It’s four in the morning, the end of November. Not a cheery time to be lying awake worrying, but this morning I had good cause – I’ve realised Christmas is coming. This year at least my worries take an unusual and original form. My girlfriend and I have decided to boycott the whole thing, which means no presents, no family, no fancy meal, and hopefully no stress – just the two of us and the dog in the camper van somewhere in a wood in Norfolk. So why am I worrying? Because I can’t help feeling guilty that we’re not ‘playing along’ with the rest of the world!
Why our festive boycott, you may well ask. Well, mainly, it’s not exactly green is it? All the unwanted gifts shoved to the back of the cupboard, the packaging and transport of said gifts, the tonnes of wasted food and (call me scrooge if you will) those eye-wrenching, kilowatt-burning neon displays with which some people choose to adorn their homes! What’s more, far from being a happy family occasion, Christmas has become a time of emotional and financial stress for many of us. I would never suggest that an all-out ban is a good idea for everyone – this has the potential to be a very happy and rewarding time of year, particularly for kids. That said I do wish the public at large would stop and think before indulging themselves (and their egos) on the few shopping days they have left.
Before we ‘went the whole hog’, our household experimented with the idea of a green Christmas and it worked pretty well. The idea was that every aspect of the season be considered from an environmental perspective – in particular we were careful about the type and number of presents we bought each other.
We went so far as to prescribe four options for our seasonal generosity, which I present here for your consideration!
Option one – give the gift of time. Whether it be a couple of day’s labour on dad’s allotment, or just taking auntie for a Christmas walk, people will appreciate this kind of thoughtful effort every bit as much as they would an expensively-wrapped (but still generic) gift.
Option two – give a zero-carbon gift. This takes a little imagination, but can either take the form of a ‘real’ item (a fruit tree for the garden, credits for music or film downloads rather than a CD or DVD) or can involve a trip or excursion – perhaps a ticket to the theatre, with train fare included.
Option three – give something they need. If one of your family members is starting a new course, buy them something from the reading list. If they’re a keen gardener, offer to pay for next year’s seed order, and so on. It doesn’t take a genius to point out it’s better to receive something you really need, rather than something you would never buy for yourself.
Option four – make people think. An environmentally conscious gift (such as a wormery!) might be just the nudge some people need to make a few eco-friendly changes to their lifestyle. If friends and family are already pretty good at being green, they will value the sentiment (and the gift) all the more highly.