Plastic-free Me: Have a crinkle-free Christmas!

I love blogging, I really do, but you may have noticed that my pace has slowed over the last week or two. This is because the time I use for writing is stolen time i.e. I ignore a few chores to spend quality time with my laptop! Suddenly though (and I’m not happy about this at all!) my chore list has grown dramatically and my blog time has decreased in direct proportion because…Christmas is approaching…

Now I adore Christmas, and this year is the best yet as my kids understand what’s happening, are getting excited and have lots of activities that they just can’t wait for. It’s infectious and I am currently in the midst of a joyous household!

I am not going to go off topic by expanding on the negative issues I have with Christmas – and I have plenty. I will hint at these by listing the following: consumption, excess, inequality, waste, environmental impact, lost meaning. There’s a blog post calling out for me to write it one day!

Today’s post however is about Christmas and single-use plastics. Catchy, don’t you think?!

Until last week I had not linked Christmas directly with plastic but since breaking open the plastic bin bags in the attic to release our plastic tree and plastic decorations, I am realising that the evil stuff is everywhere!

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I swithered over whether to put a festive post on this blogging series. Plastic Free July, after all, is almost as far away from Christmas in the calendar as it could be. However, I felt it could only be a good thing to be mindful of the plastics that are linked to gifts and celebrations. Also, any plastics that I avoid now will, of course, impact positively on the environment, even if it’s just ever so slightly!

I will highlight a few areas that I can concentrate on to reduce my single-use plastic consumption at Christmas time. Admittedly, I have failed on some of these already… but it’s all learning, right?

Give charity or ‘experience’ gifts
Over the years I have received (and probably given!) many gifts that I haven’t needed and didn’t appreciate. In this time of economic uncertainty and social inequality, I don’t feel that wasted gifts are acceptable.

With that in mind, I have cut deals with quite a few of the people close to me that instead of physical presents we make charity donations or skip gifts altogether. This is no hardship for any of us – it saves time and stress as well as redirecting resources to those who need them.

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For those I do give something to, I will consider gifting an experience – something I know that they will enjoy such as a meal out or a trip to the theatre.

No waste, no single-use plastics!

Take control over the gifts you receive
A tradition started a few years ago in my family that those of us with small children would buy presents for them and then wrap and label them…from each other! I admit I feel a small amount of guilt that this arrangement perhaps falls outwith the spirit of Christmas, but it makes Christmas shopping SO MUCH easier as everyone knows exactly what their own kids will love. There is no waste and, for me, now it can mean no single-use plastics!

Make your own gifts
This is not for me, I am time poor and lacking in artistic creativity, but I would be absolutely delighted to receive a present that someone else had taken the time to make for me. If you are interested in making gifts, please do take a look at this hugely inspiring blog, My Make & Mend Year by Jen, which has lots of ideas for gorgeous, home-made and professional-looking presents. Many of these are plastic-free.

E-cards, making cards or no cards at all
I once suggested in my office at the time, that those who didn’t want to spend an evening writing Christmas cards to all 40 members of staff, pinned a collective festive message to the shared noticeboard and donated the money saved to charity. I thought it was a great idea, but it rather divided the office! It seems that some people really do value the ritual of giving cards, even to those they see daily, and I learned to respect that.

Nowadays I send about fifty Christmas cards. That can mean a lot of single-use plastic, if you buy the typical packets which are either large plastic envelopes, holding about 10 cards each or the bigger boxes, which can be made entirely of the stuff.

There is of course the option of making cards and I have received some gorgeous hand-made creations over the years. This allows single-use plastics to be at least reduced and possibly avoided altogether. Perhaps in my future, the kids and I will attempt this when scissors are no longer a weapon and glue has a chance of landing on its target, but for now I need an alternative.

E-cards seem to be growing in popularity. Personally I haven’t used these but they are easy to search for online and many charities also provide them.

I bought mine today in Oxfam and they seem to be completely plastic free.

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Be inventive with wrapping
Even wrapping paper comes wrapped these days! In plastic, of course…

Alternatives can include saving wrapping paper or gift-bags to re-use, using newspaper, or other paper you have at home, for example, we got a lot of paper with an item of furniture, which had been used to protect it in transit.

Check out this post by Zoe at EcoThrifty where she recycles fabric for wrapping gifts. This is a great blog – Zoe is working toward Plastic Free July as well as a number of other commendable eco challenges. Plus she posts very regularly which I always appreciate as a reader!

Make or buy reusable crackers
Crackers are another Christmas purchase that are usually swathed in plastic.

I found a tutorial on how to make your own crackers here and I noticed that you can buy a kit from Oxfam shops that seems to be made entirely of cardboard.

You can even buy reusable crackers from Onya bags here.

Don’t consume extras that aren’t necessary
This is an obvious tip. If you don’t actually need something that is plastic or packaged in plastic, don’t buy it! It’s so tempting during the festive season to buy little extras, especially when they are so pretty and excitement is mounting but, resist – save resources, your own and those of the planet.

Festive Greetings!

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10 thoughts on “Plastic-free Me: Have a crinkle-free Christmas!

    • Thank you. I think at this time of year I can be guilty of panicking about the number of thing’s I’ve to do in limited time and good intentions risk being thrown out of the window!

  1. Excellent post. However when talking about taking control of the gifts you receive I do think you have missed an obvious one. Okay, again, people may think it is outside the spirit of giving but we have always produced “Wish Lists” around September/October (depending on how organised my mum is in asking for them.) we each write a list of what we would like for Christmas which goes to my mum. She is then the go-to when we want to buy something for someone else. I can say “what does sis want?” And she will tell me what’s on the list (that she hasn’t already bought yet!) Hubby thought this was so rude when I first met him but now he realises it’s so much easier this way. For the giver you don’t have to spend forever trying to find the perfect gift and for the recipient you don’t have to fake a smile then feel guilty about giving away an inappropriate present a couple of weeks after Christmas.

    For wrapping paper I used to buy a big roll of brown paper then use stamps to decorate it either for a birthday or Christmas, the tie it with ribbon. Saves buying different boy/girl/birthday/wedding/Christmas paper and therefore reduces consumption slightly. I have seemed to have stopped doing that lately. I wonder why?

    • You’re right I missed it! I think it’s because we’ve now dispensed with adult family gifts so I didn’t think about it. Also, I’m with your hubby in that I think it’s a bit rude too (!) BUT I agree that in terms of reducing waste, it’s excellent.

      The big roll of brown paper is a great idea – you seem to get lots on a roll and it’s lovely to add the personal touch 🙂

      • Do you know I’d never actually thought of it as rude as it’s something we have always done.

        Well done for dispensing the adult gift. We did with my sister and brother in law a few years ago (mostly due to financial reasons) but I’m not sure I could stop all presents. It does make sense though. X

      • Many families do the Christmas ‘wish list’ thing I think so in many ways it’s not rude! I’ve just had times where I’ve been trying to think of a thoughtful gift to give someone and then had a ‘demand’ made of me! As long as everyone’s on board it’s a great way of making sure no resources are wasted 🙂

  2. We always reuse the wrapping paper the following year if possible buti absolutely love to receive items wrapped in fabric. As a quilter, I can always find another use for tha!

  3. On the subject of e-cards, I’d rather receive no card than an e-card. To me, they smack of ‘can’t be bothered’. But perhaps that’s just me …. I’m the sort of person who sends cards to only those elderly relatives who’ll be heartbroken if the don’t receive one.

    An excellent post though, as Christmas is a time where pressure pushes us to buy things we’d normally think through so much more carefully. I suppose the key is planning in advance, something I’m terminally bad at. In my dreams I start making delightful home made gift many months in advance. The reality makes me quite ashamed.

    • I agree with you about e-cards. I think they can be more work for the recipient than the giver plus I remember opening one at work and suddenly the volume increased, making me look less than professional….

      Also, I’d planned to make cards back in September but with young children at home and a blog I wanted to devote more time to in the evenings I decided that (badly) made cards weren’t a priority!

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