Tag: christmas (page 1 of 1)

What to do with unwanted presents

Greetings all and welcome to the last Shades of Green post of the decade! (Not to sound old, but I (Emma) swear 2012 was only like two years ago.)

Now, as this is our post-Christmas blog and I’ve been focused intensely on minimalising all year, I’ve written all about the most eco-friendly ways to dispose of unwanted gifts.

What can you do when you receive two DVDs of The Greatest Showman? Or a multi-pack of plain underwear? Or a subscription to Amazon Prime? (They don’t pay their tax, I’m not paying for their TV.)

Well, read on to find the best way to re-use your present. All of them more planet-friendly than storing them in the back of your closet for the rest of time.

(Although, that ugly sweater knitted by your aunt with your initials on… you’ll have to suck it up. You can always put it in the cat basket and say “she won’t sleep without it”.)

Regifting

Some presents that you receive are unable to be returned; maybe they’ve been bought at a craft market or maybe it’s an Amazon Prime gift card when you’re a Netflix person. It might not be right for you but for someone else, it’s perfect. Especially if their birthday is close to Christmas- luckily, I don’t want presents this year.

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Selling

eBay generally has free listings on items in January. I haven’t seen it advertised this year but it’s one of the quickest ways to get rid of your unwanted presents. (Who wants to do a car-boot in the winter?)

ddw

Returning

There is nothing to be ashamed of with returning presents. This post-holiday season, I will be returning some cosmetics that I suspect are tested on animals and this book (okay, it’s not actually this book but putting the real book up would be mean).

book

A note on store policy

Most stores will have a grace period after the holidays where presents can be returned without the receipt for the current value. Be aware that this may be less than was paid for it because stores have their sales on; you can make the most of it by buying something you’ll make use of from the sale items.

I tend to exchange at supermarkets, where I exchange the item for food.

Donate

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If you aren’t keen on these options; then as opposed to putting the items in charity shops (they get so full after Christmas), you prioritise direct action groups as money is often scarce in these places due to government budget cuts. (And ones that will no doubt come in the next 5+ years of Johnson!)

Items like clothing, toiletries, and toys will be well received by your local homeless shelter, domestic abuse shelter, or children’s home; they can be rewrapped as presents for residents’ birthdays or used by residents in common areas.

Homeless shelters will generally advertise their locations but domestic abuse refuges don’t so you may have to send a couple of speculative emails before you can arrange donations.

How to eco-hack your Christmas Presents in Portsmouth

Hey all and welcome to Shades of Green’s semi-annual eco Christmas post. Now, you might remember that earlier in the year, I (Emma) vowed not to buy any Christmas presents for adults. (I was still going to buy them for my nephews and nieces.)

Now, that promise was made before what was (and contiues to be) a distressing few months for my family. My grampy doesn’t really get why I’m trying to refuse presents and my mum thought we were just doing this for people outside our immediate family.

I tried to fight back. It ended in an argument. And Tamara, after I almost screamed at her about the fact that I was now under stress to buy presents that I never wanted to in December, explained that presents are a love language and my family are probably just trying to show that they care, after our annus horribilis.

Thus I, the person who didn’t want to buy presents, am now doing an eco-gift guide for my family.

Please note: This is not an ad. No payment or gifts were exchanged for inclusion in this blog. These are simply eco-friendly companies that I have bought presents from for the three people that I live with.

Buy local

When you buy local you can often cut down on transit and CO2; even if you still buy from a national or global brand.

A completely non-scientific case-study

If you wanted to purchase an individual bath bomb from Lush; you could order online and have that one item posted to you.

Compare this to buying that same bath bomb from your local store. They order their stock in massive amounts (50 bath bombs per box, sometimes as many as 30 boxes per delivery); the carbon footprint per bath bomb is much less.

Plus, they do have a massive package free (naked!) section.

Buy Small

Of course, it is always better to buy from small businesses in your local area. Here, I should mention the lovely Pigeon Books, who have been supplying me with presents for my nephews and niece since the summer.

They specialise in diverse books and have a whole section of eco-saving literature. Plus, if you live nearby they’ll deliver by bike and if you live further away, they’ll package your books in reused packaging.

I have the imposter syndrome mug you can see here!

Buy Handmade

When you buy handmade you’re helping someone to do what they want for a living; you get something uber unique and you might even get lucky by picking something from a designer that’ll be huge one day.

For this, I will recommend The Beehive Portsmouth, which has a collection of designers under one roof. We visited for the launch event back in September and loved it.

Tamara particularly liked the jewellery, I liked the small prints, and from the photos, it looks like Tamara’s husband Menno liked the food!

Buy secondhand

One of the major environmental costs is the production of new items and it’s much more eco to buy products that have been pre-loved.

I used to love doing this throughout the year and having my mum put stuff away for my Christmas presents, but, like most prolific readers, I now have more books than I could read in a lifetime.

Check out eBay, Gumtree or even Facebook Marketplace. Or you can pop down to your local charity shop and do twice the good.

However, if you’re looking specifically for books, which I always am, try World of Books, which is approved by both me and Tamara. They source books from charity shops, who are often overwhelmed by books, and prevent them from going to landfill.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vUXyDlAKi/
I’m going to need a bigger bookshelf

Buy charitable

On that note, if someone doesn’t really have a need for more items, why not consider a charitable donation? Plenty of charities will send out cards saying that a donation have been made in their name. (Remember to add on Gift Aid if you can!)

I’ve done this for a few years for my grampy with Doctors Without Borders, but if you want to donate closer to home, there are some worthwhile causes in Portsmouth mentioned in a previous post.

Buy sustainable

We all have that friend who could use a little push to be more eco-friendly and a good way to give that push in a friendly manner is to buy them a green gift.

Looking for ideas? Check out one of Tamara’s first blogs about her zero-waste backpack.

GREEN CHALLENGES

Following our Green Wins, join Emma and me as we bare our souls and reveal our Eco ‘Oopsies’. But as eco-shame is never the aim of our game, we also set our positive intentions with personal enviro challenges for the next 365 days of Shades of Green.

So, first, the waggy-ish finger – What Eco ‘Oopsies’ have Emma and I (Tamara) made in the last year in our attempts to live green?


Confessions of Shady Greens

Image by jessica45 from Pixabay

Emma’s Eco Oopsies

Chauffeur Hire: I have been persuaded to share a taxi late at night, rather than get the bus, which I feel guilty about. (Tamara says: You are SHARING a taxi. That is fine. I absolve you.)

Flying McFly Face: Two of my holidays in 2019 have involved air-travel and I cannot pretend that I feel good about it. Before my holidays, Tamara and I discussed offsetting the carbon, which Tamara feels is greenwash. I can’t prove that the companies would have planted a tree with the £10, so I donated it to Portsmouth Green Party instead.

Single-Use Trees and Leaves: I do routinely forget to tell restaurants that I don’t want paper napkins, so I end up taking my unused napkin home and using it for emergency toilet paper if I haven’t washed my cloths. Otherwise, restaurants will just throw them in the bin because they don’t know what you’ve done to them.

Strike a Pose, Vogue: I bought three *new* items of clothing that were definitely not made from sustainable materials. I wish my swimsuit had been made from recycled materials and that the other items had been bought second-hand. 

Tamara’s Eco Oopsies 

Cat vs Food: My stupid cat has stupid ongoing urinary problems. She is now on stupid urinary food for life and though I have sourced it in a can and not in a stupid plastic pouch, it is not ethical meat. Gutted. Farewell to Yarrah‘s organic, grain free and MSC wet cat food!

Who Needs Teeth?: I am pleased to report that I have sourced zero waste toothpaste and floss. I have been using Toothtabs (with fluoride!) for a while now and am very happy with them. I’ve been buying them online and was so chuffed to buy them locally from Refill and Replenish  – a fab mobile plastic-free shop run by the lovely Laura and Alice.

However, though I bought plastic-free dental floss from Wild Thyme ages ago at the Package Free Larder launch event March, I haven’t actually used it yet. My dentist will be horrified. 

Think of the Fishes: Since Emma’s post last year on eco-ing the festival experience, researching and buying eco sunscreen has been on my list. I have not yet sorted that but I am using up one from last year’s Turkey holiday in September

Fish are Friends, not Food: But my biggest oopsie is that I’ve been eating illicit fish here and there, mostly eating (delicious) sashimi at Sakura Southsea – and it’s not even ethical or MSC fish. It is a massive fail. And I dare to still consider myself a vegetarian. It is a complete identity crisis. Who even am I?


We learn from our mistakes and we are not about eco-shaming, so Emma – please lift us back up – what will you be focusing on for the next 365 days of Shades of Green?

365 Green Challenges

Emma’s Green Challenges for Shades of Green 365

  1. A lot of the green progress I’ve made is a case of thinking more about what I need and do not need. That’s cut down on packaging, as well as the creation of new items. I want to continue this thoughtful thinking next year.
  2. I’m taking a stand against presents. Over the next year, I’m going to be telling all of my friends and relatives that I’m not going to be buying them birthday or Christmas presents, nor do I wish to receive them. (Actually, I’m just linking them to this post.) I will be making exceptions for my niece and nephews, but in order to ensure they get something that they’ll cherish, I’ve asked their parents what they want.
  3. I will continue to cut down on:
    • packaging, even stuff that can be recycled, by buying naked products
    • animal byproducts, by eating vegan meals more often
    • food waste, by optimising  my use of Olio, the Trash Cafe, etc

Tamara’s Green Challenges for Shades of Green 365

  1. Terracycle and stretchy plastics in the Carrier Bag recycling banks – this is an ongoing de-merit. I have started taking stuff to carrier bag recycling but I still haven’t looked into it properly so always feel guilty in case I am contaminating it. I do take my crisp packets to a Terracycle collector in Southsea and keep my pens for Milton Cross School (but haven’t actually taken them) but again haven’t really done the research.
  2. Water-saving is a challenge indeed as hopefully, I will be moving this autumn (hence the new mortgage green win in our previous post) and my new-fingers-crossed-home has a water meter. This is something I haven’t experienced since living in Tobago when we would bathe using a bucket. I am going to become a water-saving bully, I know it! I am taking inspiration from Emma’s post on ‘How to Eco-Hack Your Bathroom’ and her tips as her household are water-saving champs!
  3. I have signed up to be #flightfree2020. I have warned my friends and family who reside abroad and am mentally preparing myself from now! Did you know that there is a new Sweedish word for the feeling of shame experienced when flying – flygskam. 2020 shall be flygskam free for me!

And so concludeth our anniversary introspection! Emma and I will report back on our green challenges in approx a years time in August-ish 2020 Till then, here’s to another 365 days of living in various Shades of Green!

And what of you Dear Reader, what are your green oopsies and challenges? – tell us in the Comments Section.

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.