Christmas is the season of goodwill. A time for giving, and enjoying festivities with family. But all too often it becomes the season of ‘stuff’ – unwanted presents, plastic packaging and reams of wrapping paper – symptoms of the over-consumption that has such a negative impact on the natural world.
If you want to simplify the festive season, accumulate less ‘stuff’ and reduce your carbon footprint, here are a some ideas for a greener Christmas…
A perennial gift
Give perennial plants as gifts – a sustainable choice that can be enjoyed for many years to come. Hellebores are the perfect way to add interest to any garden during winter and spring. The early blooms also provide nectar for insects at a time of scarcity. The Christmas rose (Hellebore niger) flowers from November through to March and has delicate, snow-white blooms flushed with green and pink that deepen in colour as they age. Or choose a mixed collection with flowers ranging from the deepest purples and pinks to speckled varieties and pure whites.
Feed the birds
Inspire young kids with the gift of a bird feeder and garden bird book. Learning about the creatures that visit the garden, patio or the local park is a wonderful way to engage with the natural environment and get children outdoors. A bird feeder is also an ideal present for those who can’t get out of the house easily, bringing the natural world closer to the kitchen or lounge window.
House plants make excellent gifts – and they’re not just decorative either. Some plants remove indoor pollutants from the air, others help you sleep better, and there are even house plants that help you focus!
My love of plants began when I was bought a living stone plant (Lithops) and two cacti as a small child. Succulents and cacti require little attention and can be grown by anyone – they offer the opportunity to garden on a miniature scale: ideal for children, new growers and those without access to a garden. A stunning succulents growing kit is ideal for children or experienced gardeners alike.
The gift of time
In our frenetic world, time is a precious commodity. My kids wrote illustrated nature poems for their grandparents last year and this year we’re recording songs and stories for them.
Or what about offering a few hours of your time to help on a friend’s allotment, making a homemade meal for their freezer, boxing up a selection of homemade jellies and jams or picking a winter bouquet from your garden? These personal presents only take a couple of hours to make and are far more meaningful than yet another armful of stuff.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
For more ways to enjoy a greener Christmas, here are some of my family’s tips to minimise the impact the holiday has on the environment:
- Reduce the number of presents you buy. Arrange a secret santa in large families or give experiences as gifts – trips to the pantomime or days out for kids, concert tickets, craft or gardening courses for adults. Local community gardens often organise courses throughout the year and nature organisations like the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and the local Wildlife Trusts have many interesting talks and visits – a great way to spend time with a loved one, learn something new and support the natural environment at the same time.
- Reuse your wrapping paper (we collect it for ‘pass the parcel’ later in the year) or wrap gifts with reusable material and ribbons instead of paper. I collect offcuts from craft projects and ribbons from old bags and presents to use time and time again. Upcycle old decorations, reuse paper for paper chains and make last year’s cards into tags for presents.
- Recycle as much packaging as possible. Fortunately, reducing and reusing help make Christmas recycling a less onerous task. But what about growing your own Christmas dinner? You may not have planted sprouts, spuds and carrots in time for this year’s celebration, but next year you could be eating fresh, homegrown produce with a relatively low carbon footprint and no unnecessary packaging…
Nic Wilson is a writer, garden designer and Garden Media Guilds Awards nominee (Beth Chatto Environmental Award, 2019). She enjoys growing flowers and unusual fruit, vegetables and herbs, and loves to encourage nature into the garden. She blogs at www.dogwooddays.net, and Guardian Country Diarist based in North Hertfordshire.
She works for BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and her writing has featured in anthologies, journals and magazines including The English Garden, The Garden (RHS Magazine), BBC Wildlife Magazine and the John Clare Society Journal.