I’m dreaming of a green Christmas

Melissa Morozzo
December 10, 2009

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 correctly.


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 on waste.


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 environmentally friendly.


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.






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