The count-down to Christmas has started! There’s nothing like this holiday season, in my opinion. The first time I hear those familiar seasonal tunes, I can’t help but smile; even if it’s on November 3!
And because most of us love the holidays so much, it’s easy to get swept up in all the hype. Then, before we know it, we’re caught up in the consumerism and the expectations, and the real spirit of the season gets lost. Our family was as guilty as any when it came to buying huge amounts of ‘stuff’. Over the last few years, though, we’ve been making some changes so that enjoying the holidays doesn’t have to mean being left with a mountain of waste.
Talk about single use, Christmas wrapping has only one use. It is decorated with the symbols of the season, gets ripped off frantically on Christmas morning and thrown away when the dust settles. Wrapping paper cannot be recycled, so instead it has to be disposed of along with boxes and packaging at the end of the day. We tried reusing paper (asking our kids to unwrap carefully), but there was still a significant amount of waste created. Last year, we had a brainwave and we went out and bought some big swatches of fabric. These can be re-used and also now form part of our Christmas traditions.
Gift tags from Christmas cards
Sending and receiving Christmas cards are a tradition that I love about the holidays. In our increasingly digital world, I like the idea of being connected with a card and a picture. That said, I was beginning to feel guilty about the stack of cards I received each year that had no use when the season was over. About three years ago, we had a brainwave and ever since we have been cutting up the cards and using them for gift labels.
Coming from large families, buying gifts was not only getting increasingly expensive, but it also began to feel rather meaningless. Buying gifts on a budget for relatives felt more like ticking boxes rather than a token of affection or love. On both sides of our family, we convinced everyone to draw names and spend a little more money on one gift. I love that by doing this we can actually work together to think of a special gift for a family member, one that we know they’ll truly appreciate and that won’t end up in a bin.I’m happier receiving one special gift that I can truly appreciate, rather than sometimes feigning pleasure over a gift that has no appeal for me.
Refillable Advent Calendars
Instead of paper calendars with plastic packaging, why not purchase a wooden or cloth calendar that allows you to decide what treats you put behind each door (or pocket or drawer)? As long as it’s chocolate or money, the little ones won’t even notice the difference!
One idea that is not only sustainable, but also thoughtful, is making gifts. There’s a sense that time spent creating a gift, increases its value to the receiver. One year I decided to knit things for my immediate family. However, unless you’re an avid knitter (sewer, sculpter, etc) this can end up being even more stressful. An easier, but also effective idea is to bake gifts. These work especially nicely for your children’s teachers and others who help them.
One final sustainable switch we made was to suggest experiences as gifts rather than things. Over the last several years, my parents have opted to take my kids to see performances and last year they took them to a wildlife sanctuary when we visited them in Australia. This idea has increased value because going to do something fun is always good, but spending time with loved ones at the same time creates lasting memories.
These are just a few things we’ve changed in recent years. By introducing these ideas slowly, we’ve adopted them as new holiday traditions without sacrificing any of the fun. If anything, we have even more fun, plus the smug satisfaction that we are teaching our children how to reduce, re-use and recycle. Result!
Written exclusively for WELL, Magazine Asia by Norbyah Nolasco