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Month: December 2017

How to eco-hack your Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of year- it’s one long party for me (Emma) from December 21st until January 5th- but I think everyone can agree that it’s not the most eco-friendly of holidays. Food waste, excess packaging and single-use items all add up to a pretty bad time for the environment.

So what should we do to tackle this?

Decorations

Adorable cat under playing under the Christmas Tree

In almost every shop, you’ll find cheap Christmas decorations (in too much hard-to-recycle packaging) that are made to be put up in December and binned in January. This is not good enough.

  • Buy a real tree: As Tamara told you at the beginning of the month, she has an actual tree from a sustainable source and that’s much better than plastic trees.
  • Invest in long-lasting decorations: If you don’t think you have the money to invest in decorations that will stand the test of time, take a look around charity shops and fetes for second-hand decorations that are a lot cheaper.
  • Take care of your decorations: Keep decorations out of reach of little hands and curious animals, wrap delicate items in tissue paper and pack them in hard boxes when storing.
  • Create a theme: Resist the urge to buy trendy decorations (like an ornament featuring a Dabbin’ Santa) and create a theme that won’t go out of style.

Presents

Gift decorated with a pinecone and conifer needles

There’s nothing wrong with presents at Christmas but there are some inherent problems with how we give presents.

  • Second-hand items: While many people would only ever dream of buying presents from a store or online retailer, you can get some really rare goods by shopping second-hand. (Side note: If any of my friends are reading – click here)
  • Make your own: If you’re a crafty person, you’ll find it’s a lot more ethical to make your own presents because you can control the whole process, i.e. eliminate all animal byproducts from your baked goods or use eco-safe dyes on your scarves.
  • Charity Gifts: Everyone has one person that refuses presents during the holiday period (and on their birthdays) because they have all they need- they don’t want another keying with their initials or another mug with their favourite animal on it and they especially don’t want a book that they’ll never have time to read. Make a donation in their name to their favourite cause.
  • Don’t use wrapping paper: I know it’s cute and Beyoncé’s even got her own range now but wrapping paper is expensive and a blight on the environment (because many contain plastic or foil and are not recyclable). Try newspapers, outdated maps or plain brown paper instead.

Food

A food feast fit for a queen

My favourite thing about this time of year is eating all the food but there’s a lot of waste involved with the Christmas dinner.

  • Cut out excess packaging: Look for sweets and cookies that aren’t individually wrapped to seriously cut down on your packaging waste or better yet make your own.
  • Cook for yourself: Channel your inner Nigella by making your own nut roast (non-veggie options are available), sauce, and even Yorkshire Puddings from scratch rather than buying ready-made items which come with a ton of packaging.
  • Don’t buy food you don’t like: There are some foods that are traditionally associated with Christmas (Sprouts, Clementines, Quality Street) but some are bought, cooked, and abandoned without going anywhere near your mouth. Please don’t buy food that will just go to waste.
  • Use leftovers: What meat-eating person (so, not me) doesn’t love using up turkey in the days after Christmas? Sandwiches, curries, pasta, and more. Make sure to use up the veg too- even sprouts taste nice when hidden in a curry!

So that’s my top tips for making Christmas more eco-friendly, but I want to hear about yours. Let me know in the comments below.

If you celebrate a different holiday and would like to write a guest post for Shades of Green about making it more eco, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at blog@portsmouth.greenparty.org.uk or comment below.

Volunteering in Portsmouth this holiday season

It is December in Pompey. The days are crisp, mornings are frosty, the heating is on and I bought my Secret Santa gift at the Love Southsea Christmas Market on Palmerston Road. So for me (Tamara), the festive season is here!

 

I generally enjoy the activities and hubbub around Christmas but I definitely struggle with the consumerism that surrounds it. A gremlin who lives in my brain is awakened around mid-November who really wants me to buy the things, buy all the beautiful things!  Over the last few years, my husband and I have tried to create our own traditions that isn’t about ‘stuff’. We make homemade cranberry vodka, Guyanese-style black rum cake and he makes a very alcoholic knock-your-socks-off Dutch-style advocat. But our traditions don’t revolve solely around booze: we get a real, sustainable Forestry Commision Christmas tree from Queen Elizabeth’s Country Park which thrills my Trinidadian heart and we also go to the truly magical Cathedral Christmas Carol Service which soothes my soul.

As the years have passed and we have celebrated more Christmases as fully-fledged real-life adults, I started to become more socially aware and wanted to do something at Christmas that didn’t focus primarily on gift giving and stuff. There is very little I need and with my friends and family scattered across the country, I would rather see them and spend time together drinking some of that home-made cranberry vodka and advocat (but not mixed together…I tried that one year…and just – no!).

 

So for the last few years, my hubby and I have spent Christmas Day in Fareham, volunteering as a Christmas Day Lunch Helper. It is a wonderful initiative which hosts 100 guests who would otherwise find themselves alone at Christmas. I absolutely love helping out – the best thing is being able to chat, chat and chat a bit more with the guests. A traditional Christmas lunch is served, carols are sung and raffles are won. For me, this makes it a day that fills me with hope and joy and all the smushy stuff. Last year, fellow Pompey Green Party members Tracey and Mac also volunteered closer to home on Christmas Day at a joint event with Portsmouth Cathedral and FoodCycle. Tracey enjoyed it so much she is on the look-out for any Christmas Day volunteering opportunities this year.

 

I also participate in the the Rucksack Event which every November collects rucksacks full of useful everyday items for homeless people in the city. I have fun scouring the charity shops all year round collecting socks, sleeping bags etc. This year I wasn’t organised enough to get my rucksack together for their collection date in November but luckily I can still take the stuff I gathered to Hope House Hostel direct.

 

Of course, not everyone wants or is able to volunteer on Christmas Day or during the festive season. If you can, donate your time, money, food or skills to one of the many fantastic local projects and charities that help vulnerable, homeless and isolated people both in the winter and all year round. The projects I mention are ones that I have directly been involved in but there are many more that you can find through good ‘ol google or Facebook or however you find stuff out!

 

Have you volunteered on Christmas Day or during the festive season? Do you know of any Christmas Day volunteering events in or around Portsmouth that Tracey can get involved in? Tell us about it in the Comments section below.

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