One of our members received this list of tips for having a more ethical and greener Christmas. The whole “living sustainably” arena can be fraught with unintended consequenses so I wondered what you thought of them. Are they sound? A bit grinch-like? Are there more practical things we could do? For example, point 3 about renting a Christmas tree… I’m not sure I’d know where to begin doing that! But a bit of greenery brought in from the garden can make good decorations in place of a tree.
Please cast your cynical eye over it and let us have your thoughts in the comments section below. 1. Vote with your money You can make a difference, by voting with your money. Every penny you spend and every electronic pound you transfer is a vote for the companies that makes the things you buy. Take time to think about the things you buy, who made them and where they came from; be proud of the presents you give. The more we support the brands that care about our planet, the more they will flourish and grow. As ethical brands succeed other companies will be encouraged to copy them by developing their own ethical policies and practices.
2. Christmas cards The best Christmas cards are 100% home made from 100% recycled materials and come with a meaningful message. Simply signing your name in a shop-bought card, which came wrapped in plastic on a boat from China, does not spread the love at all! Remind Aunt Edna how special she is to you, tell your ‘rellies’ why you think they’re great or better still, go and see them and tell them in person. 3. Christmas trees It’s pretty obvious that if we all chopped down a tree for Christmas every year we’d soon be living in a desert! These days you can rent a tree which will get replanted in the new year. A real tree with roots leaves less mess too… Don’t even think about buying a plastic tree!
4. Presents Your presence is more important than your presents. We all struggle to get up from the sofa sometimes but Christmas is the time to get social. If you really want to give someone a gift, make it or bake it, don’t burden people with more things they don’t need. You could give a membership to a charity or environmental organisation rather than material goods. If you really want to buy ‘goods’ make sure they are the highest quality and most durable products you can find, from a company that cares. Let’s face it, most of us have all the ‘stuff’ we’re ever going to need, but visiting someone you rarely see is a unique gift only you can give!
5. Wrapping paper Get crafty: Create your own wrapping from recycled materials! We’re not sure who invented them, but ‘wrapping cloths’ are an extra ethical way to avoid trees being turned into mountains of wasted paper. Wrapping cloths, made from pieces of festive fabric tied with ribbons and bows can be reused year after year. If you’re sending presents in the post they may not come back to you but might persuade others to use them next year. For your own family wrapping cloths are the perfect way to avoid a paper mountain!6. Decorations Products made from wood, metal and natural materials are less likely to break, nicer to use and normally higher quality too. We’re trying to avoid buying and giving any plastic presents this year! Plastic gifts never last, they’re normally low quality, come from far-afield and end up in a landfill before long. Most plastics are made from oil and can not be 100% recycled, plus many plastics contain chemicals which cause unknown harm.7. Materialism If it’s a material world, let’s pick the best materials! Products made from wood, metal and natural materials are less likely to break, nicer to use and normally higher quality too. We’re trying to avoid buying and giving any plastic presents this year! Plastic gifts never last, they’re normally low quality, come from far-afield and end up in a landfill before long. Most plastics are made from oil and can’t be 100% recycled, plus many plastics contain chemicals which cause unknown harm.
8. Time out Your time is so precious; it’s the best gift you can give! Personal interactions are worth far more than priceless presents. We sometimes forget, but one of the biggest issues at Christmas is loneliness. Many people, from your aged and distant relatives to the guests at your local homeless shelter, are crying out for a bit of company or conversation. Why not go and see someone you would not normally visit, pledge your time to good cause, or just make time to meet up? The feel-good factor you’ll be rewarded with will make it worth your while!
9. Champion chat Facebook’s good for finding friends but it can’t compete with real chat. Just like when England win (or come close to winning) the World Cup, Christmas can break down the barriers which alienate us from each other, and make way for all kinds of random riches. You don’t have to be that daring to start up a conversation with a stranger at Christmas, and who knows where it might end..!?!?!
10. Switch off the electricity What’s wrong with guitars and bongos… once in a while? A few hours without flashing lights and blaring music will do wonders for your soul! You know how nice it is when there’s a power cut but you’re still warm and cozy and well fed? You can create that magic feeling for free! Try turning off the TV and all the lights and appliances for just an hour or two over Christmas and you’ll soon discover the magic of candles and fire and remember what it’s like to be unplugged. Perhaps the hippies were on to something after all…