I love all major holidays (any excuse for glittery eye-shadow and a party) and so I love Christmas too. I love decorating, I love the buzz of picking a present for someone you know is just right and I definitely love the food.
But at the same time I worry about the harm we do at times of excess when we act like fun and consumerism have to be synonymous.
Around this time of year, the kind of eco-blog and Twitters I follow start sharing articles like ‘how to use less electricity this Christmas’ or ‘Eco Gift Guides’ but having read several of them I can safely say they’re mostly widely impractical.
Because I would love to have the kind of time and money necessary for wrapping my presents in fabric secured with cloth ribbons to avoid sellotape but let’s get real here. I also can’t buy all new tree lights to start using LEDs (the cheapest of them barely give off any light as well which sort of defeats the purpose).
Not to mention, speaking as the “environmentally conscious person in your life” in a lot of people’s lives, I probably don’t want another tote bag made in a Bangladeshi sweatshop.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do or that you shouldn’t try.
Reducing wrapping paper is generally worth it. Gift bags can be helpful here because they’re so easy to reuse. If something is pretty by itself, consider not wrapping it at all.
Buying things these without hideous amounts of plastic and packaging is generally easier for adults than for kids. Lush cosmetics are even doing ‘Naked’ versions of their shower gels without any bottle at all.
(Alright so they just reinvented soap but hey it looks quite cool.)
While shopping online with places like Amazon seems super convenient it’s full of pit-falls (tax dodging, poor workers rights, squeezing out small bookshops, packaging and transport carbon footprint). Most independent bookshops will order in any book you ask them for within a few days anyway without charging you for shipping and without the excess packaging.
I won’t go into a big gift guide now (maybe next year) as it’s a little late in the game. But if you’re stuck for a few last minute presents then consider doing charity themed gifts or going into your local markets.
Places like the Sea Turtle Conservation, Friends of the Earth, or the WWF do a range of gifts like jewellery and travel mugs which fund their activities.
Oxfam gifts mean you can add a more specific or personal aspect to a charity donation in someone’s name. In shops you can buy colourful information cards about the specific donation you have made to give someone.
There’s also potential to pair it with another gift to make it more personal. Here’s someone for a family friend who shares my love of bees (it’s alright she’s not a reader) where I added a donation of a bee hive through Oxfam with a small book of beekeeper poetry (this would have also been a good gift for me if anyone’s interested).
Consider also running a fundraiser instead of asking for gifts off people in your wider circle.
On a rare morning of scrolling through Facebook at breakfast I received an automated prompt saying that since it was my birthday soon (Christmas baby) did I want to tell people about a charity I cared about. I clicked through not knowing what to expect and it helped me set up a fundraiser for Focus Ireland, a homelessness charity.
With Ireland in the middle of a homelessness crisis this winter, it was something that had been on my mind and apparently it had been on other people’s too. I just shared it and was already 90% to my goal of €150 within ten minutes so I put it up to €200 and it runs for another week.
I was blown any by people donating from big to small amounts depending on what they had or sharing the page if they were short on funds themselves. I think it was that feeling that prompted me to write this blog post.
So many cultures have some kind of midwinter festival. Something about the cold and dark makes us draw together and try to remind each other of warmth. So I guess that’s what I’m always looking for too – warmth – and I’ve been so lucky to see it again and again.
Have a good one.