Dreaming of a greener, happier Christmas

It’s Christmas…really…?

What a year it has been. How could we have known as we sat around the table last Christmas, chopping into our Brussel Sprouts and roast potatoes, what lay ahead of us…

Yes, it has been a year like no other and many of us are now feeling a little worse for wear! But this is not a place for dwelling on a subject that has been flooding our TV screens for the past 10 months. Christmas is upon us once again and it brings with it an opportunity to catch a bit of down time and to find an appreciation for the things we can control. And some space and time for one another.

Like alot of us (but not all), I love Christmas. I have my own fond memories of asking my mum to please, please, get the christmas tree up earlier this year. Decorating the tree was where I felt I came into my own (I banned tinsel in 1988).

Each year I tried to take over the process until I realised (again) that this was an annual event that the whole family should enjoy and it wasn’t about the perfect tree, but about that battered looking angel that has been atop each christmas tree since our very first christmas tree went up. So, although she didn’t quite suit my ‘theme’, that funny looking angel would make her way to her rightful position, looking down on us with her wonky eyes and her crooked silver wand.

Because Christmas is about tradition. And family. It is a time that I always felt that everyone seemed happy, and everyone was where they should be.

This year, as many of us face into a Christmas without some of our loved ones and a dinner table that might be that much smaller, I believe it is now, more than ever, that we must appreciate the smaller things. The important, real life things that we have taken for granted for so many years before.

There has been so much talk this year about excessive consumerism, as people started to realise that when they could buy less, they could manage just fine without so much stuff. There was a renewed focus on the amount of waste we generate every year buy buying things we don’t really need.

Many of us made a commitment to having a simpler Christmas this year and whether or not that is borne out in reality, I believe that there has been a shift in attitude towards more sustainable and less wasteful Christmas traditions and products.

Here are a few ideas that we things are a good place to start:

A Live Tree

There have been many debates over the years about whether a real or artificial tree ifs better for our environment. On the one hand, an artificial tree is made from plastic and usually shipped from the other side of the world  – not very environmentally friendly. On the other hand, people would argue, it will be re-used year after year. Having always personally been a fan of a real tree, if you are like me, there are a few things you can do to minimise it’s impact on the environment. Can you buy a tree in a pot? Woodies normally sell these ( I think I spotted them in Lidl too) and although they are usually much smaller than the traditional tree we are used to, these can be replanted (get advice from your garden centre) and can be used again next year.

Buy Local

Never has there been a year where this has been more important. As lockdowns curtailed our shopping trips this year, we have become more aware of the importance of buying local, or at least, buying Irish.

So many of the gifts we give at Christmas are shipped all the way across the world, creating tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the process. They very often arrive with endless packaging also. But apart from the environmental impact, we also want to encourage people to support their own local economy. Up to €4.65 billion will be spent by Irish consumers during the Christmas period, based on research by Retail Ireland. How much of a difference would this make to local businesses and the local economy?

Decorate simple

We wouldn’t dare suggest that you go without lights on your Christmas tree (too much, too soon), but perhaps think about the amount of extra ‘festive’ lighting you use around this time of year.

We have all seen the sparkley light-adorned houses across our cities (and they look great of course!), but I think we should try to look at the bigger picture now and take it back a notch! Less lights are hardly less festive? Solar LED lights are also a big way to save by ultimately contributing to less gas and oil being burned, as LEDs use just a fraction of the energy of other bulbs. These lights (pictured) can be used to adorn anything from your Christmas dinner table to a doorframe.

Christmas decorations have become so cheap to buy, that it is tempting to buy new ones each year. We would urge you to try to save what you can each year and pack then away safely for re-use next year.

Consider your wrapping

It’s where we see a massive amount of waste this time of year. It’s frustrating to see so much paper and cardboard being tossed aside for just a minute of glory.

It’s difficult to avoid packaging, but perhaps consider re-usable bags as an alternative to wrapping paper. What about placing Santa’s presents in a large bag under the tree?

Individual gifts for loved ones can be creatively presented in other ways without the glitzy paper. In particular, the hard-to-reuse metallic, glossy wrapping paper is quite wasteful, so why not go for the plain paper wrapping which can be recycled easily. You can find loads of cute ways to decorate on Pintrest and Youtube.

You can also consider furoshiki (the art of wrapping in fabric) and making the wrapping part of the gift, such as using a tin or scarf. Find other ideas for zero waste gift wrapping here.

How much presence has your present?

How much joy do you honestly get from every present you receive? This is always a difficult one because, after all, Christmas has become synonymous with giving. And there certainly is noting wrong with that! But, we all know that most (okay, a lot) of the presents we receive are not really something we wanted or needed. Equally, very often, we buy presents for people just to tick a box (‘I better get her something small, in case she gets me something!’).

Thinking about this logically, it’s probably a little bit bonkers! Everyone going around, panic buying presents for people that probably don’t really want them (and will discard them shortly after). Now, I’m no Bah Humbug, but surely there is a better way of showing people we care?

Perhaps we could come to agreements with friends and family, not to exchange gifts, or perhaps out a small cap on the amount spent. I’m sure most people will be happy to spend less.

Reusing and Re-gifting

When we were kids, I hated my mother’s approach to this! In comes a lovely box of chocolates (hopefully Roses or Quality Street) and we watch her tuck it away in the press for re-gifting to a neighbour who may call unexpectedly. But, she wasn’t completely daft. And where it doesn’t work for every scenario, it still is a good idea (as long as the original gifter hasn’t popped the card inside the wrapping paper!).

What about all those toys…

…and gadgets and games bought every Christmas and sometimes only played with for a day? I say, scoop up the ‘less popular’ ones and put them away safely. They will come in very handy for a gift next year. Small kids will not miss the fact that the doll they received should have come in a box! If you do it straight away, there is less clutter around the house and the items will still be clean and practically new. A game of Monopoly doesn’t date.

And please remember, that there are hundreds of charities that would welcome every toy you can give.

The main thing we would like to impress upon our readers this year, is to try to simply purchase less stuff. One toy instead of three. A restaurant or cinema voucher instead of a pair of earrings that may never be worn. Less decorations from Pennys and more candles scattered around the house.

This year, lets make Christmas be about what it should be. Family. Friends. People. Memories.

Happy Christmas everyone, from the Wasted.ie Team!


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