Friday, 11 December 2015

Christmas, a zero waste opportunity

When you decide to reduce seriously the amount of waste you produce, Christmas can be a stressful time. As obviously, for the vast majority of people, this time of the year is (still) synonymous with buying even more stuff than usual.
However, Christmas can actually be the perfect opportunity to affirm yourself as a zero waste advocate and, maybe, even try to convert your family and friends to your cause. Even if you don't set such an ambitious objective for yourself, you can at least be at peace with your zero waste philosophy by buying non-material presents and other gifts which don't come with a lot of packaging, a huge carbon footprint and a heavy conscience. 
The ideas listed below are not extremely original ones but they may well alleviate someone's anxieties out there. So here we go.

Homemade presents
For the last three years, I got into the habit of preparing some apple chutney before Christmas.  If you enjoy cooking a bit and you have cheese lovers among your relatives or friends, you are not taking too much of a risk preparing a bit of chutney. You don't need too many ingredients either if you follow this recipe.

The piece of fabric comes from a jam jar I bought in September. 


Just a note of warning: chutney doesn't keep for about six months. So, unless you intend to offer chutney to a large chutney-loving family, use small glass jars. You don't want your chutney to go to waste in someone's fridge.

Keep an eye on your gingerbreads when they are in the oven. 



Homemade gingerbread men can make people (surprisingly) happy. This is another tried and tested suggestion. You can go into the effort of decorating them or you can partially dip them in chocolate sauce, for example. The trick is to find small cardboard gift boxes to package them up. I did find some in John Lewis a couple of years ago - although I cannot see any on their website right now. As for the recipe, I've tried a recipe by a Swedish chef last weekend. It was very good, if a little bit too buttery.

Of course, there are lots of other DIY ideas out there which you can prepare outside the kitchen. I think putting together a photo album or a photo frame for someone can be a brilliant idea. Going through all the photos you've taken over the months or years can feel a bit of an effort, especially if you are a serial snapper. It is for this very reason that it can be very touching to receive a photo album from someone nowadays.

A chocolate box subscription 
I offered my husband a subscription to Cocoa runners last spring for his birthday. It comes through the post once a month. The packaging is very light and recyclable. As for the chocolate bars, they are very delicious! The quality is far more superior to big commercial  chocolate brands. If you want to treat a chocolate lover, I would definitely recommend a subscription to Cocoa runners (from £18.95 a month). You can also buy gift boxes and tasting courses from them. (This is not a sponsored post, by the way).


Cocoa runners' November dark chocolate selection 



A bar of soap (from a social entreprise) or a bike (from a charity)
There are lots of social enterprises popping up here and there and everywhere in the UK at the moment. Soap Co. is one of them. This soap making company employs people who are blind or otherwise disabled or disadvantaged. Their soaps are special and smell very nice (tested!). They also come with very little packaging. You can find a lot more social companies on this website, by the way.



As for the bikes I am thinking about, they are sold by a London charity called the Bike project. This charity helps refugees by teaching how to cycle, how to fix a bike and by giving second hand bikes - hence, a mean of transport - to asylum seekers. All the profits made by the Bike project shop go to the charity.

Experiences
Theatre tickets, musical tickets, day trips, bread-making classes, pizza making classes, foraging days etc. The list of experiences that you can buy as gifts is indeed very long. If it's an experience you can share with the person you're offering this non-material present to, even better.
I bought discounted tickets for Billie Elliot to my parents recently. If you decide to buy your tickets via Lastminute.com, choose a weekday (Monday, Tuesday), buy the cheapest tickets and the chances are that you will be able to move to a better seat before the start of the show. My parents absolutely loved Billie Elliot (who doesn't?), by the way. They are looking forward their next trip to London to go and see another musical.

You can buy vouchers from Shoreditch Street Art tour (£15 per person, valid 12 months).


According to an article published on The Atlantic website, "waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good'. So go for it!