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How I’m trying to waste less this Christmas

A blog post by Catriona Rae

Catriona Rae
Education and Learning Officer

Posted 21/12/2020

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Like many people this year I am trying to make the holidays special during a truly unusual time. I want to let my friends and family know I’m thinking about them, especially as I haven’t seen them since March. But how to do so without creating mountains of waste?  How do we let the people closest to us know we care about them without harming the environment, especially since Scotland is being slowly but surely buried in litter and waste?    I’ve given it a go this year, here’s how.

Reuse Christmas cards as gift tags. I’m one of those sentimental types that still prefers sending paper cards and letters instead of a festive email. The kids receive a lot of cards from their friends at school too.  There are some special cards that get brought out every year to be hung on the wall, and the rest I save for the kids to cut out gift tags. We punch a hole in the top and thread ribbon or yarn through to tie to a parcel. It’s a fun craft to keep small hands busy and helps reuse the cards one more time before they head to the recycling bin.

Reusing just about anything for wrapping paper. When it comes time to wrap presents, anything goes in my house: old maps, reused gift bags, pieces of cloth, scarves, baskets, biscuit tins, and boxes decorated by the kids are all popular choices.  Anything that could be used to wrap or decorate a present gets squirrelled away into a box in the loft throughout the year and I make sure that if I do buy any wrapping paper that it passes the scrunch test so that it can be recycled. My mum lives in Canada and there is a small box that we have sent presents back and forth across the Atlantic for the last 15 years, taking turns to send it back and forth.  It’s my turn this year so I need to find a present that will fit!

Foraging for presents. I took advantage of our family walks during lockdown to scout out some good brambling locations and saved up jam and pickle jars to make lovely berry preserves which will make nice presents. A little taste of summer over the holidays.

Christmas cheers. Like many, I had a go at gardening during lockdown. The vegetable patch was a complete disaster, but the rhubarb grew a little bit too well so once we all got tired of crumble, I turned the rest into wine, scavenging bottles from the recycling to keep it in.

Rhubarb wine for Christmas...

Reuse everything. Making the rhubarb wine left me with a lot of leftover fruit which I discovered I could turn into chutney with very little extra effort. Once again, my stash of scavenged jars came to the rescue. These will make a nice gift with some Scottish cheese.

On your marks, get set, bake! My two children are about the age where they are ready to be Santa themselves rather than send him letters, so every year they each choose a neighbour to leave a secret Santa present for.  The goal is to leave the present from Santa without being caught! This year we will be filling old biscuit tins with home baking to leave on doorsteps.

Christmas lights. This year I had a go at making scented candles. I used old finished candles combined with some new wax and coloured them with the stubs of cold crayons. Each one sits in the bottom of an old olive jar I cut with a glass cutting tool.  

Grow your own. I tried growing my own veg for Christmas dinner but that didn’t turn out so instead I will make sure the ones I purchase were grown in Scotland.

Polar bear decorations

Homemade candles

Deck the halls. It’s one of our family traditions to take a walk out into the woods with the dogs on Christmas Eve and collect some pine and holly to decorate the table with. This year I might even have a go at making a wreath.

Make your own ornaments. Christmas ornaments always make a good present and this year I used up some of old clothes destined for the ragbag as well as some craft supplies that had been in the cupboard for ages. We made polar bears stuffed with odd bits of cloth and I plan to make felt Christmas trees with reused beads from broken jewellery with the kids during the school holidays. I also keep broken ornaments to reuse.  This year, I used a bunch of baubles that were missing their tops to liven up a plastic wreath and have saved a few more to decorate presents with.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, and whoever you are able to spend it with, enjoy it and make it as fun and as sustainable as you can.  Merry Christmas.

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