottom of a wardrobe? Once unbound, the sheets are the perfect size for wrapping DVDs and books. You can also pick out locations that are important to the recipient: their hometown or site of their favourite football club perhaps.
Are you the crafty type? Check your kitchen: you can use butcher paper to make your own wrap, or turn your children loose to decorate metres of paper. One of the best things I’ve seen for reusing products is the Coke bottle container. You’ll need a large Coca-Cola bottle (only Coca-Cola has the right shape), some paint (or, if you’d like to get a bit fancier, glue and decoupage paper), scissors, and the instructions here. These make perfect little parcels for small gifts or food products, and can even be used as a vase once “unwrapped”.
Another way to cut back on waste is with reusable or keepsake gift tags. You can get slate and chalk to write a message to the recipient, which they can either keep or erase and reuse in the future. Or, and here’s another plug for MissElaineous, I have wooden gift tags that can be personalised with ballpoint pen, reused, or hung as a Christmas ornament.
With gifts themselves, research shows that people derive greater enjoyment from experiences compared to things. Certainly one of my most memorable Christmas gifts was a voucher for a hot air balloon ride. This also means less clutter around the house! As an aside, if you’re getting a head start on Spring Cleaning following Christmas, please make sure your old items end up in a charity shop (or car boot sale or eBay) rather than the tip.
You can also support a charity the recipient cares about through a donation; one of my favourite ways to do this is with Oxfam Unwrapped cards. Or consider supporting local people and local products. This can help keep your money within the community, and typically involves far less packaging than something bought on Amazon or in a shop. And on that note, there will be a Christmas Fayre at the Neeld Hall in Chippenham on 11 December, 11:00am-3:00pm. I will be selling a mix of items – stop by, say hello, and perhaps put some of these suggestions into practice.