Today I read on Facebook that half the paper consumed in the U.S. is used for wrapping presents. Yes, wrapping presents. That seems crazy to me!
In actual fact it seems that in the U.S., annual rubbish from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals around 4 million tons, while the overall amount of household waste adds up to about 250 million tons. Either way, this is very depressing news, especially when you remember the devastating forest fires which swept through South East Asia earlier this year. 2.1 million hectares of forest were destroyed in one of the worst ecological disasters in living memory. We really can’t continue to obliterate our forests like this. Even if that eye-opening factoid about wasting paper isn’t accurate, it’s clear that the Christmas holidays tend to induce a particularly unrestrained and frantic bout of consumerism which has, I’m sure, a seriously detrimental effect on our planet.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel quite sick just thinking about it. All those greeting cards thrown in the bin. All the uneaten sprouts and turkey sitting in the fridge. All the electricity used to power row upon row of fairy lights.
Despite the notions of “goodwill” and “charity” that the festive season carry, people everywhere seem to get wrapped up (excuse the pun) in buying things, putting on a display, and overindulging. They forget about the wider ramifications of all this excess and gluttony. At the risk of sounding like the Grinch I really feel the need to point out the obvious hypocrisy here. I know I’m not the only one who shares this uneasy sentiment, so I’ve put together some ideas to help you enjoy Christmas in a conscientious way. Let’s embrace the original ideals of selflessness, generosity and community.
1) Wrap your presents using fabric, newspaper or recycled paper
This genius blog article has loads of ideas for avoiding the usual gift wrap trap. It might even save you some pennies too.
Eco-friendly and green gift wrapping ideas for this holiday season from The Art of Simple.I also like the very pretty range of recycled wrapping paper from Stephanie Cole Design, available from notonthehighstreet.com:
Recycled Strawberry Wrapping Paper.
2) Buy presents that have been ethically sourced
Any hippy at heart will love the clothes, bags and jewellery from Forgotten Tribes. Their goods are handmade and fair trade, and use up-cycled traditional indigenous fabrics.
Fair trade coffee also makes a nice present:
Equal Exchange Arabian Mocha Java Blend Organic Ground Coffee from the Ethical Superstore.
Or you could keep a loved one cosy and warm this winter by giving a down jacket for Christmas. If you’d prefer to shop responsibly then make sure the one you buy is durable (down jackets vary a lot in quality), that any DWR treatment is Flurocarbon free, and that the feather fill comes from happy geese. Haglofs make excellent quality jackets which meet the Responsible Down Standard: the Essens III Down Hood from Above and Beyond is perfect for climbers and mountain enthusiasts.
3) Make yummy meals from your leftovers
Don’t let all that beautiful food go to waste. Why not make bubble and squeak?
Try Nigel Slater’s classic bubble and squeak recipe
or maybe a turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwich.
4) Use candles instead of fairy lights
Personally I think there is absolutely no room for a giant flashing Reindeer made of fairy lights on your front lawn. So much electricity is wasted on tacky Christmas lights. Some tasteful candles positioned in the window or around the fireplace will look better, and save energy. You could use cinnamon and orange flavours to make the room smell nice and festive too. I like the idea of wrapping candles in actual cinnamon sticks, I wonder if you would smell them as the candle burns. Obviously be careful you don’t burn the house down if you are using candles on the tree.
5) Use the same tree every year
My mum used to use the same, real tree each year, I kid you not. We kept it in a pot in the garden when we weren’t using it, and once it got too big we planted it. Unfortunately this isn’t really a practical solution for everyone. I would advocate getting a fake tree if you can’t have a potted one, but this is only really going to be environmentally friendly if you hang onto it for many years. Which brings me to the other option, a real tree, but if you do go down that route then get one that’s FSC approved. FSC trees are grown as part of a well-managed forest, minimising the use of pesticides and protecting forest plants and animals.