by Anna Dyet
Somehow we are fast approaching Christmas 2020. I don't have a clue where this year has gone but I'm hoping a spot of festive planning will provide some much needed relief to the stresses that accompanied lockdown mark I and II. My first Festive Planning task is to write an article about Festive Planning - I’m hoping the process itself will get me in the Christmas spirit!
With the constant, depressing reminders of how our economy is at an all time low, alongside the need to make environmentally conscious choices, it has never been more important to consider how and where we invest our time and money this Christmas. It is also important to acknowledge that whilst Christmas is joyful and merry for some, it can be very hard on others. Financial pressures and inequalities are often exacerbated by expectations of gifts and celebrations whilst furlough and redundancies in 2020 will mean an even greater strain on families. To help combat some of these pressures this article aims to provide some ethical and sustainable suggestions that I'll be trying out when planning, buying, making and baking this Christmas.
1. GIFT GIVING
There is no getting away from the fact that one of the biggest elements of Christmas is receiving and giving gifts. I personally love spending the months before Christmas planning exactly what I will get each of my family and friends with elaborate notes pages on my phone. The chances are that even before there is a tree to put them under my presents will be ready and wrapped. I then take it upon myself to wrap everyone else's gifts for others, which is a win-win as I love doing it whilst grooving to some Christmas music with a Baileys in hand.
'...sometimes the idea of having lots of gifts under the tree becomes more important than what the actual gifts are.'
The danger here is sometimes the idea of having lots of gifts under the tree becomes more important than what the actual gifts are. I'm sure we have all bought joke/junk/filler gifts for people before so that they have more to open, but more often than not these ‘filler’ presents are entertaining on the day, gather dust for the next year, and are then donated or binned shortly afterwards. So the first message I would like to get across to you is: ‘be mindful when buying gifts’. If you feel a gift is just for the sake of having something to give, then is it really worth it? This year my family is going for a Secret Santa approach, ensuring everyone gets one big present they know they will love.
2. GIFT BUYING
In addition to streamlining consumption for Christmas, it is also important to consider which businesses we support when buying our gifts. Do their values align with yours, are they making a conscious effort to protect the environment and will your custom benefit hard-working small business owners or increase the wealth of millionaires? At this time, small local businesses are really struggling with loss of footfall and they need our help to stay afloat! So when your lockdown eases and the shops reopen why not take the time to have a look at what they have to offer. It will make such a difference buying from them instead of the devil that is Amazon (it's no secret we don't like Amazon here at imprint, click through to one of our previous articles to find out why.)
Buying vouchers from local businesses (or talented friends!) is also a great way to provide support. These could include vouchers for products, experiences, pamper sessions, hair cuts, tattoos or piercings; the list is endless.
Along with local shops, there are also a multitude of small ethical and sustainable businesses online that are well worth perusing. Yes, you may not receive your item 'the same day', but the slight price difference is well worth it to receive a good quality item that is made with care, as well as the warm feeling that you are supporting an individual with their passion project. So if you’ve managed to save money in lockdown by avoiding pubs, clubs and other festive activities that would usually fill our November and December evenings, then why not invest a little more into ethically sourced gifts?
Some businesses that I love and am hoping to buy as Christmas presents this year are: (I hope no one I'm getting presents for is reading this…!)
Pela is a company I am obsessed with for its ethics and its products. They were one of the first companies I saw to do biodegradable phone cases, and I absolutely love them. They have amazing designs and are also super protective; even keeping my poor phone safe in my clumsy hands. Furthermore, over this last year they have been doing lots of BOGOF offers in order to remind people to wash and sanitize their phone cases throughout the pandemic, and they currently have 50% off. Lastly, they have a weekly newsletter that is one of my favourites for sustainable tricks and hacks.
I recently came across Broken Wave Jewellery on Instagram and absolutely love it. They repurpose small fragments of sea glass they find on the beach into beautiful sterling silver jewellery. I love seeing the pieces on their instagram stories which follow the shells from lying on the beach right up until they’re in necklaces or rings. Also shout out to the team behind the Instagram page who are super helpful, quick to reply and very accommodating.
I heard about Planted skincare through a friend who knows the female founder, and as someone who is obsessed with skin care products and ingredients (a result of working at Lush), I have been excited by all the products I’ve seen. I love the in-depth blog explaining the benefits of all the ingredients on the website and already have many of the products firmly noted on my Christmas list.
I can't talk about sustainable companies and not mention Lush, especially as a Lush employee. Though not a particularly small company anymore, Lush deserves a spot on this list as they were the pioneer for so many genius eco-friendly ideas such as the shampoo bar. So much more than the 'bath bomb store', Lush has a packaging free option for almost everything in the shop, they support so many worthwhile causes and make sure that everyone along the supply chain is fairly paid for their work and products. If you haven't tried one of their shampoo bars before, I couldn't recommend them enough.
This was another page I came across on Instagram and I find myself wanting everything they make. From amazing pieces using resin and pressed flowers, to stunning eco-friendly jewellery, it’s a beautiful page full of sustainable ideas and inspirations and is definitely worth a view.
Zovina Maria's page on Etsy has the most beautiful prints. Her art is playful, childlike and magical, and would make an amazing gift, so I would definitely recommend having a browse there too.
Lastly, we have some exciting news from the imprint team this week! We have decided to join Patreon in order to grow our magazine and reach a wider audience. If you enjoy our content and want to support us in our mission of helping people consider their imprint on the world, then why not gift someone you love an imprint Patreon membership? As well as our weekly articles and social media content which will remain accessible to all, subscribers will receive our much-loved weekly newsletter, as well as a 100% eco welcome pack and additional exclusive content. For more information check out our Patreon page or the Support Us page of our website.
3. GIFT MAKING
The last aspect of gift giving I want to touch on is my favourite - homemade gifts! Far from a cop-out, homemade gifts are often the most thoughtful and touching presents and a welcome idea for those under financial pressures this year, or simply those that are ‘bored in the house and in the house bored’. With so many options such as making a photo album or a scrapbook for someone, putting together a pamper hamper of lots of little bits, knitting something or making jewellery, there are endless possibilities for all you lockdown entrepreneurs. A fun idea I saw recently is making custom candles and soaps by melting together previously left over parts into funky new ones.
Also definitely worth a mention are these slippers (left) that my mum made out of one her old jumpers, an upcycle that always makes me smile.
As well as gift giving, wrapping, packaging and decorations are other potentially wasteful aspects of Christmas festivities. From single-use wrapping paper (used in such excess that it has been said Brits alone could circle the Earth 9 times) to the non-biodegradable excess of glitter, there are a lot of practices we can reconsider. To help you out, here are some alternative solutions and also some fun activities for those long lockdown evenings.
Sustainable alternatives for gift wrapping couldn't be more simple. First off, swap out those plastic film, non-recyclable rolls of wrapping paper for recyclable alternatives such as brown paper or even old newspapers. Not only does this reduce the amount of landfill you create, but with a bit of string and cute name tags, you’ll also leave your tree looking super rustic. With leading retailers such as Morrisons, Waitrose and John Lewis taking eco-friendly actions in their non-glitter packaging this year, it should be even easier to find eco-friendly solutions to your Christmas wrapping.
Salvaging used wrapping paper is also a great tip that we swear by in my family. My mum has been doing it so long that we have reached the point where each present has almost the entire family's names written and crossed out. A friend also told me that her mum uses the torn up wrapping paper each year to re-package the more delicate baubles and decorations once Christmas is over, which is also a fab idea. So there you are, there are a million alternatives to simply buying and throwing away new wrapping paper rolls each year.
Lastly, and again a classic lush employee suggestion for gift wrapping, I’ve got to mention Furoshiki. This Japanese approach to gift wrapping is genius as it uses the wrapping as a gift in itself. Using cloth, scarves or lovely bits of fabric, gifts are wrapped in a variety of imaginative ways. Lush have adopted this method in their stores, and famed sustainable dungaree brand Lucy and Yak use a similar approach. There are millions of tutorials on YouTube about this fantastic technique. Again you can count on Etsy to find some beautiful materials, or even consider reviving an old bed sheet!
Buying Christmas cards provides yet another opportunity to support individual business' such as Lilla Du Studio on Etsy, or alternatively is another opportunity to get crafty. Again my mum, who has clearly influenced my interest in sustainability, has always kept the Christmas cards she receives so when it comes to Christmas time again, she can make new ones in fun collages - that is when I haven't stolen her box of cards of Christmas past to make some of my own! I also have to mention a fab idea from Kezia (imprint's founder) who said that she also cuts out the best bits of all her previous Christmas cards, but instead uses them as labels for next year’s gifts. Other methods such as lino printing, nature collage and painting are also fun ideas for card making.
'Christmas crackers, though a fun tradition, are a huge culprit for plastic nic-nacs that are thrown away immediately.'
Moving on to decorations, here are just a few more tips and fun ideas that won't be filling up landfills and making their way into our oceans. Firstly, Christmas crackers, though a fun tradition, are a huge culprit for plastic nic-nacs that are thrown away immediately. This year, why not try looking for alternative and eco-friendly options? Again, Etsy (you would think I had a commission!) has a huge variety of crackers, from paper based and recyclable ones, to reusables made from Christmassy fabrics. Or if you're feeling artsy, why not try and make some of your own using toilet roll inserts with sweets hidden inside?
Most Christmas decorations such as tree decorations and baubles are re-used for multiple years meaning there is no need to change them or buy new ones, which is great for reducing consumption. But if you are a student looking to make your shared house cosy with Christmas cheer, or like me are moving into a new house, there are again eco-choices to be made. For our tree this year, I'm excited to make a lot of our decorations and a wreath using a few of the following ideas:
For this you essentially thinly slice up an orange, pop it in the oven on a very low heat for a few hours and thread it onto a piece of yarn or string using a sewing needle. You can also add dried rosemary and cinnamon sticks for a lovely look and fragrance. Furthermore, these orange slices can be used as hanging single decorations, table décor for Christmas lunch or even tied around gifts with string.
To accompany the orange slice garlands, I’m going to make some salt dough decorations. I have seen a few designs that I love, and think I will use some angel and star shaped cookie cutters to help me create them. Here is a website explaining how to make and bake salt dough, which is a super easy creation using only flour, salt and water (and paint if you wish). This website also has some super cute ideas of patterns and shapes you can create from the dough such as using woolly textures to print onto it, or pen lids to create flower or snowflake effects.
'this is yet another opportunity to buy from (...) Etsy or a business locally, instead of obtaining decorations from Amazon or other supermarkets.'
Finally, I want to add some glass and wooden decorations to the tree, make a wreath, and use biodegradable table confetti. I have lots of old ribbons and plan to go on some winter walks to find some foliage and everything else I need to make a wreath. After scrolling on Pinterest and Etsy for a while I have found some designs to copy, but again if time or interest in making these decorations isn't something you posses, then this is yet another opportunity to buy from a family or friends, on Etsy or a business locally, instead of obtaining decorations from Amazon or other supermarkets.
4. FOOD SHOPPING
So last but by no means least, another topic to consider when planning Christmas is food. As one of the most anticipated aspects of Christmas day, festive food has people drooling all year round. Despite all the time and care poured into it, we often forget to be mindful about what we consume. Unsurprisingly, we buy a lot more food over the Christmas period and have a much higher percentage of environmentally-costly meat consumption and food waste. So my advice for this year is to try and be mindful of what you are buying, where it is sourced and how it is packaged. Many people choose to support local butchers and bakers for their Christmas culinary choices which is amazing, and there are many zero waste shops that can provide you with all sorts of other items to meet your Christmas needs.
'...this Christmas could be the perfect time to try a few new planet-friendly recipes.'
Additionally, it is unrealistic to consider that everyone will be having a vegetarian or plant-based Christmas, but there is a definite tide of people being more open to try and reduce their consumption of meat. That means this Christmas could be the perfect time to try a few new planet-friendly recipes. Whilst pigs in blankets and meat stuffing are usually staples at the Christmas table, why not try substituting or adding a few vegetarian side dishes, such as cauliflower cheese or sage and onion stuffing? This year I will be trying to make a nut roast for Christmas for the first time and am very excited - so if anyone has a tried-and-tested recipe I would be very grateful if you sent it in to imprint for me to copy!
Lastly, whilst we’re on the subject of all things Christmas food-related, I would also like to add that it would be amazing, if people had the resources to do so, to make donations to food banks this Christmas. As a result of Covid, food banks are struggling even more than usual to be able to help those in need of their food packages this year. This is due to a variety of reasons, one of the main ones being that due to unemployment rates skyrocketing and uncertainty around furlough money, there are many more individuals turning to food banks for help. Additionally, there are fewer donations entering the food banks as organisations, churches and schools are taking less donations due to the pandemic. And lastly, due to restrictions, all food donations have to be delivered rather than collected, which means that less donations are able to be delivered daily, especially as many volunteers are in the vulnerable categories. These are just a few of the difficulties being faced by food banks, and therefore it is even more important than usual to donate non-perishable food items if you are able to. Various food banks accept different items, and it is worth a quick google to find out what you can donate, and where, in your local area.
In conclusion, the reminders in this article are things we should always be aiming for regardless of the time of year in service of the planet. However, this year has already been shaken up so much, we have had to re-evaluate so many of our day to day actions, and have even had many uncertainties of how Christmas may unfold due to the current restrictions. I’m trying to see this as a positive though: the extra time we’re gleaned when we normally might be going to Christmas Markets or light-switch-ons can be used to focus on making changes to our Christmas traditions and introducing some new environmentally friendly ways to celebrate. So get crafty, spend some time browsing alternatives to Amazon, and enjoy the extra-warm feeling you’ll get when you combine your Christmas spirit with a focus on what is best for our planet!
Anna is working for Lush before starting a masters course in Sustainable Development later this year. Sun, sea, conservation and arts and crafts are her other main interests, and she has spent lockdown completing online courses in sustainability, sunbathing and wild swimming, and making and selling handmade earrings. Read Anna's previous article on sustainable skincare and beauty here.