Christmas is round the corner – it’s time to get wrapping (and maybe buying) gifts, time to put up the Christmas tree and time to dig out the festive decorations from the attic. You might not think of Christmas as a particularly environmentally friendly festival, but have no fear! Kate Blincoe’s The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting: How to raise your child, help save the planet and not go mad shows you how have a very merry Christmas, whilst still keeping an eye out for the planet:
Whether it is for Christmas or birthday, mass gift-buying is one of the pleasures and pains of being a parent.
When it comes to selecting presents, the first rule is to avoid spending money where possible. Can you give your time instead? Many tired parents would love a day of babysitting their kids, or how about gardening for Granny, decorating for your sister or baking your best friend a cake of their choice? Homemade gifts are always a big hit, such as jam, chocolate truffles or sloe gin. Of course you will have to open your wallet, but try to support your high street, avoiding retailers who keep their doors pinned wide open in freezing weather, wasting precious energy. Garden and wildlife gifts are brilliant for the environment. A nectar-rich plant is a gift for bees and butterflies, and a Christmas box bush is a lovely choice. It provides a source of winter nectar for early bees, is easy to grow and gives a glorious scent in the coldest months. Bird boxes, bulbs and bird feeders (for example, a nyjer seed feeder to attract goldfinches) can bring a lot of pleasure through the year too.
For children, try nature magazines, some binoculars or a wormery. Membership to organisations such as the RSPB or Wildlife Trusts can open up new horizons. Where possible, choose sustainable wooden toys: they are far lower in carbon and more likely to be passed on to the next generation. You can also buy battery-free torches and wooden phones, wooden construction kits and Fairtrade soft toys. Older children are inordinately delighted with a paper present – that’s the good old-fashioned ten-pound note. It may feel lazy to you, but having their own money means a lot, and you can be sure they will buy something they really want.
Don’t be shy – ask people what they want and drop a few hints yourself. Nothing is worse for the environment than something that ends up straight in landfill, however gorgeous it may seem to the giver. And as for the guilt of re-gifting or eBay-ing unwanted items? Get over it: it’s the greenest option for rejected gifts.
If you love to send cards, seek those made from sustainable forests that support a nature charity. You could buy blank cards and make your own, or get the children to help cut up and stick old Christmas cards on to coloured card at Christmas. Don’t forget to save this year’s cards for cutting up next year. They’re great for DIY gift tags too. If you’d rather save the carbon, consider donating the equivalent to charity and phoning the people you care about.
Try wrapping up gifts in old magazines. Wildlife ones are great, as are the glamorous ones such as Vogue for the ladies. These can be easily recycled, as can brown paper. Your children’s pictures will also make very cute, customized wrapping paper, as will fabric remnants from craft projects. And in this day and age of the sat nav, dig out those neglected old maps and use them too. A few re-used ribbons will finish off the package, as well as a sprig of holly or mistletoe for Christmas gifts.”
You can find more inspiration on how to raise your children in a fun and environmentally friendly way in The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting.