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Going green this Christmas

Light displays on, selection boxes out, party invites sent - the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on. While we’re resisting the urge to play Christmas songs in the VSO Ireland office just yet, we have been chatting a lot about how we can be more sustainable over the festive season.

Shockingly, the average Irish household generates about 44 kilos of packaging waste over the holiday season, aside from all the food waste. We got just a little taster of what's to come over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why this year, we’re going to make an effort to be a little ‘greener’ and put more thought into our gifts for others. Here are just a few ways you can follow suit:

Give experiences

Treat your friends or family to an experience you can enjoy together, perhaps a ticket for a gig, restaurant voucher, fitness course or even a drink in your favourite pub. This means you both have look forward to in the New Year and might even mean they discover something new.

Ask people what they want

Not very romantic, but asking friends or family for a heads up about what they’d like ensures you don’t waste money on a gift that sits in a drawer all year round. You can always ask for a general indication and then pick something special within that range.

Make it yourself

Taking time to give a homemade gift to a loved one really shows you care. There are lots of incredible arts and crafts Pinterest and Instagram pages out there for inspiration. Making homemade decorations for your tree or home is also a nice thing to do with children.

Make it edible

While you’re at it, why not make some homemade edible treats to bring to parties over the Christmas season? Long-lasting items, like fudge and mulled wine spice mix, can be made far in advance and reduce the risk of purchasing expensive, processed food items on the way to a party.

Shop locally or buy Fairtrade

Take time to consider where the products you buy come from. Supporting local businesses, artists and food shops boosts your local economy and usually results in more thoughtful gifts than you’ll find in chain stores. Otherwise, look for the Fairtrade mark that ensures overseas producers were treated fairly. If your budget allows for it, choose quality over quantity.

Donate to charity

Instead of buying someone a physical gift just for the sake of it, donate to their favourite charity instead. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can also forfeit presents and suggest they give to your charity of choice.

Set up a toy swap

Children don’t always need brand new toys, often the novelty factor of something “new” is what they like. Swapping toys with other parents reduces the amount of money you both spend. If you are buying your children gifts, think about choosing something educational or made from biodegradable materials, instead of plastic models that are the norm.

Get innovative with wrapping

A big portion of waste at Christmas comes from packaging materials. Dig out old newspapers or magazines to make innovative, colourful wrapping paper for your loved ones’ gifts. You could also use cloth and encourage others to do the same.

Recycle your presents

What to do when you receive a present you already have or simply don’t need? Instead of letting them gather dust at home, bring these unwanted gifts to your local charity shop in the New Year. Your trash could be someone else’s treasure.

Do you have any other fun ideas about reducing waste this Christmas? If so, please let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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