Nobody likes an eco-Scrooge at Christmas time. An eco-Scrooge would tell
you to save paper this festive season by wrapping all your gifts in newspaper,
pages from magazines or the used wrapping paper you carefully conserved from
last year. An eco-Scrooge might suggest cooking only as much food as you can
eat, not the usual gargantuan quantities of turkey, potatoes, chestnut
stuffing, bread sauce and streaming gravy that you can’t manage to eat because
you scoffed all the Quality Street after breakfast. An eco-Scrooge would encourage
frugal gift ideas like the jars of homemade chutney I’m sure you’ve been making
all year with the windfall fruits from your garden.
However, if you’ve been good little green warriors
in 2009, maybe you can bend a few rules over the festive season. After all,
’tis the season to be jolly, and it’s not to everyone’s taste to wrap presents
in back copies of The Florentine (although, of course, all of us at TF
will be thrilled if you do). You can have a merry, festive season while still
doing your bit for the environment. Here are some ideas:
BUY ‘experience’ gifts that don’t need any wrapping,
such as theatre or cinema vouchers, or tickets to a sports game. You could even
give a bus or train season ticket.
GET a real Christmas tree, not a plastic one. The
average lifespan of an artificial trees is only six years and they aren’t biodegradable.
Obi, the hardware giant, is selling real Christmas trees for €10 and all those
returned by January 9, 2010, will be donated to the Associazione Amici della
Terra to be replanted. On top of that, the store promises to give each person
who returns his tree a gift voucher for €10. If your tree doesn’t survive the
holiday season, then contact Quadrifoglio to find out where to dispose of it
TAKE your own cloth bags when you do your holiday
shopping. We tend to accumulate many more plastic bags than usual in the annual
scramble for the perfect gift for Great Aunt Maud.
MAKE sure the food you buy is locally grown and, if
possible, organic. Buy your sprouts loose rather than pre-packaged to cut down
PUT all that shredded wrapping paper into the
recycling and buy wrapping paper and Christmas cards made from recycled paper
THINK about second-hand gifts from flea markets and
antique and vintage clothing stores. Your gift will be unique and recycled.
DO something good. Give a loved one a subscription
to a charitable association like Legambiente, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife
Fund, Amnesty International or Emergency. Save the Children has a wish list of
things you can give to children in need around the world, from pens and pencils
to a herd of goats. The person in whose name you’re giving receives a card with
a certificate of donation. You can even give a yak.
Of course, at the
risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, the best presents cost nothing and need
no wrapping at all. Time, affection and attention are all gloriously free and
The December issue
of Terra Nuova, an Italian ecological magazine published here in
Florence, came with a book of blank ‘favour cheques’: a helping hand to a
friend, a simple promise of kindness.
You can make your
own chequebook full of favours. My other half’s dream gift would be a promise
of an hour long grumble-free foot massage (I usually resist on environmental
grounds however: such a massage may release hazardous cheesy toxins into the
atmosphere). Spend time emailing and writing to distant friends and family;
most people much prefer a newsy letter to a hurriedly bought gift stuck in the
post. Think less about presents and more about presence. After all, that’s what
the holidays are all about.
CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE!