ZERO WASTE + ECO CHRISTMAS SWAPS

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For me Christmas is about getting back in touch with nature, taking time to look after ourselves and appreciate time spent together with friends and family. Peace and mindfulness are what I hope for and are often found whilst gazing into the dancing flames of a log fire. It’s a time for rest, rituals and restoration.

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-19-05-11Oh and food, lots of wonderful, locally sourced, seasonal + organic food! Mince pie anyone? Which reminds me, here’s my homemade mince pie recipe, courtesy of my Mother.

I wonder if it’s the act of bringing a living tree into the home that makes me associate Christmas with nature. My mother would decorate pictures hanging on the walls of our home with sprigs of holly and my Dad would hang mistletoe above our living room doorway. A wreath would welcome guests at the front door. Together with the smell of crackling wood smoke from our hearth and some tasty morsels in the oven, it’s fair to say that Christmas is also very much about scent…. it’s scent-imental… Moving on……

Since living more mindfully, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I have done in recent years for Christmas that align more with a zero waste lifestyle. I love Christmas so instead of giving up many of the traditions I grew up with and remain fond of, I have found more eco friendly alternatives to keep them alive!

 

TREE

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-19-13-08I love a real tree. Always have. The smell gets me everytime! And the idea of adorning a giant piece of plastic with more plastic, just doesn’t do it for me. I have fond memories of our house rabbit running excitedly around the Christmas tree every year it arrived, nibbling at the lower branches and tucking himself behind it. He hated going outside, so this was his idea of heaven… nature, inside… on carpet!

Last year I was torn between the idea of renting a tree or getting a live one which arrives in a pot and can continue to grow each year. Seeing as we have a balcony, I went for the potted tree, hoping it would encourage me to be a little more green fingered! And I’m so pleased I did!


Over the summer, I loved sitting next to the tree each morning, with my cup of organic coffee, taking in the morning sun and the incredible pine scent that appeared. I loved watching the shoots sprout out of each branch and I may have used the tree as a sounding board for my morning musings and general thoughts. I kept hugging to a minimum though…. Didn’t want the neighbours to get the wrong idea.

The tree came from the Christmas Forest, a local company in London that sells trees (potted and cut) that have been grown sustainably, with a nine year harvest cycle meaning surrounding wildlife can also thrive. This slow-grow approach means the trees respond better to non-chemical treatments too!

 

DECORATIONS

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-18-58-51Most of my tree decorations are now homemade. I ditched the baubles (at a charity shop, of course!) in favour of dried orange slices hung with thread, cinnamon sticks in repurposed ribbon or twine, pinecones and salt dough stars. And I think they all look rather pretty!


I did buy this super cute crochet robin from an Etsy seller called Little Conkers *, who is based in West Sussex and makes beautiful handmade decorations from organic wool, organic cotton and bamboo.

And for the top of the tree, I made a star out of gathered sticks (on my many walks into town through the parks of London) and twine which I had lying around. I started out by knotting the sticks together in the shape of a star and then wrapped twine around the shape. It worked out pretty well and I’ve placed it so one of the fairy lights sits inside and makes it glow!

If you want to see how I decorated our Christmas tree, then you can watch it all right here in this YouTube video I made.

Here are a couple of other plastic free christmas decorations that caught my eye recently:

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Cow Bell Ornaments *

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Organic Wool Robin

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-09-36-22And, foliage. A sprig or two of holly, some mistletoe and dried eucalyptus can all add a wonderful Christmassy touch to a room. I find having a few natural plants and evergreens can make a place feel very relaxing. And if you don’t mind a spot of foraging, then very often they can be found for free.

I love the idea of using a branch as a feature and decorating it. And I spotted these Christmas Crackers by Nancy & Betty in the V&A Museum shop recently. They had no plastic packaging and the gifts inside the crackers seemed to be of a lovely quality. If we had to have crackers, these would be the ones I would choose.

LIGHTS

Finding eco friendly christmas tree fairy lights is a challenge and the search is ongoing. Currently, I use the lights I’ve had for the past 4 years (I was even given them for free by a super kind guy in the lighting shop!) and will keep using them until they expire. They are plugin LED lights and do the job.

It’s apparently best to choose LED lights as they use a fraction of the energy compared to regular fairy lights and they don’t overheat. On the topic of energy, we also switched to a green energy supplier 2 years ago, so I feel happy about having a few cosy lamps on and of course, our festive fairy lights!

If we had a very large tree, I’d be tempted to try the traditional real candles, as long as there were branches long and strong enough…. But for now, I’ll have to wait for our little tree to do some serious growing, although it already needs repotting for a second time!

CANDLES

Beewax candles are said to be clean burning and improve air quality, and honestly, I love the smell. I found these beautiful ones made from British beeswax and I have been burning them most evenings. I also love these natural wax candles by Daylesford, as I can reuse the glass canning jar afterwards. And I’m hoping to get some beeswax tea lights * soon.

FOOD

As always, I’ll be making some homemade mince pies in the lead up to Christmas and my Mum always makes a homemade Christmas cake, of which she saves a good chunk of for me. and my husband. This year, we’re spending Christmas together, so I’m hoping she’ll bring the whole thing! Ha! Also, not sure if this is just us, but we like to eat it with cheese.

I’m not a big turkey fan. It’s just such a dry meat! Instead, I’ll choose an extra large organic chicken from Daylesford that can feed the four of us for Christmas lunch. All veggies will be local, seasonal and of course organic – brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and roast potatoes! And yes, I can easily buy all of this using my own reusable containers. I may even try my hand at some homemade Yorkshire puddings, all served with natural meat juices which I’ll make into a delicious gravy.

I’ve stocked up on organic cheese which I bought (without packaging!) from a small independent cheesemonger’s in Greenwich whilst visiting my brother last week. I’m hoping to make homemade crackers to go with the cheese too!

GIFTS

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-00-10-25After my first zero waste year of no gifts and feeling like the magic had gone from Christmas a little, I have since decided that one or two carefully chosen, well thought out gifts that align with my values can spark joy! If you need some inspiration, check out the Eco Boost Conscious Gift Guide. Next year I’m really keen to learn how to start foraging and gathering foods from nature, as well as cooking with fire and preparing meat. I also want to continue spoon carving after a very enjoyable workshop with Grain and Knot, so either money towards these experiences, or something else that I’ve coveted would go down a treat.

My Mum has asked for a jar of Daylesford’s Spiced Damson Jam which she tried when visiting us earlier this year and absolutely loved! It is delicious! My husband and I would rather enjoy a day out together or treat ourselves later in the year. We’re both very lucky to have chilled family members who don’t expect gifts and are happy to enjoy a cup of tea and a catch up together instead.

 

GIFT WRAP

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-18-58-34There are so many options, wrapping paper really doesn’t come into it! My Mum uses the same piece of cloth material each year (for the past 3) and simply takes it back once I’ve opened my gift. Boobalou.co.uk has some pieces of organic cotton fabric which are designed to work as reusable gift wrap or Greenfibres* sell pieces of organic material.


Left over newspaper or magazines work well too. My husband sometimes picks up a copy of the Evening Standard on the way home so we have a couple of those to hand if we need them. Just make sure you check the headline, as my Mum chose one that said “Christmas With The Family? I’d Rather Have £250!” without realising once! It has blessed us with a fun anecdote though!

Instead of cellotape which is made from plastic, I use brown paper tape* which can be recycled or most of the time, a simple piece of twine will do. I like to add a small cutting of christmas tree to make it look a little cuter. 

ADVENT CALENDARS

I don’t have one but I know one day, when we have kids, it would be a lovely thing to have. My brother and his wife have a beautiful wooden one which they fill with edible trinkets and take it in turns to open the doors. I love this idea, especially as it can be reused each year. There are loads of examples on Etsy. *

Our Granny used to send us an advent candle each Christmas and we would let it burn down to the date marker each day in the lead up to Christmas. 

STOCKINGS

We grew up using any old pillow case. I thought this is what everyone did! Ha! Looking back, they could certainly hold more than a stocking, so no complaints from my childhood self! For now, we simply place any gifts under the tree but in the future I would definitely hope to use pillow cases instead of stockings.

CHRISTMAS CARDS

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-18-57-54I stopped sending Christmas cards several years ago, even before going zero waste because it’s something I always found a bit of a chore and was a tad rubbish at. BUT there are a few family members such as my Granny and Great Uncle who I try to send a card to around Christmas. It means more to them and without the internet, it’s a nice way of reminding them they are in my thoughts and staying connected, as well as the occasional phone call.


So I made my own. I bought a pack of plain greeting cards (like 50 of them!) about 7 years ago and they’re still going strong! I hand wrote “Merry Christmas” then used the brown paper tape to stick a couple of dried eucalyptus leaves to the front.

If I had more to send, then I would either buy some that come without plastic packaging and made using easily recyclable materials. Either from a local shop or here are a few options I found on Etsy *. I like that you can request no plastic packaging on Etsy orders and sellers are often keen to oblige and very understanding.

Or use paperlesspost * for friends or family who either live abroad or don’t mind a modern approach.

Have a very Merry (and more eco) Christmas guys!

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