Have yourself a merry, eco Christmas
Celebrate without guilt by sharing eco and ethical gifts
Issue: Dec 2009
Spread the joy of Xmas without hurting the Earth by paying more attention to what you buy
The season of giving has come upon us once again. And unless you are a bit of an Eco Nazi who has sworn off unnecessary shopping, you are likely to feel the temptation to shop and splurge on yourself and your loved ones this Christmas.
But fret not. It ain’t all doom and gloom for those caught between the horrible tug-o-war of saving Gaia and satisfying your shopaholic tendencies. Here are some tips to help you have a guilt-free Christmas.
Invest in a good set of dinnerware that will last you a lifetime of hosting parties at home. But if you must use disposables, try biodegradable ones made from renewable sources such as corn, bamboo, or sugar cane.
Tired of your old Christmas decorations? Don’t junk them just yet. Organise a swap party to trade those baubles with your pals. You could also get crafty and create new ones from waste materials by stringing up foam packing “peanuts” or cutting up paper snowflakes from old cards and magazines. Online instructions and video tutorials are free – just Google them! But if you really must buy something, why not get edible ones like gingerbread men and candy canes?
Go for minimal packaging or make your own unique wrapping paper from magazine pages. According to author Robert Lilienfeld of Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are, if every American family reuses just 0.6 metres of holiday ribbon, the 61,000 km of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. Imagine that.
One person’s white elephant could be another person’s treasure. That is the philosophy behind regifting, the act of giving away old gifts to others. It has become so popular in the US and Canada that there are now special days in December to mark the occasion. If you are keen to try this out, remember to do it tastefully by updating the packaging, and observing etiquette such as never passing on a used gift.
Bah-hum-bug! Being green does not mean we have to be Scrooges this Christmas. Here are some gift suggestions that are gentler on the planet.
A. Alternative gifts
Instead of piling on more gifts on our friends, how about buying alternative gifts on their behalf to benefit the less fortunate? For just US$13, you could “buy” 10 fruit trees at World Vision’s Must Have Gifts shop for farmers in Mbellacadia, Senegal. At TEAR Australia’s Useful Gifts catalogue, you could sponsor the construction of a latrine at US$63 for a rural family or school that would improve sanitation and reduce the spread of diseases. Your friends will receive an e-card informing them of the purchase.
B. Reusable bottles
Tap water is now big in the US and UK, with prominent government campaigns urging people to start filling up reusable bottles instead of buying bottled water. This comes after a number of companies confessed that their prettily packaged bottled water is no different from tap water. Plastic bottles are also choking up landfills by the millions, so if you live in a country with clean tap water, why not spread the message by buying reusable bottles as Christmas gifts? If you are still paranoid, just install a tap filter to further purify the water before consumption.
- Check out stainless steel bottles at Kooldepot.com. INSIDE readers get a 10% discount for Klean Kanteen products if you use “INSIDE” as the promo code. Offer valid till December 31, 2009.
C. Organic apparel
According to the not-for-profit organisation Green America, conventional cotton farming is one of the most environmentally destructive agricultural practices because of the large amounts of pesticides used. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 20,000 people in developing countries die from accidental pesticide poisoning due to conventional cotton farming each year. Thankfully, many mainstream fashion brands like Nike, Muji, Zara, and Marks & Spencer have begun using organic cotton, which is grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
- Check out organic apparel at Afterorganic.com. INSIDE readers get a 10% discount if you use “INSIDE” as the promo code. Offer valid till February 28, 2010.
D. Organic foods
Like organic apparel, organic foods are grown without the use of chemicals, resulting in less impact on the quality of soil, air and water, as well as farmers’ health. But whether they are healthier than normal foods remains a hotly debated issue. Some say organic foods taste better: perhaps they really do or perhaps it is the knowledge that what you are consuming is friendlier to Gaia that makes them yummier? If you are in Singapore, grab the Collection of Minis (organic jams) for S$23 from Crabtree & Evelyn’s Christmas Fine Foods Collection for Grandma or Mum. Be sure to pair it off with Organic Herbal Tea Infusions (25 sachets) for S$15.
Crabtree & Evelyn retail shops can be found at these CapitaLand malls:
* Raffles City Shopping Centre #B1-45A
* Bugis Junction #01-14
For more gift ideas, check out these INSIDE features: