The world is spinning around as it always has done, but every year seems to rush by faster and faster. As in many people’s lives, for us time is marked by birthdays – ours go like this: there are a few early birthdays in February, March and April. Then we flick to June and July, with a gap until September. My oldest has his birthday at the end of October and by then, it is almost Christmas. I forget about it for a while, until I get all of the information from school about end of year celebrations, swimming lessons and sports day, and I realise how close we are!
I love Christmas. Always have done, always will. I am a lover of seeing people’s (especially children’s) eyes light up at the anticipation of what is inside the wrapping paper. I have over indulged my children in the past. But the last few years I have tried to aim for a recycled, secondhand, homemade, ethically made Christmas, with some gifts being about experiences, and giving back. I have been able to do this mostly and it has been both incredibly cheap and incredibly fun! So much crap gets bought at Christmas, it is shocking when you look at it. And how much of it is really appreciated, wanted, needed or used?
The thing about shopping ethically at Christmas is that you need to start early, because you are not going to the stores for the same Barbie or Spiderman as everyone else. You are not getting the latest mixer for your mum, or a new shaver for your hubby. You are looking for treasure. You may not have a plan, just a list of who you want to give presents to. Or, you may have some ideas and this is where places like Ebay come in handy as you can search for what you want.
Starting early is a must. So here is my reminder to you all to get started soon. You will be so much calmer at the lead up to Christmas when there are parties and kids concerts and dinners and things to finish before the end of the year – and can enjoy the festivities! And you will have more chances of finding or making something for everyone.
Tips for a Recycled Christmas
- Make your own Christmas Decorations or keep using the sames ones over and over. I have decorations my kids made 15 years ago; decorations from my mother in law who passed away many years ago and decorations I have had for years, some bought at Oxfam, some bought secondhand.
- Start looking in vintage and op shops early – I find lots of board games, books and clothing in the local op shops.
- Look on eBay, Etsy and Gumtree for secondhand things you want to give people, to get ideas, or to use in your Christmas decor.
- Make something yourself – craft, bake or put together a memory box, or write a poem, make a collage of photos of a special time and add some words about what you loved about it, strike some cuttings from your garden and pot then up to give as something grown by you.
- If you really want to buy new, get fair trade items from a variety of stores you can now find online and in your area.
- Use any wrapping paper you can find second hand in op shops, or you can make your own out of newspaper or other recycled paper you can find at home. C
omic strips and decorated brown paper bags work just as well as fancy paper. Gift boxes can also be kept and reused the following year, and used paper wrapping can be trimmed to remove the sticky tape, ironed on a low heat to remove the creases, and reused again and again.
- Try alternatives to disposable wrapping. Torn or old clothing and sheets can be upcycled into fabric wrapping by removing the sad bits and using a ribbon to fasten it around your gift. If you’re a wizard on the sewing machine, use your existing fabric off-cuts to make hankies or tea towels as wrapping – the recipient will get two gifts in one!
Recycle your used paper wrapping or give it another life by making your own gift tags with the graphics and patterns on it.
- Avoid buying plastic and foil wrapping and keep any you receive out of the recycling bin as it contaminates the recycling process. Instead, if you open your plastic and foil wrapped gifts carefully, you’ll be able use the wrapping on another gift next year.
Cut the backs off old Christmas cards to turn them into gift cards, and use in crafts.
- Think outside the square – you might find a number of quirky items that go well together to create a basket or set of gifts for a particular person in the local op shop.
- There are often gifts that have been bought and donated to op shops never opened such as soaps, bath sets, candles and homewares, linen, towels etc.
- For my older children instead of buying just recycled, I give them cash or vouchers for digital music so they can choose what they want to avoid buying something that will go to waste, and/or buy them vintage or fair trade clothing as part of their presents, sometimes I find older boys toys as well.
- For the stockings I add socks, jocks, new toothbrushes (I think these need to be new, but this is a great alternative to more junk in the stockings and we buy bamboo or other compostable toothbrushes) and a few chocolaty christmas treats.
- There are always LOTS of toys to be found secondhand.
- Books books and more books are abundant secondhand.
- Give gifts that give something genuine to a community who need it – my kids love knowing they have bought a goat or pig!
- Create an experience and give this as a gift- a massage, family outing or babysitting offer, or ask everyone to write down 5 things they really want to do in the next 12 months and then commit to doing those things together.
Do you have any tips to share?
**updated from a post originally shared in 2013