Issy, known to her young family, and her Instagram followers as Mummy Scrummie is a Hampshire-based mum of two and brand rep for Catkin Toys. Every Sunday, Issy will be writing a guest blog feature, covering the parenting topics and issues that interest you! Have a topic you'd like to hear more about? Get in touch!
Ten Easy Steps to a Greener Christmas
While you're here, why not grab a copy of Mummy Scrummie's Christmas organisational planning sheets to help get organised this Christmas! It includes planning sheets for: your Christmas menu, Christmas gifts and even the Christmas big shop! Best yet, it is completely FREE! Grab a copy here.
I try to live a pretty eco-friendly lifestyle, but I think sometimes, people see the words “eco-friendly” and panic.
I’ll say right off the bat that I don’t live in a yurt, I don’t knit my own knickers and I don’t have a pet goat/lawnmower, so if you’re reading this in the hope that I’m going to teach you how to weave a festive outfit with nothing but a crochet hook and your cat’s moulted fur, as much as I think that’s admirable, I’m not your gal! I’m just your average mum-of-two living my life in a suburban English town, trying to embrace a more sustainable way of living: making eco-friendly swaps where I can, and trying to think a bit ‘greener’.
While many of us try to steer clear of using palm oil, and vigilantly recycle our cardboard on a daily basis, come December, few of us follow through with our sustainable sensibilities when it comes to getting ready for Christmas.
According to a study undertaken by the University of Manchester, in the festive period alone we use 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging for gifts and we consume 80% more food than during the rest of the year (whilst still managing to throw away a whopping £1billion worth of food!) We send enough Christmas cards that, if laid out side-by-side they could wrap around the circumference of the world 500 times over and, as a nation, we waste £4billion on buying unwanted gifts.
So is there a way to have a greener Christmas without being a total Scrooge? Of course there is, and better still, it’s not even hard, you can be more green this Christmas by following my Ten Easy Steps to a Greener Christmas.
Step One: DIY Gift Tags
Re-use the Christmas cards you receive this year as next year’s gift tags. This is such a simple idea, but such a good one. It’s something my Mum used to do and I still do every year, with both Christmas and birthday cards.
All you have to do is cut the front panel of the card away from the section with the written message on. Pop the written portion of the card in the recycling bin and keep the front piece.
Choose what part of the card you think would make a nice gift tag. Depending on the design of the card, you can often get multiple gift tags from one card: sometimes I’ll just snip out a small section, perhaps a dainty “Merry Christmas” in a lovely font (this works well for small, boxed presents); or if there’s a main illustration or photo in the centre of the card, I’ll cut the whole lot out. If there's no particular part that would work better than another, I’ll just cut it into four square pieces and go for a more abstract look.
Then all you have to do is hole-punch your tag and thread a small length of ribbon or twine through. Easy peasy!
My Two Scrummie Top Tips for Gift Tags:
1. Using paper-edger scissors that cut a crinkly or scalloped edge smartens up the finish of your cutting. (I have a jumbo assortment from Hobbycraft).
2. Help others to make DIY gift tags next year by only writing on the right-hand side of your Christmas cards!
Step Two: Buy What You’ll Eat
When it comes to doing your Christmas food shop; take a shopping list with you and stick to it! No matter how enticingly packaged it is, if a turkey-flavoured Terry’s Chocolate Orange isn’t on your list (is this even a thing?) don’t go throwing one into your trolley just because you feel like it. Mr Scrummie and I tend to sit down together in the week before Christmas and come up with a meal plan; this way we buy only what we know we will need and what will actually get used.
Further to this, it’s worth highlighting that buying something just “because it’s traditional” is completely daft if no one in your house actually likes it or will eat it!
If you do end up buying more than you need, download a food waste app, like Olio, and give it away to someone in your local area who can make use of it.
Step Three: That’s A Wrap
Apparently, the British people use enough wrapping paper every year to be able to gift-wrap Guernsey. Isn’t that bananas?
Now, I love gift-wrapping; I’m one of those strange people that actually really enjoys it, but I have learnt over time, that beautiful gift-wrapping doesn’t have to come at the expense of being eco-friendly, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.
While fabric wrapping is a lovely idea, I find that it often doesn’t look as neat as I’d like (yes, I’m that mum) so I do prefer wrapping with paper. Recycled and recyclable wrapping papers are so easy to
get hold of nowadays and they don’t have to be expensive either. If you can’t find a
pattern you like, you could make like my mother always did, and print your own: by buying rubber stamps, ink/paint and brown parcel paper/white paper, you can create your own bespoke paper that is both pretty and eco-friendly; this reindeer print is a Little Miss Scrummie creation!
Two Scrummie Top Tips for Wrapping:
1. For presents that are just too hard to wrap, or if you’re feeling particularly lazy, just pop them in a cardboard box or a paper/fabric bag.
2. If you have very young children, and present unwrapping is more of palaver than anything else, don’t feel you have to wrap anything! Tie a bow round their gifts, or put them all into one large bag – and save yourself, and them, the fuss of struggling with wrapping paper and Sellotape.
Step Four: Reusable Advent Calendars
Aside from looking about fifty-five million times nicer displayed in your home than your average supermarket chocolate advent calendar (which, by the first week of December already looks a bedraggled mess of cardboard, plastic packaging and shreds of tin foil), opting for a reusable advent calendar opens up so many doors - pun intended! - with regards to what sort of design you can choose and of course, what you fill it with.
Gradually, the world seems to be coming round to the idea of reusable Advent calendars and there are now a huge variety of options available out there, so, even just by having a quick browse on a site like Etsy, you can choose something personal to you and your family, that then becomes a bit of a family heirloom and a way to remember Christmases past.
When I was a little girl, we had a large wall-hanging Advent calendar, with a beautiful quilted Christmas tree design to it. Each triangular quilted section formed one of twenty-five different parts of the Christmas tree, and each had a little copper ring sewn to it. From these rings, my Mumma would hang the most delicious chocolates, bought from the French Christmas market that came to town each year.
I can still remember the excitement I felt each Advent as she’d roll out the calendar and start tying on the treats, I just don’t think I’d have felt the same about an A4-sized rectangle of mass-produced ‘meh’.
If you don’t want to use chocolate, there are a multitude of options available to you. For adults, you could use photos, books, travel-sized toiletries or drinks miniatures; for children: wooden animal figures or story books work really nicely.
If you want to keep it super-simple, or if you’re on a tight budget, why not do what Mr Scrummie and I do each year and make a Memory Calendar...
1. Simply cut a few sheets of coloured paper into twenty-five individual strips and then divide the strips between however many of you there are, attributing a colour to each person (Mr S and I just do this between ourselves, so one of us always gets the unlucky pile of thirteen!, but you could do this as a family, or as a solo venture too).
2. On each strip, write a happy memory you have shared together; that might be a dinner you cooked, or a family day out; something that made you laugh, or something that made you proud: it’s totally up to you.
3. Pop the memories into the Advent calendar, alternating the colours and take turns in opening each day!
Step Five: Buy Plastic-Free Gifts
As per my introduction, buying an eco-friendly gift doesn’t mean that you have to gift a goat, it can simply mean buying something plastic-free. This doesn’t have to be hard and with a little forethought you can find the perfect gift for anyone without resorting to buying plastic.
For the young children on your gift list, why not opt for wooden toys that will last a lifetime and grow with them (my two love these Wooden Caterpillar animal figures). If you don’t fancy that, you really can’t go wrong with sensory dough - popular with “kids from one, to ninety-two" - or a classic children’s book: think the Narnia series, or “Wind in the Willows”.
For everyone else, it’s a matter of considering what they’re interests are. For the Foodie in your life, tableware, spices, teas/coffees, aprons and cookbooks are all safe bets; for the more homely types, I find that you can’t really go wrong with soy candles, or a lovely plant; an elegant notebook, wooden Christmas decorations or a reusable coffee cup. For Beauty Queens and mums in need of some TLC, I tend to opt for spa-type gifts: sustainably sourced essential oils, reusable face wipes or a sleep mask.
There’s always at least one person on your list that you just don’t know what to buy and for that person, reach for the forever-safe choice: a bottle of their favourite tipple and if you don’t fancy that, skip forward to Step Eight!
Scrummie Top Tip: I either shop online with eco-friendly businesses who use sustainable packaging, or I do my shopping in-person, in-store; that way I can avoid buying something that comes encased in bundles of unnecessary plastic packaging.
Step Six: Switch It Up
I love the warm white twinkle of our Christmas lights and to me, there’s nothing that says ‘Christmas’ quite like the lights on the tree, so don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to ditch them and see out the season in the gloom! But when it comes to eco-friendly Christmas lights, there’s a no-brainer solution that everyone can get behind.
LED lights are much more eco-friendly than traditional twinkling incandescent lights, using up to 80% less energy; so, if you’re still using the same 400 bulb string you’ve had for the past ten years, take this as your cue to treat yourself to a new set and go for LEDs.
My Scrummie Top Tip when it comes to lights? Remember to switch them off, or put them on a timer setting. Have a think about the times during the day when you actually need/want your Christmas lights on. For us, that means we won’t put them on in the morning, but we will switch them on in the late afternoon as the day gets darker.
I firmly believe that nobody needs to leave Christmas lights on when they leave the house, or when they go to bed: if you’re not there to see them, it’s just a waste and an unnecessary bumping up of your energy bill!
Step Seven: Forage for Foliage
Be more Scrummie and get out into your gardens and amongst your local hedgerows armed with some secateurs and snip yourself some festive foliage with which to decorate your home.
Evergreen shrubs and plants are best, so that’s your holly, ivy, eucalyptus, heather, olive and mistletoe. Alongside these, I find that conifer branches, pine cones and pussy-willow all work beautifully in Christmas wreaths and garlands, as do sprigs of seasonal herbs: rosemary, sage, bay and peppermint.
My Scrummie Top Tips?
1. A word of caution on using some of these seasonal favourites: whilst these are all undoubtably beautiful additions to a festive family home, many of the above have poisonous berries and skin-irritating leaves, so do use them with care, especially if you have small people in your household!
2. Before you go jumping over people’s fences and rummaging around in fields, make sure you have permission to be there, and permission to be taking cuttings.
Step Eight: Gift An Experience
Gifting an experience is one way to ensure that you are buying something that the recipient is actually going to enjoy; but if you don’t feel that a weekend sky-diving is exactly what Grandma has asked Father Christmas for, there are other ways to do it.
Think outside the box a bit and you could give someone an eco-friendly gift they actually really want. Perhaps you could gift them their next haircut, or pay for a subscription to Audible; you could renew their membership to the National Trust, buy them the Calm app, a flower-delivery subscription or a food and recipe box trial. My advice: don’t panic and let the Christmas build-up get to you: just think about the person you are buying for and what they actually like.
Step Nine: Don’t Go Crackers
A really easy eco-swap to make is to opt for Christmas crackers that are made from recycled/recyclable paper and that aren't filled with pointless plastic tat.
I find that a quick look at the label on the box will tell you whether or not the crackers you have your eye on fit your eco preferences and if they don’t, why not explore some of the other cracker options out there: you and the children could make your own with toilet roll holders, or you could invest in fabric crackers that you can reuse and treasure year after year.
Step Ten: Shop Small
Put very simply, it is so much more eco-friendly (and ethical) to support small, UK-based, sustainable independent businesses. As a rule of thumb, big companies create massive amounts of waste and rely on international supply chains and shipping.
When you shop small, you are giving money to real, hardworking people; you’re making small business owners’ dreams come true, and if that doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy, Christmassy feeling, I don’t know what will!
So, those are my Ten Easy Steps to a Greener Christmas, I hope you find them useful; it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it is made up of small changes that we can all make.
I think it’s probably also worth reminding ourselves that Christmas really isn’t about the presents, the food or the decorations; aside from its celebration as a religious festival, Christmas is about spending time with the people you love, and if there is anything the past two years have taught us, it is the value of spending time with your nearest and dearest: being with your VIPs doesn’t cost a penny, but it’s worth a helluva lot.
Until next week!