So it begins – today was the very first day of the year that I heard the Christmas music in a store. Yes, there are crackers and Christmas puddings in supermarkets pretty much since September, but it is the cheerfully annoying music that officially starts the season on the high street.
With the help of Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough, more and more people are becoming aware of the impact of their lifestyles on the planet. I vividly remember the day after Christmas, when I used to come to a community recycling to get rid of all the wrapping paper and shiny ribbons that didn’t pass through my nan; the loyal folder and wrapping saviour.
It was only the last year when I purchased some fancy fabric ribbons and caught myself frantically detangling them and putting them on the side after every present was opened. That made me wonder; how many things that I could have possibly reused I threw away during the festivities?
To make it easier for myself, I started planning what I am going to change this year to prevent a huge wastage of packaging. Luckily, the current trend in disguising items for your loved ones is very eco-friendly and also highly trending on Pinterest. But if you are not overly crafty or simply don’t have the time, you can still do some good.
Ideally, you would save your wrapping papers, detangled all the ribbons and re-purposed all the sticky ribbons and keep them for the next year. Well let’s be realistic, that is less likely to happen. So here’s my straightforward guide to sustainable cheer:
Present wrapping – Brown paper packages tied up with string
Wrapping paper – The main rule here is to avoid the shiny, glittery plastic ones. Recycled and kraft ones tend to be an easy choice, which also gives you an opportunity to express yourself and bring the festive aesthetics to another level e.g. stamping, drawing, fancy ribbons, twines, and nametags. If you’re not a creative soul, there are plenty of other options of eco-friendly papers in some High Street shops and online such as Etsy.
Fabric – Pieces of fabric, bags, and sacks are very eco-friendly as its reusable however not my first choice due to the lack of excitement when opening presents, as well as storage, price and spoiling my joy of buying oddly shaped presents. However, might be popular for those who are not into the wrapping. Just beware of friends and relatives as they are less likely to return the packaging if too pretty.
Paper boxes – My personal favourite, as they are reusable and also became a great Christmas decoration storage opportunity for the rest of the year. They are too nice therefore less likely to be thrown away even if the gift recipient decides to keep them and they also require a minimum of time spent wrapping.
Surprisingly, the most plastic looking item; cello tape, is less likely to be the enemy. You need to choose wisely but it is easy to find biodegradable cellulose and many other tapes. If you want the easy way, go for paper tapes and washi tapes, which will contribute to the rustic look. The easiest option? Just tie your presents with a string. It requires a certain skill but you can always involve someone else to give you a hand.
Ribbons and strings
Again, simple rule – avoid the shiny plastic and glittery bits. Fabric ribbons and twine strings are also currently trending on Pinterest, where you can find plenty of inspiration for your tying.
There is no harm in buying plastic decorations or new decorations after all. Just think before you buy – do I need it? Am I going to use it next year? Can I store it? How long is it going to last? It is also good to have a think about how you can combine it with the decorations you already have. My go-to rule is Marie Kondo it a little bit and think before buy. Does it bring you joy? If you’re not 100% sure, just leave it be.
Natural decorations e.g. wreaths, garlands and all types of fancy foliage are all great as they are not harmful to the environment when disposed and tend to be cheaper or even free if you decide to make your own. If you do, you will know exactly how you'll dispose of it but if you buy, just have a little think-Does the whole thing need throwing away?
The great benefit of natural foliage and decorations such as pinecones, citrus slices, and cinnamon sticks and many others is that they will make your house smell very festive. If you go artificial, make sure you pick the right ones and store them properly to avoid throwing them away in the next few years. Swap one-use tinsels and shiny metallic bits for simple garlands made out things you can safely dispose of or even better; eat.
Presents, the real practice of mindfulness
This was the initial idea when I did my research on Christmas affecting our planet. Presents tend to be bought, with or without thought, the festive period brings many items to the stores that have excessive packaging. If you're going for a gift set – and don't get me wrong, I do love a good gift set- just have a little look at what's holding all the items at the front of the box. Is the box plastic? Can they reuse it? Would they use all the items in the set?
To avoid buying things they don’t need, think about what they are after. Who said you can’t get a pretty cardboard box, fill it up with some kraft or tissue paper and put all the items there? Trust me, it will look much more thoughtful than a pre-packed box full of plastic and it often requires only a small amount of time and effort.
Christmas Crackers Hack: This also applies to crackers. You can also buy ready kits, but It is super easy to get some wrapping paper and fill it up with a small item the person will actually use (if you’re struggling, go for chocolate), plus the cheesy joke and a paper hat. If you're a fan of the explosive effect, don’t forget to add the snaps which you can buy separately and will last you for the next year too.
Support the local
Rumour has it that supporting your local independent shops helps the economics. But more importantly, instead of paying the price which majorly covers the transport, you are paying the person who made or carefully picked the item to be sold in their store and the time and effort they have put in their business. Plus they are less likely to cover their items in piles of useless packing.
Lack of inspiration
So you’ve already been around the town, thought Marie Kondo a few times but nothing came out of it. Yes, the hunt sometimes gets quite difficult. My go-to is that if you don’t know, go for edible presents. No one ever got offended by a nice basket of food, chocolate or wine (unless they are diabetic and don’t drink). If you’re still not convinced, go for the gift of experience. This doesn’t have to be necessary packaged holidays or gin tasting-you can tailor the experience to the recipient, and do it budget-friendly.
Good luck with your present hunting