As Christmas is upon us again (Can you believe it?), in this issue’s column I’ll be talking about the things we’re doing to prepare for the season in as sustainable a way as possible, in the hope it’ll help some of you to get Christmas cracking as well! Since having my little man, I’m so conscious that it’s his generation and the ones after him that are going to be on the end of this very sharp stick we’re all on when it comes to climate change, so I try to do whatever little things I can to help give him and his future friends and loved ones a nice world to grow up in, and ironically Christmas can be one of the hardest times to do this!
It’s actually a few years old, but I recently read an article on the BBC News website about the “Wear, Want, Need, Read” approach to buying Christmas presents (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37822791), which basically is a guideline for buying no more than four gifts for your family - Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. The idea is that by buying fewer gifts the presents will hopefully have more meaning for both the gifter and the giftee. We’re going to try it this year, because even though our boy was only one-year old last Christmas I still found myself buying some tat just to fill up the gaps around the Christmas tree!
I know, I can already feel the disapproval from some of my fellow Mams about just buying four presents, but hopefully they’ll be gifts he’ll love and get plenty of use out of. And of course, he’ll still be getting a stocking full of goodies from Father Christmas as well as pressies from his flock of admirers, namely his Grandma and Nana, aunties and uncles!
We’re making a point this year of shopping as locally as possible for presents for our boy and for each other. I love the range of shops in Tyne Valley, and there are so many independents in need of a visit this Christmas. If you’ve ever seen that poster in the window of shops that says “Every time you buy from us, we do a happy dance” – it’s actually true, try it and see!
We’re also trying to ensure that anything we buy has minimal negative impact to the environment, people or animals – e.g. avoiding loads of wasteful packaging, trying to stick to recyclable materials, Fairtrade foods, animal-friendly toiletries; handmade vs mass produced, local rather than imported. I’m not suggesting for a minute that we’re going to be able to adhere to this religiously, just that we’re thinking about it when we’re considering what to buy and wear – Every little helps.
In Hexham, I’ll be heading to Matthias Winter - They describe themselves as an Eco–Home shop but what they are really is an Aladdin’s Cave of beautiful things that cause no harm to the natural world. From homewares to personal care, to food and sweets – they’ve got it all! For toys, my little boy enjoys a potter or should I say a ‘grab and dash’ around Mr Wolf; he’s building quite a collection of wooden animals from there! My house pretty much already resembles a Botanical Garden but I’ll still be calling on Julie at Pure Plants, to get a couple of gifts on a one for them, one for me basis!
In Corbridge, you can’t go wrong with a visit to places like Vintage at the Tower, which is a treasure trove of pre-loved, and hand crafted items. Katie Kerr has a fantastic range of clothes and shoes, stocking sustainable fashion brands like ICHI and Thought. And Forum Books, ditch Amazon this year and soak up the atmosphere of this gorgeous store!
In Prudhoe, getting some gifts from Crafters Emporium and Ready Steady Knit are a really good way to support local crafters, and to pick up all the materials you’d need to get crafting some homemade pressies yourself!
I will also be hitting up the local charity shops this year – They always have the best multipack Christmas cards, and I always pick up lovely bits of jewellery, scarves, toys and books. Who says everything has to be brand new at Christmas?
Christmas produces so much waste and packaging, but so much can be reused. I grew up watching Blue Peter, so I always make my own gift tags out of last year’s Christmas cards, and I’ve had the same ribbons, bags and bows on the go for about 10 years – to the point where when I do Secret Santa everyone knows which gift is from me as it’s in the same bag as last year!
I’ve even made my own wrapping paper some years - Buy a roll of brown packing paper, grab some of the kids’ paints, make some Christmassy/Wintery potato stamps, and off you go! Some of you might have a meltdown at this next suggestion, but for a couple of years, I even wrapped some gifts in newspaper and paper raffia ribbons - It looked really stylish, honest!
When the big day comes and the presents are being opened, nominate someone to be on wrapping duty – separate the Sellotape and keep whatever can be reused for next year, or better still buy paper sticky tape and then the whole lot can be recycled!
My family is pescatarian for most of the year but we still like a nice roast turkey for Christmas dinner. For the last few years we’ve sourced a local free range turkey instead of going for the supermarket, and we’ve never looked back in terms of quality and taste. I’ve had great chats with Danny at Daniels Farm and Robin at North Accomb Farm recently about the care and attention they give to their animals, all year round. They pride themselves on quality and animal welfare, and being a local producer which serves the community.
When it comes to buying my fruit and veg, I always go to G & F Threadgold in Prudhoe – paper bags, unwrapped produce and good banter too! Got to love your local grocery shop!
I’m not going to lie, I love the ‘bang’ of a Christmas Cracker so I’ll still be buying a pack, as long as we can get them without plastic stuff inside. I did see a beautifully wrapped napkin on Pinterest which was made stuffed with goodies and made to look like a cracker…maybe someone local will have something like that next year!
I’m trying really hard to count my blessings this Christmas. It’s been a challenging year for everyone but in the grand scheme of things, right now, my little family is okay and I am so thankful for that. However, there are individuals and families who are not okay – people who’ve lost their jobs to the pandemic or are living with the worry that they could be left without a livelihood, people whose mental health has deteriorated, people who will be spending Christmas alone, and struggling to make ends meet. I’ve already seen lots of requests for help and support on social media, ranging from shoe box appeals for the homeless, Christmas cards to refugees, nearly new gifts for families in need and help with Christmas Day meals – If you can, please stick your name down to help with something and make someone smile this Christmas.
Have a good one and do what you can to make it a good one for our local businesses, community and environment.