How do we make Christmas better for the world?

So… I know it’s very early… but isn’t it time to start talking about how we make Christmas more sustainable?

It’s difficult to tone down the ridiculous amount of presents and food in epic proportions so we should try and help one another.

What we’re thinking is:

  1. Top tips on influencing your family to tone down Christmas impacts
  2. Excellent present ideas which you could give to your family or ask to be given to you
  3. Ways in which less waste can be created around the christmas period.

Come and give some of your thoughts so others can be helped in their journey… We’ve created a tag ‘better_christmas’ so use that if you want to make another topic.

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So a few thoughts:

Wrapping Brown paper wrapping with lovely ribbon looks great. My wife and I have been doing it for years and we save the ribbon if people don’t want to hold onto it.

Present ideas - This is always difficult, but I’m definitely going for things like:

Around making your family Christmas more sustainable. You could encourage your family onto Better Century and then have a group set up to talk about what things you could do to reduce your impact from Christmas. I see that others are suggesting creating home made crackers but that seems like quite a job!

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Thanks! If we get a lot of suggestions we’ll make ‘The Better Guide to a Sustainable Christmas’. More input would be much appreciated!

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Gifts

  • I use Furoskiki wrapping - you can buy special wrapping cloths, but I just use scarves or clothing that I cut into squares. The cloth itself is a nice little extra gift - though you’ll probably get the cloth back around your birthday!
  • I generally stopped giving cards with the gift - they often have plastic in them and are non-recyclable (though there is recycled/recyclable options out there).

Trees

  • Theres been a big push to get trees recycled, so theres a chance that your council could be sending out tree recycling bins. If there isn’t, you can usually take it down to the nearest plant recycling centre where it can be turned into compost or mulch.
  • Tree hire. Once you’re done with the tree, you return it to the garden centre where they put it back in the ground to grow another year.
  • Using a pre-existing tree and putting decorations on it. Theres an olive tree in our garden that’s now our permanent Christmas tree!

Food

  • Try to be vegan, or as vegan as possible. Theres a ton of good vegan christmas recipes on the BBC website!
  • If meat is non-negotiable, buy locally and organically to make sure the food miles and chemical footprint is as low as it could be.

Decoration

  • Avoid plastic and PVC decorations. Etsy’s not just good for gifts - theres some great wood, glass, and recycled paper decorations there.
  • If you’re artistic, you can make your own paper chains, snowflakes, and origami ornaments at home.

One slightly more out-there solution that I did personally, but might not be everyones cup of tea, is to not celebrate Christmas, but instead celebrate something else. Theres a lot of expectations tied up in the idea of Christmas, and a lot of these expectations aren’t great for the environment. Most cultures have some kind of celebration for the Solstice - I’m Punjabi, so mine was Lohri, but theres also Yule, Yalda, Soyal and many others - and the expectations are often much less tied up in consumerism.

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We have just bought silicone lids. Great idea to give them as presents.

We’re planning to make beeswax wraps. My children received some last Christmas as presents and we use them everyday in their lunch boxes. We’re planning to make some ourselves to give as presents this year.

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Great list! Have you tried the Ego Egg?

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Gifts: We’ve agreed to gift experiences not things. Any gifts we give are always practical so my kids are used to getting underwear, PJ’s and things that they actually need. I can recommend this website for a fun gift: https://www.treasuretrails.co.uk/

Wrapping: Brown paper that we had great fun stamping all over - with ink not our feet!

Food: 3 years ago my eldest went vegan and challenged me to make a vegan christmas meal. I rose to the challenge, used the Bosh book and it was epic! We’ve had vegan Christmas ever since.

Trees: We do have a plastic tree from years ago. I use ornaments passed down from my mum and don’t buy new.

Everyone knows now that this is how we do Christmas and fortunately my wider family are very similar in their views. We don’t want to be all Bah Humbug, we still enjoy Christmas as it’s a time for us to get together.

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There’s a company called House of Crackers that make eco friendly crackers for just £1.35 https://www.houseofcrackers.co.uk/crackers/emptycrackers/ecofriendlyemptycracker.html

You can fill it with homemade jokes and hats and leave out the plastic toy (it gets thrown away the next day anyway!)

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Love this! I recently moved from Canada to Spain, where the emphasis is much more on quality time with family and friends (and good food!) than on gifts. I love it, and it’s much less stressful on people too!

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This a great thread and it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas because planning ahead is probably our best chance of success!

Might be tricky with families who have kids but for our general gifting to friends and family, my husband and I are making our own hand poured candles using jars we’ve collected throughout the year. We’re making scents that are own favourites and it’s easy to make them look cute by adding a personalised tag with a bit of twine. Candles are REALLY easy to make and at least you can control how they’re made and the containers can be reused too. It’s also very cost effective at this time of year when money just seems to disappear! Making treats is a good one too. We have a grandma in Sweden who always sends the same biscuits to us each year! It’s a really nice tradition with minimal impact.

We also both hate the idea of receiving junk or stocking filler type presents that we won’t actually use or need. So for the bigger gifts we give each other, we actually create a bit of a registry with some key pieces we actually want. Mine’s usually just a folder of ‘saves’ that I’ve added on Instagram where he can select a gift or two. That way I not only get what I actually want, but I’ll always have control of whether the gift is sustainable made.

Resources like https://directory.goodonyou.eco/ are a good place to start with sustainable gifting options and brand directories!

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I am going to talk from a designers point of view about what I think my debt is to making Christmas better. In my family I already wrap in a boutique newspaper style which they love and forbid gifting over £5 (except for kids) and the rule is it comes from Charity Shops. We love it. The focus is on love and togetherness. I can’t comment on food because my mum makes it and she still caters for an army.

As a designer I think there is a lot we can do to make Christmas Waste and Commercialism seriously ‘uncool’. We are focussing on the younger generation who already are more committed to change. The media frequently use influence to help others ‘think and feel’ about a particular thing the way they intend. I don’t expect results overnight but in the work I do and everything I share socially I am pushing that point. Commercial tat and landfill is heartbreaking and outrageous. We don’t really even want the stuff.

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Yes, I have. We’ve got a load of washes out of the first fill and have now replaced and it is working very well.

We have a policy in our household that grown-ups generally don’t buy each other gifts. Of course you can make an exception to this for a special someone, but this really cuts down on the “random gift for auntie X” excess.

You may think that this sounds a bit spartan and grumpy but I can, hand on heart, say that it makes absolutely no difference to the grown-ups. In fact, my observation is that grown-ups view opening presents as an annoying distraction from the proper Christmas activities of chatting and drinking. :wink:

Kids, of course, get presents as normal but my awesome wife buys most of them from Choices, a massive secondhand clothes/toy shop near us. Ours are young enough that they really can’t tell the difference between new and secondhand.