Small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas

I know I started off the year with good intentions to keep my blog updated with all the progress I have been making towards reducing plastic, however life got in the way, but yes I’m still continuing down the sustainability path. A light bulb moment for me was that it is not only about reducing plastic. So now I’m trying to focus on the bigger picture of zero waste, carbon footprint, seasonal products and supporting local independent businesses in addition to plastic. But I find it can be hard to prioritise any one of these aspects over the others in certain situations. And I’m continually keeping in mind the mantra Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Regift, Rehome, Repurpose, Recycle, Replant, Rot.

Looking back, the last news I gave you on this topic was about our fab eco holiday in the summer. Since then I’ve joined local groups, been on workshops and things have been ticking along in the garden. I will try to find time for more blog updates next year, but for now I wanted to focus on Christmas.

At the beginning of November, the boys and I had a good sort through our 3 boxfuls of Christmas decorations, reducing what we were going to keep by about half. The remainder was sorted for charity donations, or repurposing components for crafting, recycling or eco-bricks, with minimal ending up in the waste bin. Around the same time, we sent 3 bagfuls of unused items (toys, stationery, toiletries) to school for including in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. A great way to do it, compared to preparing an individual shoebox each like we’ve done previously, when I’ve usually ended up buying some items like hats, scarves and gloves cheaply at somewhere like Poundland, since those probably weren’t made very sustainably.

So throughout the year I have been popping into charity shops, sometimes with a boxful to donate, but often just for a browse. And I’ve found plenty of gifts to put aside for the boys, especially including the themes of Dr Who, Star Wars or Marvel as I knew those would feature on their Christmas lists.

For my other half, I’ve chosen an experience, topped up with a few items from the charity shops and edible gifts. And I’ve made a large hamper for my parents of which all the contents are either handmade locally or by me. So I’ve made a couple of soup-in-a-jar mixes, turmeric latte and zero waste candied peel. See below for the recipes.

candied peel

Looking at the Amazon wish lists of other relatives, I’ve managed to swerve Amazon entirely and bought requested gifts either on the high street or vouchers. Someone else gets a membership. Another gets products I chose for her at a Tropic fundraising party, so supporting both one friend’s fundraising and another friend’s small business. And I helped the boys select edible gifts handmade by disabled people in our local community.

I had to think hard about buying for someone in Canada. Previously I would have just resorted to Amazon, but this year I found Wychbury Ave, a small ethical local business who handcraft soaps and body products. Plus bonus, the owner was prepared to hand-deliver my order.

As regards wrapping and cards, this was more of a bugbear, as I already possess lots of shiny foil-paper, silver tape and glittery cards which I obviously want to use up rather than dispose of, but I can see it lasting quite a while yet. And I did save some paper from last Christmas too. I have been sending about half of my cards as e-cards for the last few years anyhow, but is this anymore eco, when you consider the carbon footprint of the servers? I also handmade a few cards, but didn’t have time for many, although I have always made my own gift tags. So it is probably going to be a number of years before this area hits my eco target. Similarly we have some crackers leftover from last year. I did better earlier in the year with birthday wrapping, using pages from our local newsletter tied only with ribbon. But at least nothing new was purchased. And any gifts that have arrived by post have been left in their packaging.

There does still seem to be a larger pile of gifts than I had hoped, but at least not many have my name on them. I’m particularly pleased that some of the family have made a donation at my request to their local food bank instead of getting me a gift.

Christmas gifts

Son2 is particularly eco-conscious, and bless him, this is what he wrote as a ps at the end of his letter to Santa – “Please try not to use wrapping paper since it may end up becoming plastic pollution“. So his presents will be loose inside a pillowcase, although I’ve tried to preserve some element of surprise by hiding the more fun items inside the clothing gifts.

And onto the catering. I’ve bought much less food. Nothing for tea, no gammon and wide selection of buffet treats. If anyone is still hungry, they can have a turkey sandwich. Yes we are having turkey for lunch, but it has been hand-reared free range locally by my friend on her smallholding. Fresh vegetables are from our local greengrocer, whilst frozen peas, sweetcorn and yorkshire puddings have been purchased packaging-free. Also no starters. And this year for the first time, we are passing on the Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, since only half the family like them anyhow, plus I am trying to reduce my sugar intake. No Yule log either. We do still have mince pies which I made using mincemeat that was handmade by disabled people in our local community.

Mince pies

We’ve had our artificial Christmas tree for many years, but when I got it out just over a week ago, I realised one of the pieces had broken when it was being taken down last year. I’ve managed to repair it, so hopefully the tree will last us at least a few more years. However only two out of four colours of our LED lights seem to now be working and I’ve discovered they sadly don’t have replaceable bulbs like our previous set did, but we are making do. So much for me stating that they would last for 50,000 hours use, when I reviewed them 6 years ago. But I’ve noticed that none of us are particularly bothered about switching the Christmas lights on, so saving energy. We’ve only ever had one strings of lights at a time, unlike some houses which seem to go overboard on both the amount of lighting and how soon it is up, in some cases even as early as November, but maybe Christmas lights will become a thing of the past in our household.

Christmas wreath

On the more natural decorative front, I cut a few sprigs of holly, ivy and pine from the garden and wove them around my willow wreath for a front door decoration. It looks a bit lopsided, but I am still pleased with it. I made the wreath early last month after volunteering to help with the willow harvest.

Making a willow wreath

And now to share my recipes. Firstly the zero-waste candied peel. I’ve been saving all types of citrus peel in the freezer, along with other bags of bread crumbs, raw vegetable scraps for stock, apple cores and vegetable peelings. My initial plan was to make my own candied peel that I could either use in cake-making or as a sweet treat. However I wished to avoid sugar, so I have used honey in my recipe instead. But as we eat a lot of citrus fruit, I seemed to have a non-ending supply of citrus peel, so the obvious idea was to gift some of the candied peel. For an additional touch, you could also dip the candied peel in chocolate.


Candied Peel

Candied Peel

Ingredients

300g mixed citrus peel (orange, lemon and grapefruit)
250g honey
water

Method

Defrost the peels.
Remove excess pith and cut into narrow strips.
Place in a saucepan of water and bring to the boil.
Boil for 5 minutes, then drain off the water.
Replace with fresh water and bring to the boil again.
This time simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the water into a jug.
Pour 400ml of the strained water back into the saucepan.
Stir in the honey and strips of peel.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the honey.
Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup.
Allow to cool.
Strain off the syrup, (you can store this in the refrigerator to make cordial drinks).
Place sheets of greaseproof paper onto all your cooling racks.
Spread out the peels in a single layer on the paper.
Place the cooling racks in your airing cupboard for 2-3 days until the peels are dry.
Store the candied peels in airtight sterilised jars.
(Optionally dip in melted chocolate).
Enjoy.

Candied Peel

Secondly turmeric latte, a tasty drink. Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so this is a great gift for the health benefits.


Turmeric Latte

Turmeric Latte

Ingredients

250g skimmed milk powder
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of black pepper

Method

Mix all ingredients together.
Store in an airtight sterilised jar.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Mix 25g into a mug of cold water.
Heat in microwave.
Enjoy.

And finally the soups in a jar. I did two variants, mild coconut curry soup and minestrone soup, but there are so many more possibilities for this. Gift them along with a tin of coconut milk or chopped tomatoes respectively.


Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Mild Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

125g green lentils
125g red lentils
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp dried onion
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin coconut milk

Method

Mix together the dried onions, curry powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the green lentils.
Then the red lentils.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of coconut milk.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.
Enjoy.


Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

75g barley
75g red lentils
75g gomitini pasta
1 tbsp dried onion
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 garlic powder
Pinch of basil
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of marjoram
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Method

Mix together the dried onions, mustard powder, garlic powder, herbs, salt and pepper.
Layer the dry ingredients into a sterilised jar as follows.
Firstly the barley.
Then the red lentils.
Then the pasta.
Then the spice and onion mix.
Cover with a circle of paper.
Place the stock cube on top of the paper.
Seal the jar airtight with lid.
Attach a label to the jar, detailing the following usage instructions.
Place stock cube in 750ml boiling water.
Add contents of jar and can of chopped tomatoes.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat.
Simmer for 45-50 minutes until barley is tender.
Enjoy.

So these are my first small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas. I am sure there is loads more I could do, so I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips for Christmas please.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Christmas.

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15 thoughts on “Small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas

  1. Susan B

    Love the recipes and gifting of jars with the ingredients to make dishes. We have shunned all sparkly and sticky things this year, bought much less food to avoid waste and will continue to take small steps towards a more sustainable Christmas.

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    Reply
    1. mumjd Post author

      Thank you. I gave away several rolls of foil-style wrapping paper this month via our local freebay site. They had been in the cupboard for a few years and I couldn’t bring myself to use them, knowing that they are not recyclable

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      Reply
  2. Jeanet Richardson

    I have stopped buying new Christmas cards and reuse old ones to make new cards and gift cards. My family have always reused cards, wrapping paper and bags. My children were only allowed to rip open presents when the paper was too tatty to use again. They thought it was great fun. I also use old ribbon instead of selotape to wrap presents and it doesnt ruin the paper and looks far nicer.

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    Reply
    1. mumjd Post author

      I don’t think I’ll ever manage to get my kids in the mindset of not ripping, they are too excited. I deliberately didn’t write on the envelope of my son’s birthday card and folded the flap in, thinking the envelope could be saved for reuse, but he still tore it open

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      Reply
  3. Dawn Samples

    I will have to make the turmeric latte. I really want to improve my health this year so I’m looking out for healthy new recipes x

    Like

    Reply
    1. mumjd Post author

      This was the first time for me, but certainly going to try again as now have loads of peel in the freezer. Need a few more ideas besides marmalade and candied peel

      Like

      Reply

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