Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

Christmas gifts

 

Christmas is rapidly approaching so we thought it would be a good idea to give you some green inspiration for presents this year.

So we’ll start with “that” person. Every family has one – the relative who is almost impossible to buy for at Christmas.

This year, instead of trudging the high street hoping for inspiration, why not give them a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped?  It’s a great idea which involves buying a gift for those who really need it.

Your friend or relative receives a gift card and magnet, telling them how their “gift” has been used and there’s a huge range of ideas to choose from.  

According to Oxfam, 967 million people in the world are hungry, and a child dies every five seconds of hunger-related causes. A gift of just £10 can feed a hungry family for a month – or you can choose from other options such as the planting of 25 trees (£8), tools for farming (£30) or school books (£8).

If your Unwrapped gift costs more than £50, your relative also receives a free gift box and celebrity DVD.

There are gifts in the range to suit people of all tastes from bookworms or animal lovers to DIY fans or eco-warriors.  You can see the full range here.

Oxfam also has a range of “real” gifts for family and friends, including fairtrade items, energy saving gifts or gifts from sustainable sources. For example, you could buy a solar battery charger for £12.71 or a wind-up torch at £19.56.

xmas-windup-torch

There’s a good range of food gifts from Fairtrade luxury chocolates to Christmas puddings and stocking fillers such as Fairtrade chocolate coins (£1.95).

Children’s gifts include the top-selling cardboard rocket, made from recycled cardboard (£29.35) and the Doll’s House (£26.42) which has an eco-friendly twist for a favourite toy.

xmas-card-rocket

Before the dolls move in, the whole thing needs to be decorated so it’s great for those who love paint and crayons.  It’s made from at least 75% recycled cardboard and can be folded away for easy storage.

xmas-dolls-house

Or how about buying a child the Best Eco Book Ever – an activity book which explores topics like recycling, ecology and the environment in a fun way. (£4.95)

If you are buying for people who aren’t averse to charity shop finds, then the Oxfam site is brimming with second-hand ideas.  Items from Oxfam shops all over the UK are available online and you can pick up anything from pre-owned Playstation games to Spiderman toys.

For example, a keen stamp collector would love a First Day Cover envelope with stamps – some are available from as far back as the World Cup in 1966.

People interested in living a greener lifestyle would probably appreciate a copy of one of the Green Guide range of books.  You can browse the titles here, including the Green Guide for Christmas (£4.99) and the Green Guide for Home and Household which is available at a special offer price of  £7.49 for Christmas.

 Green Guide - the directory for planet-friendly l

The range also includes Pocket Green Guides to England, Scotland and Wales for only £1.49 and EcoEscape UK (with free cyclometer) which includes green places to stay, eco days out and local food and drink (£8.99).

Staying with the green bookworm theme, I’m hoping someone will buy me Tamsin Blanchard’s book, ‘Green Is the New Black’. It’s a must-have and is available brand new from Amazon at £6.74, although personally, I’d rather be given a pre-owned copy. These start from only £1.07 – and it’s much more planet friendly to extend the life of someone’s discarded book 🙂

xmas-book-green-is-new-black

Many online retailers now have a range of eco-gifts, including top retailer, I Want One of Those.com.  (IWOOT)

Their wind-up phone charger (£4.99) provides up to 8 minutes of talk time from a 3 minute wind – a lifesaver when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your phone has died.  

I also love their Sun Jar – an ingenious and pretty lighting concept from designer Tobias Wong. Instead of storing  traditional jam, this jam jar stores sunshine – and automatically turns itself on when it gets dark.  You just sit it on your windowsill to soak up the sun and its solar charging panel and low voltage bulb do the rest! 

xmas-sunjar

IWOOT is also stocking a Mini Kin green power generator for Christmas. It costs £30 but sounds great. A wind-powered battery charger, it straps to your arm or your bike (or pretty much anything really!) and its propeller powers a turbine which creates enough energy to power up a variety of gadgets. You can plug the battery unit into your iPod, mobile phone or PDA. It also has a back up battery pack with USB connector – but cycling in the wind is so much more planet friendly 🙂

IWOOT has a wide range of unusual gifts for the friend who has everything. I think the keyring featuring “permanent” bubble wrap sounds great – an ideal stocking filler for someone who just loves to pop bubble wrap. (It’s highly addictive as all true-poppers know only too well!)

The Friends of the Earth website has a range of eco books, including bargain basement books which start from just £1.99.  (I’ve already put their How to Grow Organic Vegetables and Herbs (£8.99) on my wishlist.)

Or how about buying someone the Friends of the Earth fundraising calendar, which features images from around the world (£7.50).

And when it comes to wrapping up all your gifts, remember to use alternatives to traditional gift wrap whenever you can. For example, the glossy pages of an unwanted magazine are great (you can use car magazines or fashion magazines for adults and old comics for children’s gifts.)

Some gifts look lovely without any wrapping at all – or you could recycle gift bags from previous pressies. (We have a couple of bottle bags in our family that have been doing the rounds for at least three years :))

And, when thinking green, remember that you need to go beyond the gift-giving. I love outdoor Christmas lights but we ditched ours a couple of years ago because of the energy they wasted. 

This year, we’re switching on again – but we’re using outdoor solar lights. The Eco-Savers lights (a string of 50) are £19.25 from Amazon and you won’t need to feel guilty about lighting up your house.

Special note – I’m excited about a new environmental website that I’m involved in called The Big Green Guide. Eventually, we hope The Big Green will be a one-stop shop for everything eco – from advice on renewable energy and greening your home to news on inspiring projects from around the globe.

It’s early days at the moment and we’re just starting to add content but we’ve started things off with a Cut the Christmas Carbon Campaign, which includes lots of ideas on making your Christmas greener this year, so we’d love you to join in. 🙂

Susan

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SERIOUS MONDAY: REMEMBER THE PLANET THIS CHRISTMAS

 

earth

Christmas is coming – and although most of us love the festive season,  it’s traditionally bad news for the planet.

December brings with it increased product buying, more packaging, more commercial transport – and vast amounts of rubbish afterwards.

It is estimated that wrapping paper alone used in the UK at Christmas, would cover the whole of Guernsey – and gifts aside, we will use around 750 million EXTRA bottles or glass containers and 500 million more drinks cans.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be bringing you some suggestions for a Greener Christmas and tips on reducing the amount of festive waste.

In the meantime, you could consider

Sending  an e-card rather than a traditional Christmas card to internet-savvy friends

Buying as local as possible – often a small games shop in town will cost little more than a chainstore outlet – and you’ll be supporting your local economy

Buying real charity Christmas cards – rather than those sold by many retailers which sometimes offer only a tiny donation to charity. Get them direct from Oxfam or your favourite charity instead

Planning your Christmas menu in advance so that you don’t buy much more food than you really need

Taking reusable bags on your shopping trips. (If you forget, it doesn’t mean to have to accept a bag in every store. Smaller items will often fit into a bag that you’re already carrying

Checking the energy rating on any large appliances or electrical items that you intend to buy

You could also try to buy children’s toys that don’t need up to six batteries at a time. I’ve already bought traditional tiddly-winks for my little one. I used to be quite an expert so we’ll see if I’ve still got the knack 

And if you work with more than a couple of people, suggest a Secret Santa this year where you put names in a hat and buy a gift for just the person whose name you pull out.  It not only saves unnecessary (and often unwanted) gifts but cuts down on your shopping – and saves everyone money!

Susan

CRAZY WEDNESDAY: A FEW GREEN THINGS

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

So the festivities are over, we’re counting down the days until we have to remove the Christmas decorations, work looms and everyone is stir-crazy after a fortnight indoors! If your house is like mine, the main result of seeing family and friends over Christmas is to catch up with all the germs we missed earlier in the year, so we’re all sniffing and sneezing away. For those who went out celebrating, as well as for those of us with colds and flu, here are a few gentle, fun things, with a green theme.

THE ANSWER, MY FRIEND, IS BLOWING IN THE WIND

Firstly, I love this video of the construction of a wind turbine. The first time I came close to a wind turbine was on a motorcycling holiday through Europe. We were travelling along the Dutch coast, and we came across a beautiful rocky coast, devoid of people but with an array of these statuesque turbines, and they were amazingly big – much bigger than I’d somehow imagined they might be. I’ve often wondered since how they actually get there, and this is the answer.

THE CHARM OF OLD THINGS

I wrote about Green Thing a while ago. It’s an on-line community where you can find inspiration to do a little something green each month, with the excellent twist of a constant supply of funny photos, audio files and videos on each theme. December’s Green Thing to do was actually aimed at Christmas present buying, and was to “give an old thing, not a new thing”. It works easily as well, though for that time after Christmas when we either try to get rid of the unwanted gifts we received, or clear out to make room for the ones we do want. The theme’s video is so gorgeous and nostalgic, it’ll have you crying into your turkey soup.

DIY SOLAR CAR

solar-car_6648.jpg

There are so many solar, biofuel, electric, hybrid – whatever – green cars coming on to the market these days that I could easily only write about them. The problem is that they are largely incredibly ugly. Now, this one turned my head first because it is cute, but the back story makes it even better, as this bloke actually built it himself. This is a fascinating little video – it almost makes me want to do one myself

ECO-FRIENDLY FERRARI

knitted-ferrari.jpg

Hands up who got a sweater for Christmas! Now, when I was little, my granny used to knit jumpers for us, and when we’d grown out of them, we’d give them back to her. She’d unravel them, and knit something else. It struck me that this would be a good way of using up the knitted sweaters, socks, etc that you got for Christmas, but don’t like, and at the same time getting yourself the most beautiful eco-friendly car in the world. It runs on absolutely no petrol, and is 100% recyclable, but most importantly, it’s a Ferrari.

Amanda

SERIOUS MONDAY: RECYCLING CHRISTMAS CARDS TO PLANT TREES

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The Woodland Trust hopes to plant 24,000 trees by recycling 100 million Christmas cards in January.

That’s an awful lot of cards folks – so make sure you help the trust to reach its target by recycling your cards at WH Smith, TK Maxx, Marks & Spencer or Tesco. (Some stores are excluded from the scheme but you can get full details here (http://www.woodland-trust.org.uk/cards/ ))

Last year, the trust recycled 93 million cards so with a little more effort, hopefully it will reach the 100 million mark. You can drop off your cards at the store recycling points any time between January 3 to January 31 and you can also request posters to let other people know about the scheme.

(Apparently, if you recycled just one Christmas card it would save enough electricity to allow five people to watch the Queen’s Christmas day message next year. Amazing!)

Susan

CRAZY WEDNESDAY: A FESTIVE SONG, RECYCLED AND RE-USED JUST FOR YOU

A very happy boxing day to all!

I couldn’t resist recycling another Christmas favourite, this time with videos of some of the things I didn’t cover on other Crazy Wednesdays. I promise this is my last parody for now – but I hope you enjoy it.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Alternative en-ergy!

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Power from above,

And alternative en-ergy!

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Hy-dro-gen,

Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Well-meaning words,

Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five green rings,

Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Wind-up music playing,

Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eco-challenge winning,

Wind-up music playing,
Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Carbon neutral twinkling,

Eco-challenge winning,
Wind-up music playing,
Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Skyscrapers dancing,

Carbon neutral twinkling,
Eco-challenge winning,
Wind-up music playing,
Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Biofuels for reaping,

Skyscrapers dancing, 
Carbon neutral twinkling,
Eco-challenge winning,
Wind-up music playing,
Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Grey water piping,

Biofuels for reaping,
Skyscrapers dancing, 
Carbon neutral twinkling,
Eco-challenge winning,
Wind-up music playing,
Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Green Hummers humming,

Grey water piping,
Biofuels for reaping,
Skyscrapers dancing, 
Carbon neutral twinkling,
Eco-challenge winning,
Wind-up music playing,
Five green rings,
Well-meaning words,
Hy-dro-gen,
Power from above,
And alternative en-ergy!

Amanda

MERRY CHRISTMAS :)

card.jpg

 A warm Merry Christmas to all of you 🙂

LAZY FRIDAY: GIVING IS GOOD

Christmas is a time for giving so if you can afford it, help to make the festive season a little brighter for those in need.

Many large shopping centres now invite people to donate a new gift by handing it in a collection point or placing it around the tree.  Often, the collections are on behalf of children’s charities so you need to say on a gift tag whether it’s for a boy or girl and the age range that it’s suited to.

The Salvation Army and shelters for the homeless also welcome gifts or cash donations to help in their work so be generous if you can. (If you can’t, then remember it’s the thought that counts and even a small gift will be appreciated.)

And of course, giving doesn’t always mean spending money.   An elderly or lonely neighbour might appreciate the chance to have a cuppa and a chat  – or someone to carry their shopping home.

And while we’re all rushing around buying last minute gifts, we should remember that Christmas can be one of the saddest times of year for those who have lost someone close to them and giving them a little of your time is probably the most welcome gift of all.

Christmas is also a time for giving thanks and provides the opportunity to give something back to our wonderful planet.  Feed the birds, donate some tinned food to an animal refuge, get the children involved in a litter pick or take them to a local farm to buy fresh produce like eggs and meat.

Make sure that children know about global warming and encourage them to get involved in recycling. I try to get my eight-year-old to think about the 3 Rs.  Last Christmas she wrapped up two of her favourite items and presented them to me as gifts so hopefully the message is getting through!  (The fact that I have no use whatsoever for a pink pony with swirling blue tail and diamond eyes or a see-through cosmetics box – aka a transparent briefcase -is quite beyond the point.)  And I refuse to believe her father’s theory that she was just trying to hang onto her pocket money 🙂

Over the holidays, think about the power you’re using and try to find a way to save at least 10 per cent of the gas or electricity you normally use over Christmas.

And most important of all – don’t be lonely this Christmas. If you don’t have friends or family living close, then do yourself and the needy a favour.  Volunteer to visit elderly or sick people who need some company, help out at a shelter or offer to help in a community centre or charity shop.

Notice boards in libraries, doctors surgeries and community centres are all great places to start looking for ways to get involved in something worthwhile.

Have a great Christmas – and since the young people in our house are desperate for some of the white stuff, this seemed a perfect way to sign off:

Susan