A Christmas free of plastic is possible

Christmas time does not require more plastic. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
Christmas time does not require more plastic. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

I love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of the year. I love the food, crackers, wrapping presents, having parties.

But I have had to dial it back, way back, to maintain the planet-friendly practices the family has put in place.

The trouble with Christmas is the plastic. Plastic decorations, plastic toys, plastic, plastic, plastic.

And excess. Too much food, too much meat, too much everything.

I have been so successfully conditioned to be a Christmas consumer that I have been in a period of mourning just for the tinsel and glitter I can’t have.

But then an even more nightmarish problem arose. What to buy as gifts?

I have a friend who infamously one year bought her entire family a donation to a charity.

Her two teenage sons weren’t best pleased, but it turns out she was on to something.

About a decade too soon perhaps, but ahead of a curve.

So here – for what they are worth – are the ideas I’ve gathered from those around me to be more conscious, but without ending up with an entirely unmerry Christmas.

Wrapping paper is out, but brown paper packages tied up with material ribbons are in.

Another option is newspaper, a particular favourite of City Press.

While decorating with glitter is out, offcuts of material, ribbons and fresh flowers can make a nice arty-looking parcel.

Read: How to use plastic wisely

Then there is the charity option, for my daughter’s friend’s birthday she asked for money, which she then donated to a charity to save rare pangolins from being trafficked.

Her choice of charity meant she was completely sold on the idea and her friends were delighted to get a thank you note with an explanation about the charity and the pangolins (an animal lots of them hadn’t actually heard of).

The trouble with Christmas is the plastic. Plastic decorations, plastic toys, plastic, plastic, plastic. And excess. Too much food, too much meat, too much everything.

Then there are experiences – every Christmas there are all sorts of fabulous shows on.

This year it is Peter Pan on Ice and there’s always the pantomime.

There’s an outing to the zoo to see the lights or any number of other shows to get in the Christmas spirit.

It doubles up as a school holiday activity, something that all parents are grateful for – especially once week three of the holidays sets in.

But – we all like a present – so there’s the choice to buy local. To buy artisan goods.

To buy gifts that have been made by the hands of fellow South Africans who need our support, rather than mass-produced by far-off factories.

This is where the planet-conscious can still indulge (or so I have decided) in gifts.

This applies to food too, buying local means you can have your Christmas cake and eat it in the righteous knowledge that buying it put money in the pocket of a fellow citizen who needed it.

So, while Christmas shopping is becoming increasingly perilous – not only for our pockets but for the planet, as everyone tries to buy less plastic destined for a landfill – it is possible to be more responsible without entirely taking the ho, ho, ho out of the holidays.


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July 2020

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