Friday, 14 December 2018

What do we want more of at Christmas?

During the festive season there is a lot of stuff – lots of food, glitter and lights, bustle, presents to buy and temptation to buy things we don’t need. There is plenty of advice to be had on how to be sustainable and avoid waste (see here from the Permaculture Association) but maybe that is the wrong way of looking at it. Maybe we should be thinking instead of what we want more of, rather than less. Here are some thoughts, incorporating ideas from revellers at the Transition Cambridge Winter Social yesterday as well as my own.

Presents that we actually want
According to the Permaculture article above, 30% of presents are unwanted. What a waste! Of course it can be difficult to buy stuff for the man/woman/child who has everything. If you are one of those impossible people, try asking your family for something that you do want. Last year I asked for contributions to pay for a carbon foot-printing course that I wanted to take. Yesterday several people suggested charity presents - I don't know about you but I'd be very happy for people to donate money to a charity of my choice. (A list of acceptable choices is available on request ☺). Giving to charity makes me feel good. If it is a present it makes both of us feel good.

Another way to give presents that are appreciated is to leave some of the choice up to the recipient. Vouchers come be more or less flexible – from store vouchers to book, cinema or theatre tokens. There are more ideas on sustainable presents on our gift ideas page.

Beautiful/re-usable present wrapping
Shiny, glittery present wrap looks good under the tree but when the presents are unwrapped it can’t be re-used, and you can’t even recycle it. (It is too difficult to separate the underlying paper from the shiny bits.) But there are other ways to wrap presents.

I have mentioned our Japanese wrapping cloths before. They are called furoshiki. You can use them again and again and you don’t have to be a master at precision folding to make them look nice. Another suggestion from yesterday is to use pretty bits of scrap cloth to make present bags which are re-usable. The only trouble with these solutions is that they are so pretty we don’t want to give them away!

Alternatively, you can re-cycle pages from magazines and newspapers. The person who suggested this recommends that you select the pages you use according to the interests of the recipient. From experience, the wrapping can be appreciated as much as the contents.

Tasty food (in sensible quantities)
How do you feel when you see a table groaning with dishes: roast meats, seasonal vegetables, pies, puddings, cream and butter, chocolates, nuts, sweets …? I don't know about you but I can feel my heart sink in trepidation. It's hard to resist but I know I will feel bloated and regretful afterwards - not a good feeling.

What I like to have for Christmas is a special meal which will leave me feeling mellow but still capable of movement, and enjoying the rest of the day. That means sensible quantities of delicious food. I would say it should be beautifully presented too, but I’m not very good at that. I do try. (A bit of greenery often helps).

Enjoyment and well-being
It’s supposed to be a holiday, right? So, make it a good one: make sure you find time to do things that you enjoy. And when you are with family and friends, there is no need to rush – giving your time and attention is as important as your presence (or presents). During the year I keep in touch with family by phone but very often I cut the calls short because I have too much other stuff to do. At Christmas it is nice to be leisurely and to do stuff together, like walks in the park or playing games.

So what do you want more of to make you feel good this Christmas? Have a think.

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