I'm not sure about you, but I've found 2016 rather depressing! Brexit, the US election, Syria, refugees, 'doom and gloom' news about the environment, big losses from the entertainment industry and so on. But the new year is nearly upon us...! Let's finish wrapping up 2016, think through our New Year Resolutions... get positive and party...!
But partying, gifting and wrapping don't need to mean accumulating huge amounts of non-biodegradeable waste. Let's try and add being more environmentally conscious to our 'getting slimmer, getting fitter, getting healthier' New Year Resolutions list. It's more achievable than we sometimes imagine ...in fact far easier than sculpting that perfect svelte figure, in my experience!
Above: using a jam jar, an old napkin and a scrap of material glued into a bag, to wrap presents. Simple, easy and effective!
Christmas and Birthdays
I'm sure the majority of us received gifts over Christmas that will very soon, at best, find their way to the back of a drawer...or worst, end up on the rubbish dump. The pressure to participate in the office 'Secret Santa', to buy gifts for colleagues' / neighbours' kids, is immense. The budget is often low, so everyone ends up buying rubbishy, plastic novelty toys that no one really wants. A total waste of the giver's money and effort and a scourge on our environment.
Recently I read about this very issue in a powerful article written by George Monbiot called the 'Gift of Death'..... ( http://www.monbiot.com/2012/12/10/the-gift-of-death/ ). It's entertaining and horrifying - well worth a read! He writes: 'of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale'...what a crazy statistic is that!!! 'Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.'
The present-giving problem equally applies to kids birthday parties. Having 3 girls, over the years we have found ourselves invited to countess parties, sometimes 2 or 3 on one day! Unless the friend is a very close one, the budget usually means one ends up buying something made of plastic or the eternal pens and notebooks.
Above: mason jars are always an easy, but lovely option. Stuff them with home-baked goodies, chocolates and lights!
But is there a better solution?
Perhaps we could make a stand and consider something different. A charitable donation or an animal 'adoption' from an organization like WWF. Wooden toys made from sustainable sources. A ticket to a show, a fun park, the zoo. Up-cycled, recycled or handmade gifts from sites like Etsy or small, local businesses. Homemade friendship bands, cookies, mason jars filled with thoughtful goodies and lights. Beautifully packaged flower seeds with a plant pot. The possibilities are endless, if we just take the time to think.
The wasteful practice of using wrapping paper
I'm sure we were also not alone on Christmas morning having a huge bag full of used wrapping paper. Ripped from our girls' presents in two seconds and scrunched up to squeeze into the over-flowing rubbish bin.
But how do we deal with the wrapping of presents in an environmentally-conscious way? The obvious solution is to not wrap them at all! But that's no fun! So how do we keep a present from sight to maintain the mystery and excitement, whilst being less wasteful? At the very least, we can search for recycled wrapping paper, now increasingly available. Decorate our own brown packing paper by stenciling or brightening with a ribbon. Use old maps, newspapers, magazines patched together like a colourful quilt. Or perhaps we can try being a little creative, wrapping our gifts in cloth, large leaves or even toilet rolls, as below! They're very easy to do and equally effective!
Above: how about trying to use a toilet roll! I love using something so basic, to create quite a sophisticated look.
Applying this thought process to our parties
Once the gifting is sorted, we can then think about how we can throw our own parties with less plastic (plastic cups, plates, cutlery, straws, table cloths, bags etc. etc. etc.) Cutting these out, doesn't necessarily mean extra work, extra money. Have a look at my blog post 'Reigning in the disposable party culture' ( http://www.hoppingharesparties.com/reigning-disposable-party-culture/ ) for ideas on how to easily achieve this. Or if you still need to go along the disposable route, then look at the eco-friendly options. Plates made from bamboo, palm leaves, edible cutlery and the like. In fact, I read an article recently on Facebook about a company in Bali producing 'plastic' bags made of cassava root, that are not only soluble but edible...!! (See the link here... https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/1265039910252797/ ) Sounds a brilliant solution for our polluted oceans...! I'm sure there are all sorts of great companies like this, in all corners of the earth. So we just need to look them up and support those local to us.
So let's raise our glasses to a wonderful...and fun 2017!
And join me in adding 'being more environmentally-conscious' to our New Year Resolutions list. Taking just a minute or two to think through our present-giving, wrapping and party-throwing choices.