08 December 2021
Dreaming of a green Christmas…
I have the immense privilege of overseeing the Children, Youth and Family Team’s work that aims to inspire, equip and encourage children and young people to be agents of change in the world. That includes keeping in contact with a number of aspiring (and inspiring!) 8 to 17 year olds, who are activists and campaigners for eco-justice – a group we know collectively as our ‘Green Agents of Change’ .
This group includes Jamie Hawker, aged 14, who (along with his mum and dad) has recently become a published author! Changing the Climate uses Bible passages to explore how the Christian faith is relevant to environmental action and justice and how we can all play our part.
The Hawker family have offered these suggestions for a more sustainable family Christmas:
· Give and receive gifts from charity shops. You can get more presents for the same price, the money goes to a charity, and the carbon footprint (compared with new goods having to be produced) is reduced. Everybody wins!
· Reuse wrapping paper many times.
· Instead of sending Christmas cards, we email our Christmas wishes.
I am certainly no expert in living more sustainably and I am often humbled by the ingenuity and commitment of the Green Agents of Change as they seek to step lightly on the planet in many ways. However, I am doing my best to learn from these brilliant young people. In that spirit, I humbly offer some thoughts on how we can all have a greener Christmas…
Personally I love it when someone gives me a charity gift, along the lines of those available from Methodist development charity All We Can. I especially like it if these presents show that the giver has really thought about my own passions and interests (I love bees and my best friend once adopted a hive for me – I happy cried). Not everyone feels the same way though, and there’s a danger of being accused of virtue signalling – so the charitable gift might not be an option for everyone.
This year in my present buying, I am trying hard to keep sustainability at the heart of my thinking. I’m aiming to avoid novelty gifts made of single use plastic and with loads of unnecessary packaging. I am also going a step further, with gifts that will be well-received but also help to encourage sustainable living. So re-usable make-up removal pads for the teenager in my life, bamboo travel cups, re-usable water bottles, shampoo bars and fancy soap instead of plastic-bottled toiletries (I love the website www.andkeep.com for all things plastic-free). I also like to buy gifts that encourage connection with, and care for, nature – like binoculars for birdwatching, seeds or plants, an insect hotel, a bird feeder or a hedgehog house (a cautionary note when buying homes for nature – make sure they are of good quality and appropriate material or you could do more harm than good). I’ve also bought myself an early Christmas present of a ‘Beevive’ kit from www.greenandblue.co.uk, to help ailing bees I come across on my daily walk (did I mention I love bees?).
Cards and wrapping
Sadly most wrapping paper is not recyclable and there’s a danger that whole loads of recycling could be rejected and put into landfill because there is un-recyclable paper in the mix. Paper that is foiled or glittered is a big recycling no-no.
Some of my loved ones are amazingly creative when it comes to sustainable present wrapping, from hand-sewn gift bags and sari-wraps to beautifully decorated brown paper packages. If that’s your thing then I have nothing but admiration for you! I have long accepted that I am not one of those people. Last year, in a nod to sustainability, all my gifts were in plain mud-coloured paper with recipients’ names scrawled on in a silver pen. Not very festive. This year I was overjoyed to discover that the RSPB sold large rolls of ready-decorated brown paper and so this, plus bio-degradable brown tape, was my compromise!
I still like to send a few cards to the friends and family I don’t get to see very often. Again, if I had a more creative leaning I could make my own, perhaps even re-using cards sent to me the year before. Instead, I try to keep my card-sending to a minimum, buy from a charity and aim to avoid the evil glitter or foil that will poison recycling bags. You can also now purchase cards printed on paper containing seeds, which can be planted after use.
There’s a great article from BBC’s Newsround on the ‘real or fake?’ Christmas tree debate. If you have a real tree, make sure you dispose of it responsibly – a local Scout group near me offers a tree removal service. If you have a fake tree then keep it for as many years as you possibly can. The same goes for your decorations and, if you’re the crafty type as already mentioned, then consider making home-made ones. I have a cousin who sends me beautiful origami Christmas decorations every year instead of a card, a very nice touch!
Last but not least! There has been a trend in recent years towards convenience in the making of Christmas dinner – disposable roasting trays, prepared veg etc. I completely understand this need to minimise work on Christmas day so that you can spend time with loved ones, but it’s not great for the planet. My family have always made a big deal of sitting in front of the TV on Christmas Eve, prepping for dinner together. We still get quality family time but no one is alone in the kitchen on Christmas morning, putting crosses in the bottom of sprouts. My mum taught me well when it comes to using every scrap of food. For a number of years now my (rather gross but strangely satisfying) job has been to take the turkey carcass and separate out the bones from the meat (with random scraps saved for the dogs). Meat is used for turkey butties and my mum’s famous turkey and leek pie. The bones we use to make stock (see www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-make-turkey-stock) that, when paired with the leftover veg, makes the most delicious soup you will ever eat.
I hope this has helped to inspire people and I’d encourage you to share your own ideas. For even more on this subject I’d recommend www.kidsagainstplastic.co.uk and www.bigdreamslittlefootprints.org/the-gift-of-time.
Lynne Norman Children,
Youth and Family Development Officer