I’m still in the depths of #NothingNewNovember, but that hasn’t slowed the relentless crawl towards Christmas.
This time of year is full of contradictions – it’s a time of enormous waste, but simultaneously one in which families stretch themselves to their financial limit. And often beyond.
So, what can we do to redress this balance?
There are lots of ways in which you can reduce the amount of waste you create this winter.
To help me do so, I’m going to begin by looking at the ‘5 Rs’ of Zero Waste:
So, how do we REFUSE this Christmas?
My large group of university friends and I have agreed not to buy one another gifts this year, and another friend and I have agreed not to buy for one another’s children. None of the people involved need anything new, so an electronic greeting will be more than enough.
And what if – for whatever reason – you can’t come to this sort of agreement with friends and family? REDUCE.
This could be as simple as starting a Secret Santa, rather than buying individual gifts for everyone in your friendship group/office. With children, we’ve had great success with the following formula for Christmas lists –
Something they WANT
Something they NEED
Something to WEAR
& Something to READ
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of buying additional ‘bits’ for stockings, on top of the above however having a specific set of perameters to aim for has helped to focus my mind considerably when shopping for gifts for my children.
Using existing toys in new ways is another way to reduce the amount of things entering the house. If you have siblings with an appropriate age gap, having the eldest gift one of thier outgrown toys to the youngest can be a great way of fostering generosity between family members.
I’ve not tried it myself, but I have heard great things about Whirli – a toy-box subscription. This sharing of resources is a great way to reduce unwanted toys in the house – when something is no longer played with, it can be returned for another child to enjoy. This looks a little costly for us, to be honest, but
And while we’re on the idea of libraries, I really love the idea of letting someone else choose my books for a set amount of time.
For adults, it might also be possible to gift a charity donation, or offer to pay a month’s fee for a subscription service they already use. Even something as simple as offering to do someone’s ironing, or bring their lunch to work for a week at a time of their choice, or gifting someone a home-cooked meal could serve as a Christmas present. Not all gifts need to be physical – our time is valuable too.
Finally, consumables are an excellent idea – especially if you know it’s something the recipient loves. These transient items take up no space in the home long-term and prove useful in day-to-day life.
And if this isn’t an option? REUSE.
Most of the gifts I’ve actually purchased this year are used items and certainly for the rest of this month, I only plan to buy used things.
There are loads of ways to get pre-loved objects – car-boot sales, charity shops and online are tried and tested methods, but organising a swap amongst friends is surprisingly easy. When I hosted a swap of children’s items, we agreed to only bring things we’d be happy to recieve as a gift and that anything left at the end would be donated to a specific place (in our case, the donations were split between the local women’s shelter and the local council’s social work department).
This is all well and good, but where does RECYCLE fit into all of this?
Well, it’s possibly to recycle items already in your house. Over the course of the year, you might have been given things that aren’t to your taste, or made purchases you now regret. These can either be traded – as above – or gifted directly.
You can also ‘recycle’ toys already in use. Lego has a variety of free building instructions on their site which you can print off. Then it’s just a matter of raking through your stash to find the relevant blocks. From the looks of things, this would work better for younger builders, but there’s nothing to stop you from building your own huge fortress, photographing it as you go, and then smashing it to form a DIY kit. As we’re swimming in Lego, inherited from my brother, this is something I plan to do for my youngest, so I’ll update you on my progress there…
Possibly the best point to make regarding recycling is that any gift wraps should be carefully considered.
Yes, most paper is recyclable, but wrapping with metalic patterns and any covered in plastic tape isn’t. Perhaps it’s possible to reuse some gift-bags from previous years, or to use cloth to wrap with – wouldn’t a lovely bar of homemade soap, wrapped in a face cloth be a great gift? Or using second-hand silk scarves instead of paper? There are loads of great tutorials online for how to do this – just search ‘Furoshiki’.
Alternatively, reusing old maps, old calendars (pictured below), old books, old magazines and newspaper, with plastic-free tape or plain string can look fantastic. Failing that, buying a new roll of brown packing paper is probably the most eco-friendly gift wrap you can get. All of these can be dressed with ribbon, drawings or evergreen trimmings.
Hopefully, you’ll have no need to ROT anything over this festive season, so instead, if you’re still considering new gifts, try to make things yourself from salvaged materials, or buy ethically and intentionally. Avoiding palm oil, choosing FSC wood products and simply not purchasing more than you need to, all make a positive impact at this time of year. This is also a great opportunity to gift items like tote bags and reusable water bottles as the recipient of these gifts might begin to make small changes in their own life.
I would love to hear your top low-waste, low-cost gifts. Why not come and share them on Twitter?