Wednesday, 18 November 2015

21 Ways to make Christmas Sustainable

Normally, we the hour difference between France and England, we record evening programmes to watch later in the week.  However, last Sunday I really wanted to watch the final episode of  Downton Abbey so Simon and I settled watched it live .... you know, without being able to fast forward through the adverts.  Well, I can tell you, that came as a bit of a shock.  You see in France, Christmas does not really get going until December yet here we were, on November 8th, with every single advert Christmas themed.  And not just Christmas themed but big, long, expensively made adverts yelling loudly at us that we'd only have a great Christmas if we spent all our money in their stores and on their products.  One even insisted that our meal would be ruined unless we spent out on a new cooker.  Well, this got me thinking.

Don't get me wrong, if people want to spend loads of money for their friends and family at Christmas that's fine and we need people to spend money to help the economy.  What worries me is the fact that ALL these adverts, without fail, were from the large companies that dominate our high streets and internet at the expense of local, independent and ethical producers.  After all, a local shop is not going to be able to spend  £1m on an advert and a further £6m in advertising slots, is it as I read one chain-store has done?  It's pretty obvious these big, often multinational retailers are pushing to get us to spend our hard earned cash with them but there is another way - a way that ultimately should help the economy even more and that is far more sustainable. So, before you head off up The High Street or online to one of the big retailers whose slick advert you saw on the TV, think about spending your money in places that cannot afford massive advertising budgets in prime time TV but that can help get the economy moving... 

"Think about shopping in local shops, from small producers and those who produce ethical goods.  Think about spend less with the big retailers and think outside of the box a bit"

So here are 21 ideas to help you spread out where you spend your money this Christmas which is that bit more sustainable.*

Food and Drink

Do not automatically head to the local hypermarket this Christmas when there are so many other places you can get your groceries:

  • Local butchers, delis etc. where you'll get great tasting food from people who really care about selling you the best.
  • Farmers' Markets and farm shops sell a wealth of fabulous goodies that you won't find in the big stores just waiting to make your meals this Christmas so much more interesting.
  • Online small producers - why not buy some-one a whole lamb for the freezer or an organic veg box for a year?  Rosewood Farm grassfed beef and lamb would love to supply your Christmas dinner this year.


Everyone loves opening a present so here are some ideas that can help steer you away from the big shops:

  • Support local independent shops
  • Buy from small Etsy stores
  • Buy from self employed crafters who sell their crafts and wares via social media.
  • Support local bookshops - a recent radio programme said these were down to 1000 in the UK, the lowest number since records began, yet slowly new ones are opening and doing well.  You might spend a bit more in a local shop but you won't have the hassle of waiting in for deliveries that don't come or lost items or returns and anyway, time spent browsing in a bookshop is, in my opinion, never time wasted!
  • See if you friends are making anything and buy from them
  • Buy from charity shops - many also sell new goods if you are not happy with second hand.
  • Plants - the gift that keeps on growing. Search out your local nursery and you'll get the best plants for your locality
  • Support local artists by buying their artwork
  • Make presents yourself - home-made preserves, cakes, sweets, fruit vodkas for those handy in the kitchen or what-ever you are good at turning your hand to.  Just don't forget to support local businesses when buying your supplies! 
  • Above all support ethical, fair trade and organic suppliers where possible.

Oh and don't forget the wrapping paper - look for recycled paper or use brown paper and decorate it yourself.  Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for natural embellishments you can add to your wrapped presents which makes the gift even more special.

Non gift presents

Not all presents have to be something tangible in a wrapped box.  How about these ideas?

  • Give a service such as vouchers for car washing, baby sitting etc
  • Lessons - there are just so many things people could learn - riding, ice skating, an instrument etc
  • Buy tickets to your local theatre
  • Support local restaurants and splash out on a posh meal.
  • Sponsor a child, a dolphin, a herd of goats .. . whatever grabs your fancy
  • Give a Kiva loan
  • Give a charity donation
  • Book a holiday with an independent home owner .... I know a nice family owned gite in Normandy ;)

    *A final thought

    As with so many things the answer to sorting out world economic problems is not as simple as just not buying anything from the big suppliers, however unsustainable they might be.   I mentioned earlier about spreading out where you do your shopping because if we all turned our backs on these stores and suppliers we would put an awful lot of people out of work, many who are already at the bottom of the wage pile.  Not just shop workers but also suppliers, transporters and everyone else involved getting your present under your tree.  However, if little by little, we support the small producers we will start to make a difference.  They will do well and will have more money in their pocket to spend with other such producers.  New independent shops will open, providing secure jobs for local people.  You can be part of this change, so this Christmas this is my festive message:

    Enjoy the big adverts but don't not forget that there are plenty of other great places you can spend your money and in doing so you will be helping your local economy and local people.

    You Baby Me Mummy


    1. Στα ταξίδια μου από τις παλιές εκείνες εποχές προ κρίσης ,αλλά και τώρα (ένας και μόνο προορισμός μία φορά τον χρόνο ,εκεί που σπουδάζει το παιδί μου) λάτρευα και εξακολουθώ να λατρεύω τις υπαίθριες αγορές με τους τοπικούς παραγωγούς !
      Αυτό για τους περισσότερους θεωρείται basse classe (δεύτερης κατηγορίας) και απορώ πραγματικά πως στις μέρες της οικονομικής κρίσης που βιώνουμε τόσο δύσκολα, εξακολουθούν οι φαντασιόπληκτοι να λειτουργούν με έπαρση και φαντασία ! Γιατί άλλο να αντέχει η τσέπη σου και να έχεις το ψώνιο του επώνυμου προϊόντος και άλλο να "κλαίγεσαι" αλλά να κυνηγάς τις μεγάλες αλυσίδες.....
      Το μόνο σίγουρο στις μέρες της κρίσης είναι ότι βγήκε στην επιφάνεια ο πραγματικός χαρακτήρας των ανθρώπων σε συνήθειες και σε ανθρωπιά!

      1. Thank you so much for commenting and I have added the best translation from Greek to English that I can find:

        In my travels from the old days before the crisis, I loved and I still do love the flea markets with local producers! This, for most, is considered to be second class and I wonder really how these days of economic crisis we are experiencing difficulties when we continue to work with fanciful conceit and imagination! Why keep paying into the big companies and upsetting the eponymous small producer? ... The only sure thing in days of crisis is to come out and support the real character of local people and humanity!

    2. I love your blog above about Christmas and agree with all the comments you have made. I only wish I had thought to put it all together so persuasively myself. With regards to babysitting tokens, if only. I would so love someone to give me vouchers as we live at the opposite end of the country from our close family members. Here's hoping!

      1. Thank you and I am glad you enjoyed my post, Rebecca. I know what you mean about living away from family - ours is in another country!

    3. I too watched the Downton final and was revolted by the Christmas ads. I had to channel surf each time they came on as I'm so not prepared to be bamboozled with Christmas crap in November. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bah humbug, I love Christmas but in December, ffs! Sorry about my language but every year Christmas gets earlier and earlier and it's drives me mad. I also totally agree with your ideas and have been sponsoring goats for years now! I love going to all the local craft markets and finding unique gifts rather than using the big names. Good plug for independent holiday home owners too!!! Couldn't agree more and if your readers want a holiday in the south of France I know just the place too. Great post Rosie.

      1. Thanks Phoebe and you have expressed so eloquently some of the despair I feel about the build up to Christmas :)

    4. I really like your list. We like giving the type of presents that don't require wrapping paper such as music lessons or experiences. Your point about buying locally is really good. They do reckon that for every £1 spent at a local independent business, 70p goes on to benefit the local area, instead of about 5p with bigger retailers. Goodness knows how they figure it out.

      1. I've heard a statistic like that too although this piece quotes slightly less differing figures .... and plenty more reasons to shop locally.

    5. I love this - I'm trying to do a bit more of this now...funny how we become quite lazy and it costs us all!

      1. You are right - it is partly laziness but if we each did just a bit it could make such a difference.

    6. A great post! We live in London and I hate Christmas coming earlier and earlier every year. By the time you get to the big day there is no excitement left... It all fizzled out over the months and weeks of over-exposure.
      We only watch iPlayer, so we avoid any adverts. I can't stand them on many levels...
      I make most of the gifts for my boy (starting a dress up box this year, which will hopefully be added to every year). He also gets lots of 2nd hand books from eBay, as he really likes to read - or more precisely be read to.
      I do like buying things from etsy, as they are often unique.
      This year we won't be buying any presents for each other or the family, as we have a baby due in January and need to keep as much money as we can, so my husband can stay with us as long as possible. Only our toddler will get something.
      I really like your idea of buying someone a subscription for fruit and veg box!

      1. Sounds great what you are doing, especially no buying presents so your husband can afford time with your family when the baby is due - that is the best present of all!

    7. Love this post! I fully intend to make the most of Christmas this year, it's the first time I haven't been at work (wine, retail, crazy!) and it's Finn's first Christmas. I'm enjoying all the build up and can't wait to make some new family traditions. I fully intend to visit some smaller shops and make a lot myself :-) #TheList

      1. I hope you have a great Christmas with Finn and good luck making things :)

    8. Hi Rosie, this post made me feel fuzzy inside. There should be a ban on Christmas adverts until December (it's not as if we don't know it's coming!). I love Christmas, and even manage to buy presents throughout the year without being constantly reminded that the festive season is a coming (just bragging).

      You are right, we mustn't forget local businesses, sadly though living on an island some of the shop owners here try having a laugh and try charging ridiculous prices for things we can buy on the mainland or online a lot cheaper. But we do support the local butchers and buy local veg too (when we can), it tastes so much better.

      I think it's about spreading the love (a little like blogging). You've got it right; support small local businesses where possible (it's usually worth paying a little more to do so and getting that warm feeling knowing you've done good) and support the big companies too, but think before you buy.


      1. Thank you, Debbie, and I totally agree about a Christmas advert ban before December as we are hardly going to forget it's coming. I don't have a problem with some shops getting in their Christmas stuff earlier than that as I do know people like to be organised or have things to send abroad but it's all the excessive build up that I can't stand. When I was in the UK I heard Christmas music in one shop ... it was October for goodness sake. Christmas has been turned into one huge shopping spree where we are made to feel bad if we haven't got everything perfect and spent loads of money achieving this perfection; all for one day and all too often just lining the pockets of big business. I'm writing this reply on Black Friday where I am fully intending to NOT go shopping although I may have a nosy round some Etsy shops later.


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