Celebrate imperfectly, joyfully and be proud of the small things. If you're keen to try a
more eco-friendly December, here are some ideas. Pick the ones that inspire you.
#1 | Sourcing a Christmas tree
If bringing a fresh pine home to decorate is a yearly tradition, take care to look for an FSC or
Soil Association logo on your tree. This'll tell you it's been grown responsibly and without harmful pesticides. 160,000 tonnes of old Christmas trees are thrown away each year in the UK. While trees can be used by councils for mulch, a great idea if you have space is to choose a tree with roots that you can bring into the house each year. Or, depending on where you live, it's possible to rent a tree or 'pull a pine' with the RSPB. Look it up and see. And, unless you have one already, don't buy a plastic tree! They're incredibly energy intensive to make, imported from China and can't be recycled.
#2 | Wintery decorations
If you take the time to look, you'll find some beautiful decorations can be made with
materials at home or in the countryside. Take oranges... Try drying fruit slices at the lowest
heat in your oven for a few hours and threading them to hang in the house. Scented pomanders are made by piercing an orange with clove sticks and will gently scent rooms and drawers for years to come. One idea I love is to make a wreath. You can either buy a natural wreath base or weave your own with twine and long, bendy cuttings. Decorate minimally for a modern look, perhaps just in one corner, with pine cones, leaves, berries and fir branches.
#3 | Gifts
Generosity's an important part of celebrating, and there's often the pressure to buy new gifts
for the people we love. When you consider that 3 in 5 people receive gifts they don't want,
buying gifts for the sake of it creates a lot of waste. This year, try taking a thoughtful approach, perhaps buying one quality gift that a person will enjoy and use. Is it time to break
the taboo around second-hand gifts? Think of experiences you could give, instead of stuff.
#4 | Support local businesses
From gifts to food, picking up your festive supplies from local businesses is a great way to
reinvest into your community. An amazing 4,000 tonnes of gifts are shipped from China to the UK each Christmas. Imagine what we could do if we diverted just some of this spend and supported the brave people who are out doing great stuff.
#5 | Wrapping gifts
Each year, we use an astonishing amount of wrapping paper in the UK - enough to stretch to the moon! And a lot of that paper can't be recycled. The answer is to reuse the paper you
have and to take a creative approach with your gifts. Worn-out clothes can be cut into rectangles with pinking shears and knotted over gifts in Japanese furoshiki style. A little twine and winter foliage can spruce up any box or newspaper wrapping. Or wrap a family gift in a pillow case, tied and decorated, just for the day.
#6 | Find time in nature
While the weather outside may be frightful, resist that urge to stay in and make the most of a
dry winter's day to take a walk in the countryside and enjoy the time apart. As work winds
down for holidays and the shopping and to-do list build up, it matters to remind ourselves when we can that there is space, quiet and beauty on a scale beyond the busyness of our daily lives.
#7 | Make your own
There is something wonderful about using basic materials like soy wax and essential oils to create a gift as familiar as a candle. Give yourself time to make just one gift this year. Put love and thought into it, and the person you give it to will feel that. To make a candle, melt 250g of grated or crumbled soy wax like chocolate over a pan of boiling water. Once melted, add as many drops of essential oils to the wax as you like to create your scent. Tie a candle wick to a pencil with string and suspend it across a candle mould like a jar or an old tin. Pour in the wax to about 2cm from the top and use a hair dryer to get rid of bubbles. Cut the wick and wait a day. It's ready.
#8 | Seasonal food
December is the time for hearty meals and a lot of leftovers. A simple way to reduce the impact of your meals is to cut down on meat, which is one of the biggest individual causes of global warming. Fill the majority of your plate with root vegetables which are in season - turnips, swede, sweet potato and parsnips are just some. Skip the Quality Street if you can, or any individually wrapped sweets. Opt instead for bars of chocolate in recyclable foil (metallic on both sides) and roasted chestnuts as a natural treat. Where you do give in to
temptation, or tradition, don't feel guilty. Good intentions count!
#9 | Perfect the art of doing little
During December weekends and holidays, where you can, see if you can make no plans. Be
spontaneous in the moment - read, spend time with your family, drink hot chocolate or watch a film. Time slows when we don't plan for it and that's where memories are made.
#10 | Family and community
Bringing people together is at the heart of celebration, beyond anything else. Give the gift of being present in the time you have with your family, perhaps one of the few times of year when you're all together. Listen, dedicate time and revisit what makes you close. Community matters too. Share a homemade treat with a neighbour, ask someone who might be lonely to
celebrate with you or take a day or two to volunteer with a food bank or homeless charity.
#11 | Limiting waste
Reducing the amount of single-use plastic we use takes persistence at the best of times! In December, the lack of easy alternatives to packaged supermarket food, toys, decorations and snacks at work can make you feel like giving in. Sometimes you will and that's ok. Just count the steps you're able to take, like some of the ideas in this guide. Remember to clean and recycle tin foil as many councils do recycle it, and buy in bulk or from a local zero waste shop where you can if you're serving a festive meal. There will at times be the packaged treat you can't resist or the plastic toy a child really, really wants. It happens... Tweet the brand while you're at it and challenge them on the wasteful packaging they use. It's through a combination of changing our own habits and putting pressure on companies that we'll make a change to reduce waste.
#12 | A New Year's beach clean
A New Year's Day walk is something I love, on the coastline, walking along in the cold with my family. It's a refresh at the end of the festive season and a start to a new year in the world - working, caring for and enjoying all that matters to you. This New Year's Day, bring a bag with you and pick up the litter you find wherever you go, whether it's a beach, woodland or the hills. Cleaning the natural spaces we love may be a small act, but it's one of intention
and a hands-on way to help and reflect.
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