Many of us are now making changes at home to do our bit on the green front. Whether it’s being better about recycling or stopping using clingfilm, we all know about the small steps we can take to contribute to a larger shift in awareness about waste and sustainability.
Then comes Christmas: the season of goodwill, and a massive influx of plastic, wrapping, and packaging, into the lives of the parents of small children. The kids are delighted, but you and your beeswax wraps may be less so. So, Koru Kids is here to help with suggestions on how to get you through Christmas with less of the waste but all of the fun.
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The Boxing Day rubbish-bags-full-of-wrapping-paper may be a guilty tradition in your house. But there are some creative ways around it. Try using children's artwork to wrap presents, especially if they're at nursery and so producing several, er, masterpieces a week
Similarly, try saving and reusing old wrapping paper and gift bags. Amazon’s glittery gift bags are especially good. Finish them off with an old Christmas card instead of a gift tag.
Next, why not ask the children to decorate newspaper or recyclable brown paper with Christmassy patterns and pictures, which could also make for a great after-school activity. Plenty of good old seasonal potato printing for the win here!
Cat Brandon, co-founder of Little Wishlist, an online registry for pregnancy, babies and children, also has a great tip: “I am switching shop-bought wrapping paper for the brown wrapping paper I've saved from things I've bought online, which I can then decorate with holly leaves from my garden."
Other great ideas include:
- Wrapping children’s presents in fabric that can then be used in crafting or as play scarves
- Using resuseable Washi tape rather than Sellotape
- Leaving presents unwrapped and decorating a cardboard box instead, with all the presents inside
- Buying from brands that offer recyclable packing and gift wrapping
The Tree and Decorations
Everyone loves a real tree, but a tree with roots that lives outside for much of the year is an increasingly popular and greener choice; you can bring it in for decorating, and take it outside again undressed in January. Alternatively, Christmas tree rental is also available in London from start-up London Christmas Tree Rental, who are offering a more sustainable way of getting that real-pine smell.
Co-founder of the service, Catherine Loveless says, “As I walked around West London after one Christmas I saw piles of Christmas trees discarded on the side of the road. Considering this, I thought how in this day are we not doing Christmas trees better. There must be a way to keep a tree alive year on year rather than using one for two to three weeks and just throwing it away. Surely this was unnecessary. Then when we started to research more and discovered that 7 million go into landfill each year."
To offset this, the service uses low emission vans to deliver the trees and creates delivery slots by postcode to limit the criss-crossing across London.
And if you want to get even greener with the tree, considering making your own. Koru Kids CEO Rachel Carrell built a rainbow tree from books a couple of years ago, and we have also seen trees made from broken down wooden crates, and trees made from branches then decorated with baubles. The latter—put in a big jar and displayed on the table or shelf—can be a good idea when you have children at floor level and too small to understand baubles aren’t snacks.
When it comes to decorations, there are plenty of natural alternatives to plastic baubles and the dreaded tinsel. Try making decorations from fruit, herbs, leaves and spices: a tree covered in dried orange and lemon and bundles of cinnamon sticks is a lovely thing. Go for recyclable or fill-your-own crackers: Lakeland, John Lewis and Dunelm all offer good options.
When it comes to presents, making wishlists limits the amount of duplicated, faddy, or unwanted toys in the house.
“Steer the generosity of friends and family in the right direction so that they don't panic buy something off the shelves," says Cat Brandon. "Consider adding gifts of experiences such as a day out to Legoland, or create a fund to go towards buying a musical instrument or a bike. Gifts that are focused around making memories and developing skills last years and have a very low impact environmentally."
In general, it's best to work on the basis of fewer, better toys, and ask yourself when shopping about what your children want vs what they need, and what you know will be used up or used for years rather than months. “Look for gifts that are made of sustainable materials," says Brandon. "Ditch plastic in favour of sustainably sourced wooden toys. They might cost a little more but they will last longer. And look at quality toys that the kids can use for many years – such as a doll's house, or toys that have bolt-ons you can add year on year."
For adults, meanwhile, Secret Santa is a growing trend, with software such as Elfster doing the hard work for you. And consider suggesting family days out with grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews as an alternative to presents for everyone on the day.
When children are small and really won't pay any attention to the presents they receive, request a donation to a charity of your choice in place of a present, or alongside a token present. If you already have 400 Jellycat octopi from when the baby was born, ask for no more teddies; no one wants to give a wasted present. You can also ask family only to buy second-hand or from charity shops; some parents we spoke to described a one in, one out system for toys at home that has helped stem the tide. And when it comes to presents for all of you to the family, home-made or home-cooked is a greener option and an excellent activity for the start of the Christmas holidays.
Importantly, being green doesn't mean being mean! It actually generally translates to being more thoughtful and considerate about what everyone gives and gets – and that thoughtfulness is surely the real meaning of Christmas spirit, green or otherwise.