The Clean, Green Christmas Machine

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Amidst the horrors of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (wtf), this is the time of year that big businesses love to fill our minds with commercialism and plastic crap and all things unsustainable. It’s easy to give into the bargains and slogans, but we should try and remember the best advice posted by Greenpeace this year: It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it. I’m an avid Christmas fan and have already made my sloe gin and slightly charcoaled Christmas cake. Not being religious, I mainly see Christmas as a time of cheese, prosecco and family love, but regardless of your associations with the season it should be a time of goodness and positivity. Contributing to landfill, funding unethical corporations and using unsustainable materials are a miserable way to celebrate Jesus’ birthday/loads of time off work, so here is my tiny guide to making the festive period ethical and SUPER FUN.

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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

I actually grew up with a fake Christmas tree that is miraculously still going, despite the odd plastic needle falling off. This year is the first time I’ll not be waking up at my parents’ house (so adult) as I now live with my boyfriend Dave in our own flat, so this is the first year I’ll be sourcing my own Christmas tree. Rather than buying fake plastic trees or purchasing one in a car park with dodgy origins, this Saturday I’m going to Farnham Heath for their ‘Pull a Pine’ day! Farnham Heath is an RSPB reserve and a fantastic heathland habitat for wildlife. Pine trees tend to pop up and interfere with this habitat, so each year visitors are encouraged to cut their own pine tree down and take it home FREE as a Christmas tree. What better way to find a locally-sourced, sustainable Christmas tree and help wildlife at the same time? You can find your local ‘Pull a Pine’ day by visiting their website here.

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It’s Christmas, not Palm Sunday!

Ok, it’s undeniably hard to go into supermarkets in December and not want to buy all the Christmas-themed food covered in stars and glitter. Mince pies, stollen, mulled cider… They’re all amazing and I tend to just ignore calories for the whole of December. The problem with these items is that the majority of the time they will be made using palm oil, and the palm oil industry is slowly destroying the wild habitats of places like Malaysia and Indonesia. Rainforests are burnt down to make way for palm plantations, leaving native people and precious wildlife without homes and livelihoods. Even palm oil labelled as ‘sustainable’ is dubious, and like many other people I now try my best to avoid palm oil wherever possible. Fortunately, it mainly crops up in processed foods which I also try to avoid for health reasons. This Christmas, try and make the time to produce your own sweet treats in the kitchen – mince pies, fruit cake and biscuits ALL taste better when baked at home, and you will be reducing demand on the palm oil industry, which is a step closer to making it truly sustainable. For more information visit Say No to Palm Oil.

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Create & Reuse

I really love giving presents as Christmas (almost as much as receiving them but obviously not that much because who does that). While I do buy a few of my presents from shops and online, I also try my best to create homemade and unique presents that my friends and fam will love. This year I’ve been having fun with pyrography, using a hot metal pen to burn designs into wooden objects, but I’ve also been knitting and brewing alcohol which always brings delight. I used this recipe from the Beeb to make limoncello with vodka, lemon zest and sugar, and I found tiny gift bottles for £2 in a homeware shop. Last year my sister also gave me a second hand jumper from a Norwegian charity shop, which I loved! Charity shops are amazing places to find cool items – I’m currently on the look out for retro espresso cups…

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Gifts that Go Further

What do you buy for the person who has everything? Just use the occasion as an excuse to donate to a good cause! My favourite ethical gifts this year include:

– Buying a mound of marshmallows for rescued moon bears in China and Vietnam with Animals Asia
Offset some carbon by planting trees with the Woodland Trust
Support a refugee with Oxfam, many of whom have been forced to flee their home due to conflict
– Support women to care for their working horses and donkeys with the Brooke

The best thing is the recipient can’t complain as they’ll just look really mean.

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What do Turkeys like for Christmas? Vegetarians!

Going vegetarian was one of the best things I’ve ever done, but I completely understand that it isn’t within everyone’s will power to do. I get it guys – chorizo is delicious and I pine for it every day. But how about having a vegetarian Christmas? I passed a turkey farm last weekend and, while it’s great that local farmers are providing free range meat for Christmas, I couldn’t escape the fact that all the turkeys I could see would have their little lives ended in just under a month. There’s no escaping the fact that eating meat is bad for the environment, and to many people, unethical. There are a million delicious recipes for a veggie alternative to roast meat – the Vegetarian Society has a great booklet. Or if you really can’t bear the idea of not eating meat, why not read Louise Gray’s book The Ethical Carnivore? She spent a year eating only animals she had killed herself, and discovered a lot of important stuff about where our food comes from.

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Merry Christmas all!

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6 thoughts on “The Clean, Green Christmas Machine

  1. Great tips! I’m going to try and make homemade gifts from
    Sea buckthorn. Apparently the juice is great for cocktails – and fighting colds. I would like a Christmas jumper but now inspired to find one in a 2nd hand shop. Thanks for the mention of my book. I wrote a piece last year about how to source an ethical turkey http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/11/ethical-eating-how-to-raise-and-perhaps-even-kill-your-own-christmas-turkey/ The last two years I have enjoyed delicious vegetarian Christmas dinners as I was only eating animals I killed myself. This year I will be eating a goose… (Spent all weekend plucking) To see full story keep an eye on my blog/ Twitter @loubgray

    1. Sea buckthorn is delicious – I definitely recommend. One of my old colleagues used to get it in the west country somewhere but I’ve no idea where to find it this year. Thanks for your piece on turkeys! I’m giving my sister your book for Christmas – she’s having a bit of a meat-eating epiphany at the moment after watching Cowspiracy and it’ll give her another set of ideas. Merry Christmas! 🙂

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