A Sustainable Christmas - Part Three
Christmas is a special time of year for many people. For some it’s a time of faith. For some a celebration of family. But for most of us, it’s inextricably bound up with consumerism. We learn from a young age that Christmas is about shopping and presents and Santa. And we learn to express our love for one another through the giving of gifts.
We spend our hard earned money on stuff that we think our loved ones might want, but probably don’t need. Meanwhile we try to figure out what to do with the excess of things we receive at Christmas.
People are starting to wake up to the idea that this is neither sustainable nor necessary. And that we don’t actually have to do it. In this three-part series, I will suggest some ways to change how we give, receive and wrap gifts in order to make Christmas less about stuff and a little bit less harmful to our environment.
In part one, Giving Sustainably, I focused on ways to give gifts without consuming. In the second instalment, Receiving Sustainably, I discussed how to explain to friends and family that you don’t want to have a consumption-focused Christmas. And in part four, Wrapping Sustainably, I’ll explore some sustainable ways of wrapping those gifts that you do give.
In this post, I’ve gathered four of my favourite ideas for non-consumption advent calendars.
Unnecessary Christmas consumption isn’t confined to Christmas. It starts on December 1st with advent calendars. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old woman, I feel like advent calendars have gotten a bit out of hand in recent years. When I was a kid, we got a small piece of chocolate each day. Today, there are advent calendars full of expensive beauty products, perfumes, luxury candles and toys, to name but a few. They cost hundreds of pounds, are full of disposable plastic containers and I wager that half the products in them never even get used! If you’re trying to make this Christmas a sustainable one, that’s not about over-consumption, what about starting with a non-consumption advent calendar? Here are a few of the best that I’ve found.
1. Book Advent Calendar
This is my personal favourite for kids because it is essentially 24 small gifts of time spent together. And that’s what all kids want more than anything else.
All you do is wrap up 24 books that your kids already have and maybe don’t read so often. If you don’t have that many books, great work! Try borrowing some books from the library instead. Open one each day and spend some quality time together reading it. You get extra points if you wrap them sustainably!
2. Activity Advent Calendar
Make the most of the free things you can do at home or in your area. Plan a different activity (big or small) for each day of advent and make them into your own advent calendar. This one work for kids and adults alike, just adjust the activities. Walk on the beach, build a fort, decorate the Christmas tree, watch a Christmas movie, bake gingerbread, write a letter to Santa. The possibilities are endless.
This is great because it’s also about spending time together, and you can steer the activities towards your family’s personal interests. You can also adjust the level of crafting required to make the calendar according to your own skill levels. Go to town with doors and drawings, like @ekotipset has, if you like crafting. But if you are less artsy then you can just make a list.
3. Reverse Advent Calendar
If you, like me, already have plenty of stuff, what about giving to people who don’t have as much during advent. With a reverse advent calendar, you give away something every day. Find out what charities or shelters in your area need and see what you can spare to offer them. They are often on the lookout for gifts for people in need at Christmas time.
Place one item in a box every day of advent and donate them for Christmas. Bonus: this also helps you to minimise your unnecessary stuff.
4. Minimalist Advent Calendar
If you want to do some serious decluttering this advent, how about this for a challenge. On day one of advent, you declutter one item that you don’t need. On day two, you declutter two more. And so on, all the way to 24 items on Christmas Eve. By my calculations, you will declutter 300 items over the full advent period! What a way to start the new year.
If you have a lot of things in good condition that you think your friends might enjoy (e.g. clothes, accessories, jewellery), maybe you could organise a new year’s swap party to find a new home for them.