Thursday, 11 November 2010

Ding Dong Definitely Don't Buy

Well, the holiday season is almost upon us. It's nearly time to drag the tree (complete with a bonus 12 months-worth of dust) out of the loft and to listen to the delightful chorus of... your significant other and your dad cursing between one another, as they search in vain for the faulty bulb in the fairy lights which is preventing them from switching on. I suspect that the cynics amongst you will say 'But Erica, there's another month to go until we can experience those simple joys!' On the contrary my friends; now is precisely the time to start thinking creatively about Christmas.

Did you know that every single Boxing Day, us Brits throw away an estimated 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper, and that 1 billion of those cards that you carefully picked out and hand-wrote end up in the bin? Yes, that's right. Your auntie Sue threw away your carefully chosen holographic, so-shiny-its-seizure-inducing Christmas card practically as soon as it came through her letterbox. Collectively, we produce an estimated 3 million tonnes of waste over the holidays. But there is a better way! There are a number of ways you can keep Christmas fun (in fact, make it even more fun) and make it healthier for the environment (as well as your pocket). All it requires is a bit of creativity. So, here are three fun, eco-friendly solutions to your Christmas woes.

1. Handmade Christmas
The Objective: Make your Christmas presents from scratch. You could paint a picture for a friend who's just moved house, or knit an iPod cozy for your significant other. If you think creatively about what your loved ones might want, you can get their present just right. You can also make your gifts out of recycled materials, such as a patchwork quilt constructed from much-loved but now too-worn to wear t-shirts. Handmade Christmas is the best way to give your friends and family something unique, personal and made just for them! What could be more heart-warming and Christmassy than that?

Pros: Making things is fun and the gift you give will be totally one-of-a-kind.
Cons: It takes TIME, so start thinking and then get crafty ASAP!

2. Charity Christmas
The Objective: All gifts bought must come from a charity shop. Ideally there should be some sort of price limit set (£5 per gift is usually about right), but how you set that is up to you. In my family, my mom gives a prize-present for the best (most funny, perfect or unique) gift given. When she let slip that this year's prize was going to be a goat I dimly asked “Ooh, could we have chickens instead? Free free-range eggs!”. It turns out that she meant a goat to be given to an African family, which is much more fitting for Christmas which is, after all, about caring for each other.

Pros: The money you spend will go to charity, it will cost you less and requires ingenuity.
Cons: Charity Christmas is becoming more and more popular, so make sure you start browsing early. You don't want to start looking on Christmas Eve when all of the good stuff will already be sitting, wrapped, under someone else's tree.

3. Recycled Christmas
The Objective: All gift-wrapping must be done with creatively collected recycled (and preferably recyclable) materials. I don't mean buying new rolls of paper made from recycled material, I mean ribbon made from pairs of laddered tights or newspaper upon which you've stamped, drawn or painted a pretty, festive design. It doesn't matter if the wrapping doesn't sit flush or isn't immaculately folded; you can really get creative with wrapping presents this way and your household clutter will be getting a final hurrah. All in all, you will lose far less waste and gain a free-reign to get creative this Christmas.

Pros: You're creating less rubbish and having more fun with your gift-wrapping (and opening)!
Cons: Make sure you don't go cutting up your mom's curtains for ribbon; she won't thank you for that.

It seems that every year there is an increasing number of people bemoaning the degeneration of Christmas. Along with the festive joy there is a feeling of sadness, that it has become something only worthy of celebration for those in the retail industry. Richard Wilkinson, co-author of the book 'The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better' thinks that materialism is not about the gifts that we buy and give, but more about what those things say about us to the person receiving. Wilkinson explains that “It's not material self-interest, it's that we're so sensitive. We experience ourselves through each other's eyes - and that's the reason for the labels and the clothes and the cars”. The fact is that those who love you don't care how much money you have to spend on their gift; what matters to them is what that gift means. Handmade, Charity and Recycled Christmas are all things which bring Christmas back to the people; where we can stop frivolously spending and consuming (often beyond our means) and really show our loved-ones how much they mean to us.


“Cutting Down on Christmas Waste”:

“Throwing Away Christmas Rubbish will cost 78m”:

“Equality and the Good Life: Interview with Richard Wilkinson”

Take Action! (Here's some inspiration to get you started):
“A Community for Crafts and DIY Projects”

“Sew, cast, carve, solder, sketch, cut, go!”

“Recycle Now: Furoshiki Japanese Wrapping”

Erica Bromage

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