The Christmas rush is in full flow. Last minute panic-driven shopping trips have shopping centres crowded, heaving with people spending like there’s no tomorrow, despite the doom and gloom of recession.
However green you live the rest of the year it’s easy to forget all your principles and resolutions in the madness. When do you have time to read the labels when you have a list as long as your arm and a children’s nativity play to get to in under an hour?
So how can you stay green at Christmas, when all around you are throwing money at short-lived plastic toys and yards of non-recyclable gift wrap.
Start off by taking a deep breath! Clear away that panic feeling.
Remember that Christmas isn’t supposed to be about material things. It’s about togetherness, spending time with family and friends. Gifts and all the trappings are just extras, not the be-all and end all of Christmas.
That said we all love to give gifts, so let’s go about it in a way that doesn’t break the budget, doesn’t compromise our green principles and leaves us with enough energy to enjoy the season.
Impulse shopping is the worst thing when you are trying to be both budget conscious and green. Write out a list – think up a few possibilities for each person along with the shops that would be good sources of gifts. Even better do your research online before heading out to the shops. If you are buying books, check out the reviews on Amazon first. If it’s an eco-gadget, research different makes and models. You can even compare prices online so you know exactly where to get the best deal. Knowing exactly where you are going and what you are getting halves the time spent shopping and makes you less vulnerable to the mistakes of impulse buying.
Making cards and gifts from materials you already have or are recycling is a really green way of doing Christmas. It’s even better when you have a tight budget to stretch over a large family. Making a big batch of jam, fudge, toffee, biscuits, marmalade, lemon curd, or whatever else takes your fancy can solve the problem of many gifts at once. People love home-made gifts, especially foods, so don’t feel like you are short-changing them by making rather than buying.
3. Buy online
The last week before Christmas is generally too late to have items delivered in time to go under the tree, but there are still plenty of things you can purchase online – iTunes vouchers would please many a teenager, book tokens and many other vouchers can be bought and printed off almost instantly. Instead of heading into the shopping madness on Christmas Eve, wasting time, petrol and energy, spend some time thinking of what each person would really like to buy themselves and select an appropriate voucher – make your own card to go with it to make it feel more personal and heartfelt.
4. Make a deal to restrict gifts with members of the extended family.
If you have a large extended family make a deal with the adults to limit the amount of gifts you have to buy. Some families put everyone’s name in a hat and you just buy a gift for the one person whose name you pull from the hat. That way you can afford to buy something nicer, cut down on shopping time and a lot of probably unwanted small gifts. Or agree to give gifts of under a certain value or only home-made gifts, or only food items, whatever works for your family.
5. Avoid the plastic sea of toys
Families with young children often feel overwhelmed in a sea of plastic by the end of Christmas Day. However the green the gifts you give your own children, you can’t control what others give them. You could however make suggestions to relatives who you know would like to spoil your child. Put together a list of things you’d be happy for your child to receive –such as craft materials, wooden toys, books and so on and have it ready for family to consult. Specifically ask friends not to buy plastic and then they are likely to ask for suggestions from your list. It may seem a bit control freakish, but it’s better than having the house filled up with broken plastic toys by New Year!
What other ways have you found to keep living green at Christmas?
Photo © Tatyana Chernyak | Dreamstime.com