plastic free christmas gift wrapping

P is for plastic: Pipers Piping

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The latest post in our ‘P is for Plastic’ series written by guest blogger, Fiona Barker, who will be regularly sharing her experiences and insights gained by living with less plastic.

Well Halloween has been and gone. The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in. It must be time to think about…

Pipers Piping, Plum Pudding, Presents, Parties and Peace on Earth.

Yes, I am talking about Christmas… sorry! But, of course, I am talking about a #LessPlastic Christmas… hurrah!

The briefest perusal of your local supermarket or department store at this time of year is enough to give palpitations to anyone trying to reduce their plastic footprint. The plastic-fest that is Halloween is banished for another year and from the first of November the shelves are bedecked with santas, reindeer, tinsel and the ‘must-have’ decorations for 2018. Many of them are made of plastic.

Do we actually NEED any of it? No. Is it possible to have a wonderful, joyous, properly festive Christmas without it? Yes it is. For starters, Christmas isn’t about stuff. It should be about seeing friends and family and celebrating together. That definitely doesn’t have to include showering them with plastic.

For me, the best thing about Christmas is getting out the decorations that are carefully packed away year after year. Unwrapping a glass bauble over a glass of mulled wine or sloe gin is a thrill (perhaps that’s the gin talking… I like it anyway). So much better than buying new ones. Re-finding ancient decorations lovingly created when I was at school is a joy. And now we’re on the second generation of those! Loo roll angel anyone? Yes, please!

Shopping for plastic-free presents can be a challenge. But it is also something of a relief to have the choices limited so that I am a bit less rabbit-in-headlights. It makes you stop and think, not rush round the store pulling random things into your shopping basket à la supermarket sweep (showing my age now).

Wine is always good especially for party presents. But I have also been out and about looking for plastic-free presents for the small number of my friends who do not wish to see the festive season pass in a haze of gin, wine and bubbles (mostly children). My local gift shop has proved a rich source of inspiration and is much more relaxing and satisfying than big-shop shopping. If there is a group of you then think about doing a secret santa. That way everyone gets a present but each person only has to buy one and you can up the eco ante by specifying that it must be pre-loved perhaps from a charity shop rather than buying new.

You could make something yourself. Think biscuits, edible festive treats, decorations for the Christmas tree. One of the best presents I ever received was a kind of home-made meal delivery where my friend had included a hand-written recipe (which I still have 20 years later) and all the ingredients to make it along with romantic touches like candles. The joy of not thinking about what to have for dinner was bliss.

You could go hard-core and not buy physical presents at all. You could donate to charity instead or use one of those schemes where you donate to give someone something they really need. Or how about buying an experience instead of a thing? A day out for the family somewhere really special, tickets to see your favourite team play, a trip to the cinema, tickets to a show. Make memories instead of collecting more stuff.

For wrapping, I’ll be using brown paper this year, tied with string (or ribbon for my posh friends). Nice string though… this is Christmas after all. I might revisit my childhood, perhaps even using my actual child as an excuse, and carve a potato into a smudge vaguely resembling a star or holly leaf and get printing!

If you read my previous post about Planning ahead (which, of course, you did) then you will know this is important if you want to enjoy as little plastic as possible with your Christmas dinner. Seek out your local butcher, baker and candlestick maker. They are much more likely to indulge your no-plastic wishes than a supermarket. If there aren’t any of those locally, then you might be able to find someone online who will deliver what you need without plastic.

If you read my first post about Positivity then you will also know (probably from bitter experience too) that it is very, very hard to go completely plastic-free. Don’t beat yourself up. Every small change in the right direction is good and a cause for celebration. If you have made your own wrapping paper and consumed as little plastic as possible in the run up to Xmas then it is OK to buy brandy butter in a plastic tub. It’s only once a year (and you can use the tub to store left-overs in the fridge so you don’t have to use cling film! Bonus! Cause for an extra glass of gin even!).

And finally, we come to peace on earth and goodwill to all. Be kind to yourself and others this Christmas. That is definitely guilt-free in the plastic department.

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Fiona Barker

Dr Fiona Barker is a clinical and behavioural scientist. She is interested in how children and adults interact with the natural world and is an active supporter of The Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society. She also writes picture books, often with an outdoor theme. You can find her on Twitter, and Instagram where she mostly posts about using more books and less plastic. Fiona’s website of mostly bookish adventures can be found at

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