This time of year is full of hustle, bustle and stress as well as joy and for some sadness. Whilst I love time spent with loved ones, the joy on my sons face on Christmas morning and making memories, I do find the pace of the holiday season can make even those who live the most conscious of lives go a little off track.
I thought I would share my top eight tips for having a conscious holiday season, these are as much of a reminder to myself as anything else but I hope this simple reflection may help someone else too this holiday season.
Choose presents wisely
If I was a hardcore environmentalist I would be telling you not to buy anything new, avoid department stores like the plague and share love not gifts, but I am a realist and I know that gifting is now part and parcel of the Holiday season whether we like it or not. What I am a fan of, is conscious consumerism and gifting, not buying simply for the sake of it and being mindful of where those gifts come from. I am always a little shocked when I hear how much other people spend on Christmas, I can't really see how if you receive so much you could possibly appreciate it all and I find Children in particular often get as much enjoyment out of the boxes or the low value items as they do the expensive ones. Don't feel the need to keep up with anyone else's spending this Christmas, you know your circumstances best and no one will thank you for having spent more if come January you are riddled with debt and unhappy.
Shopping local, artisan and ethical producers this Christmas is a bit of a no brainer, they have gorgeous selections and you can feel good about the gifts you buy hopefully introducing people to greener brands that they will love and continue to buy from too. We like to order all our Christmas day supplies from our local farm shop too, the quality and service is far better than anything you would get at the supermarket and it supports local business.
Don't forget to make memories
It is all too easy to get so caught up in the details of Christmas like the gift buying and decorating that we can forget to set aside time for us and for others, however it is often the times we spend with our loved ones that are the most precious. This time of year is as much about rituals and traditions as it is about "things".
It's OK to be sad
Christmas is a very divisive time of year, for many who have lost loved ones or who have no family and friends to celebrate with, already difficult circumstances can be magnified. Four years ago now I lost both my Mum and Grandad in the run up to Christmas, needless to say I didn't feel particularly festive that year, it taught me that it really is OK to embrace your feelings whatever the time of year. If you know of a friend, relative or neighbour in a similar situation let them know you are there for them, that it is OK for them to feel a variety of feelings, not all of them positive. If you are struggling over the festive period there are organisations on hand to help including the Samaritans, do reach out.
Do something good for others
I don't really care if it is cliched I find Christmas a perfect time of year to do something good for others, yes this is something you can do all year round too, but if you did want to start a yearly tradition of doing something for others now is a great time. The list could well be endless, find a local cause or a national charity you believe in. Personally I like to support my local food bank with donations, but it could be something as simple as taking food to an elderly neighbour who is likely to be alone this year.
Watch your waste
There is something about Christmas that makes you feel you are feeding five hundred, even when there is only a few of you. Whilst I do think it is nice to indulge a little, no one wants to be eating Christmas day leftovers for the rest of the week so shopping carefully is essential. Package up any leftovers and pop in the fridge for sandwiches or bubble and squeak and make sure everything is stored well in the run up to Christmas to avoid things going off. Now is the perfect time to have a clear out of your cupboards and eat up anything that is nearing it's use by date, that way when you come to do your larger Christmas shop you will have more space and you will have saved a little money too. I wrote a whole post early last year on this, find more of my tips here.
Reuse, reuse, reuse
Whether it's reusing gift bags or buying recycled Christmas cards anything that can be saved and reused for another year should be. With the five pence plastic bag charge it is also the perfect time to get in to the habit of carrying a reusable shopping bag with you when you do any shopping in the supermarket or high street. If you are crafty home made cards and wrapping is also a fun activity to do with your children and will make gifts more personal. Think twice before throwing anything away!
Skip disposables where possible
I know for parties single use cups, plates and cutlery can be convenient but if you are using plastic items they will stay in landfill for years. If you have a lot of guests coming over and simply can't face the washing up, why not choose compostable options, there is lot's of choice and you know it won't be hanging around for years after the party has finished.
How will you be living more consciously this year?