For many Christmas is a time to share joy and cheer with friends, loved ones and community. While Christmas shopping, roasting the perfect turkey and getting the house looking festive can be stressful at times, we do it for the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with spreading the festive spirit. We stay up past midnight wrapping presents to see the cheer on faces when they get unwrapped. We spend hours searching the internet for “good secret Santa presents for colleagues” because we want to get something they will really appreciate.
Here at Girls Friendly Society, we are trying to spread that seasonal cheer just a little bit further this Christmas by thinking about ways to celebrate Christmas that are compassionate to people and planet. Here are our top tips.
1. Reverse advent calendar
Children (and lots of adults too) enjoy counting the days to Christmas with an advent calendar, so why not start a new tradition in your family that encourages thinking about others.
To create a reverse advent calendar, find an old box and decorate it as a craft activity. Then, every day in the run up to Christmas, add an item to be donated to a local food collection.
Find out what items your local food bank or collection need, as they may have shortages or surplus supply of certain items. If you don’t have time to check in advance, canned foods and personal toiletries are normally a good option. It is unlikely they will be able to accept fresh food due to the logistics of collecting and distributing items. You can find local collections at churches, shelters, food banks and supermarkets.
To make the reverse advent calendar a more exciting activity for children, you could stick numbers on the items to be added to your advent calendar or you hide each day’s item and give them clues to help them find it. Having a reverse advent calendar is a great opportunity to speak to children about people that are less fortunate and the things we can do to help them.
2. Plastic free crackers
Most Christmas crackers contain plastic toys that adorn the dinner table until everyone’s finished eating and then go straight in the bin.
There a lots of Christmas cracker options that cut down on unnecessary waste and plastic. John Lewis and Waitrose have made a commitment not to put plastic toys in the Christmas crackers this year. Reusable Christmas crackers are available on craft stores such as Etsy and double up as napkins.
For children, one fun option is to make your own, avoiding any shipping and packaging as well as cutting down on plastic. Use our Christmas cracker template and have fun adorning with your own festive patterns. Write your own jokes or look some up to include on slip of paper inside. You could either make your own gifts, such as a friendship bracelet or Christmas ornament, or raid the Quality Street tin for the best ones for tasty Christmas crackers.
3. Gifts that give back
Many of us have more than enough ‘things’ in our lives. With an overflowing sock drawer and bathroom cupboard full of the remnants of bath and body gift sets, your friends and loved ones might appreciate a gift that helps others and doesn’t add to the amount of stuff on their shelves.
Check out our range of charitable donation gifts and choose something that you can donate to support and empower girls on behalf of a friend. From a drumming and storytelling workshop to a healthy cooking class, our shop everything a GFS group needs to provide diverse and fulfilling opportunities for girls that will help them build confidence, self-esteem and develop skill for life.
Select the gift you would like to donate on behalf of a friend, loved one, or secret santa and write a personalised message that we will send to them in a GFS greetings card.
4. Reusable wrapping
108 million rolls of wrapping paper are used in the UK each Christmas, which is an almost incomprehensible amount of waste. Whilst some people put their used wrapping paper in the recycling, all the sticky tape needs to be removed and foil or glittery varieties can’t be recycled.
If you’re concerned about the impact of Christmas on the planet, you could try furoshiki in your household. What is furoshiki? It is a creative, eco-friendly way of wrapping gifts, also known as Japanese fabric wrapping.
By carefully wrapping and knotting colourful fabrics around your gifts, you can demonstrate the thought and care with which you are giving the gift. You can find folding patterns on blogs or YouTube videos. Plus, it takes the stress out of wrapping those pesky round or odd shaped gifts, as fabric is much more forgiving than paper. The best part is that you can keep the fabric and use it again and again, for the ultimate sustainable Christmas solution.
5. Online shopping perks
Over 25 billion pounds is spent on Christmas shopping online in the UK. Imagine if every time you shopped online, the retailer made a donation to empower girls in England and Wales. That dream is real thanks to Give as You Live.
Sign up to support GFS on Give as You Live and over 4,300 retailers will donate a percentage of your spend to GFS to help us power our girls’ groups. It won’t cost you a penny – it is a reward from the retailer for choosing to shop with them.
Most high streets and big name shops are signed up, including Amazon, The Entertainer, Not on the High Street, New Look and Argos. Sign up to today and collect free charity donations for doing the shopping you were going to do anyway.
If you’re looking for more ways to have a more ethical Christmas, take a look at our packaging free gift ideas.