It’s finally December and although the shops have been screaming Christmas since November 1st (at least!), we’re officially in what I like to call the ‘Love Actually’ time period ( less than 5 weeks before Christmas), so I don’t feel bad for talking about this.
Team Ecologico absolutely love Christmas - but we don’t love all the unnecessary stress, waste and decadence of it all. Having had numerous conversations with friends, family and colleagues, I can see that Christmas traditions, by their very nature, are so in-grained and personal based both on our past experiences and expectations from the media that it seems almost impossible to go against the tide without feeling criticised or as if you’re ‘short-changing’ your Christmas.
When we had Squishy, and subsequently Red, we made a conscious decision to start as we meant to go on; as I mentioned before, everyone’s festivities are personal (and so they should be) but I thought the easiest way to talk about a greener Christmas was to share ours with you.
We ho-ho-hope you take something useful away from this!
For us Christmas is about presence not presents; being in the moment and enjoying festive feels. UK consumers intend to spend an average £567 each this Christmas and it's easy to understand why; the shops are filled with must-have gadgets, trending toys and everyone’s favourite seasonal novelty tat.
But did you know only 1% of consumer goods are still in use 6 months later?
Stats also suggest that 81 million presents are received each year, which averages at 3 per household in the UK...and if you ask me that's probably under reported!
As a family, we have really pared back the gift giving; our children get a few gifts from us but we certainly try to stick to some caveats:
- Pre-loved, upcycled and handmade is fine by us! Some people have a real issue with this but another part of our Christmas is a massive clear-out, so having second-hand toys reinforces the idea of us ‘giving toys to Santa to re-gift’ and also gets round an awkward explanation of why there’s no packaging!
- Long-lasting wooden toys, imagination play, books or games that can have multiple functions or users to increase their longevity are our next port of call.
- Avoid plastic wherever possible; from the gift itself to the packaging. Second-hand plastic toys would be our go-to here; Squishy really wants PJ Masks figures, and I’ve picked him up the HQ, vehicles and figures, and a dressing up costume all second-hand from social media sites. He's happy, I'm happy, the Earth is happy.
- Shop local; this isn’t just for gifts, but for this point, I wanted to highlight that we shop local to where we are; gifts may have been purchased on holiday or on days out but by not making excessive shopping trips, we’re not only supporting the local economy but reducing our carbon footprint too.
- We ask relatives to either club together for a larger gift between our children or experiences; last year a wooden playhouse, this year an annual pass to our local farm. The gift of time can't be over-stated; whether it's spending time with the children, or giving us a break(!) it's always appreciated. We will often do the same for our families and friends too vouchers for meals, theatre tickets or a spa day is a treat they wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves.
- Last year a couple of friends and family and us just had a really honest conversation about unnecessary gift-giving and decided to stop. It wasn't at all awkward and actually I think many of us were relieved to be on the same page!
- We ditched Secret Santa at work in aid of doing a hamper for families in need. I can't say I'll miss my gift and we feel good knowing we're helping a struggling family.
- We started out doing the 'Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read' which helps focus and minimise gift-giving, but if I'm honest, I personally find it a little too gimmicky and prescriptive; our kids might get two things they need and nothing to wear, or two things they want. For us, it's just about keeping things manageable in terms of cost and stuff.
- Even if you want nothing, I find saying to people when they ask 'Oh there's nothing I want' leads to unwanted and unnecessary gifts. Try to make it easy for people by having some suggestions or alternatives ready; 'There's nothing I need, but I'd love for you to babysit/your grandma's biscuit recipe/you to paint my nails.' Hopefully, that relieves gift-anxiety on all sides!
Of course the added bonus of less stuff is less stress too! ;)
Check out our forthcoming Green Christmas blog posts for more ideas, or share your tips with us!