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Going for Green: How to Create a more Eco-friendly Christmas

Guest Blog by Julia Perry: Writer, blogger and supporter of Independent Businesses, Julia is also Co-founder of Bespoke Digital Media Marketing Company You & Media Marketing which she currently runs from Bath in the United Kingdom with her husband Dan.

Going for Green: How to Create a more Eco-friendly Christmas

So here I am, pushing my way through other frenzied Christmas shoppers in the City of Bath (located in the Southwest of England) and feeling scarily overwhelmed by the seasonal celebrations! Each year I say to myself that I will begin planning well ahead of time for the BIG day and yet each year I fail miserably, diving head first into a commercial whirlwind which has me spinning out of control and out of pocket!

Surely, (I think to myself as I wind down another hectic day with a cup of green tea) there is a way to climb down from this never-ending carousel of tremendous excesses! What’s more, I began to look into some of the recent studies published on Social Media about the effects of Christmas waste on the environment (Read THIS for example) and what we, as people of the earth can do to change it.

To help me learn more I arranged to meet with Environmentalist, Yogi and mum of three Georgina “Georgie” Bassford, whose exceptionally conscious approach to greener living I’ve admired since getting to know her nearly 8 years ago! Georgie also runs her own Yoga Business (Bright Blue Yoga) for which she travels to different venues (on a bike and on foot) around Bath.

Here’s how our conversation transpired as we sat at my kitchen table sipping on cups of tea (of course) and surrounded by the wonderful festive crafts Georgie had made from all-recycled materials!

So Georgie, what first gave you the incentive to start living an Eco-friendly lifestyle?

I must have been around fourteen years old when I began to recognise how people around me managed Waste. I clearly remember not understanding why we were throwing away used cardboard and glass when I knew it could be recycled or re-used, and insisting my mother buy ecological washing powder. It just didn’t make sense to me! My interest grew as I developed into my teens and with this, the urge to further my knowledge on eco-friendly living. I signed up for and later joined various environmental groups including Friends of the Earth. I ended up with a degree in Biology and a Masters degree in Conservation Biology which led to jobs in London working for The People’s Trust for Endangered Species – a charity that supports UK endangered species, and the Marine Stewardship Council – a charity which supports sustainable fishing.

Describe a day in your life which would incorporate some sort of “green” activity

Transport is a big part of our environmental agenda. My husband and I share a car and I teach yoga in local studios and venues across the smallish city of Bath and I’m lucky that I can walk or cycle to most of them! My husband also cycles and gets the train to work as often as he can so if I do need the car to get to a private student, then that works out.

We’re fortunate that Bath Council recycles lots of things so this we do as much as we can as well as compost all our household food waste. We try to reduce the amount of packaging brought into the house by choosing to purchase from Bulk Buying Companies like “Suma”. For example, I bought my husband some aftershave for Christmas and politely refused the box and bag I was offered, asking instead for the gift to be wrapped in tissue paper with a bow (both reusable!) and it still looked lovely.  I think it’s important to ask yourself the question “when I throw something away, where is away?”  Everything has to go somewhere – there really is no “away!”

I burn Soya Wax candles in my classes and only use ones made locally or in the UK (It’s so much cleaner burning and doesn’t produce the toxins that petroleum-based paraffin candles do) and made by local companies using essential oils for perfume, rather than chemical additions.  Actually, I’ve just bought some soya wax and cotton wicks to try making my own in recycled containers!

Cotton is one of the most polluting crops on the planet (for the environment and the farmers who work the fields) so I try to buy organic cotton where I can, even if it’s a little more expensive. Recently, I bought eye pillows and bolsters for my classes, I chose organic cotton.

Now comes the big one! How do holidays fair in your agenda and what advice would you give for creating a greener Christmas? 

I love Christmas, I really do!  But what I love most about Christmas are the traditions which don’t necessarily involve purchasing ‘stuff’: Carol concerts, Winter walks, Spending time with friends and family, Watching Christmas films together, Decorating the house with familiar decorations we’ve had for years, Making the Christmas cake and mince pies with the children… There’s a lot of potential for going over the top at Christmas and I find it a fun challenge to seek out ways to celebrate and be merry in a more environmentally friendly way.

TIPS:

1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away each year (according to Imperial college researchers!) so either send an e-card or make sure that sending your Christmas cards is meaningful and environmentally friendly – people love receiving something hand written in the post! Making your own Christmas cards is not as hard as you might think – you can buy recycled blank cards online in bulk and then if you’re like me and like to make things but need some help coming up with ideas, look up online (Pinterest is great) for ideas which is what I did for my Christmas cards.

Hand deliver those you can (enjoy the walk!) For the rest, I know stamps are expensive but I’ve decided this year that it’s money well spent to send people I love a card that I’ve made. AND make sure after Christmas that you put your old cards in the recycle box, or cut out the pictures to use to make cards or present labels next year, or donate to charity.

Think before you buy anything that will only be used once and then thrown away. Classics for this are work secret Santa’s. The temptation is to buy something silly for a laugh but then once the moment has passed what happens to that necklace of baubles or blow up reindeer antlers?!  Instead, set your colleagues the challenge of buying each other something from a charity shop, or pool the money you would have spent instead into purchasing some environmentally friendly crackers and donate the rest of the money to a charity of your collective choosing?

Move more over Christmas! If you move more you are taking more responsibility for yourself and are less likely to pile on the Christmas pounds! If you think about it, most labour saving devices we have (and I’m not saying many of them aren’t amazing and in my own home for that matter!) make us less healthy (because our bodies need to move to be healthy and most labour saving devices reduce our movement – think cars, TV remote controls) and someone else somewhere else in the world moved instead of you to make it for you.  Then you pay each week to go to the gym to add some of that lost movement back into your day! But lost movement from the day can’t be replaced with one hour’s exercise. So walk when you can, chop your own carrots rather than buying batons, squat to pick something up, sit on the floor rather than a chair, hang from a tree. READ THIS blog post!

Dinner ideas: try to buy your veg and meat (if you’re having it) from a locally responsible source (a local organic veg box scheme for example) and consider buying a turkey that has had a good life and maybe buying a smaller one. If you can’t afford a large happy turkey, buy a small happy turkey!

Decorations: a little bit of holly from a hedgerow goes a long way to cheer up a Christmas house.  Maybe even some interesting twigs from the garden or local park can be popped into a case and hung with decorations.

How easy (or difficult) is it to incorporate “being green” into your daily routine?

Easier than you think. If you want to see a change in the world it has to start with you. If you want people around you to be happier, start with finding happiness within you. If you want to see a better future for your children, then start making changes now to the way you live. Always start with manageable, enjoyable changes that you can sustain and that will spur you on to continue to make more and more changes.

What would you say are the major challenges you might encounter by becoming eco-conscious?

Probably the biggest challenge will be your own inertia! You can do lots or a little or nothing! You’re in charge of your life and you can choose how you spend your time and money – and it’s liberating when you truly realise this! Do what you can and what is right for you right now. There will always be more you can do but that shouldn’t stop you from making a start. People love to tell others when they fall short of perfection but fail to recognise the positives happening NOW. Consider that you are moving towards a greener more responsible way of life, one step at a time.

Do you have any advice for novices like myself to start on the “greener” path?

Pick one thing and do it. Just start by making one small change and see where it leads you!

Remember that every time you make a purchasing decision, these are the most environmentally friendly options (the best first): Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.

Recycling is last on the list. It’s better than throwing away into the bin, but think about refusing to purchase something first (Is it really necessary? Will it be used once for a bit of fun and then thrown out? – at what cost to the environment and the people who made it?)

Then think if you can reuse things (e.g paper packaging that companies like Amazon use can be smoothed out and used to wrap presents with the addition of some nice ribbon; the arms of an old soft woollen jumper can be cut into leg warmers, and the body into an infinity scarf/snood.

Reduce: do you really need that free mug on offer with the tea bags? Do you really need to use the car for all journeys, can you reduce your usage by walking, cycling or catching public transport a little more often?

Recycle: Check with your local council exactly what you can recycle and then make sure everyone in the family knows what to recycle and where things get stored!  Some charity shops take scrap material that they can sell on to be reused, so check your local ones – this is a great way to recycle old clothes that are not good enough for clothes swaps, Ebay or selling in charity shops.

Since my meeting with Georgie, I was interested to read in an Interview entitled “Mother-of-two is out to save the Planet” in The Times of Malta, about an exhibition being organised at St. James Cavalier in Valletta, Malta on February 16 to March 18, 2018. The event is set to feature the artistic works of students presented in various mediums were the focus is reusing and recycling.

I for one am keen to learn more about further developments regarding the pressing issue of Malta’s sustainability. Thanks to my friend Georgie, greener living is now at the top of my new year’s resolutions, followed by less sugar intake and drinking even more tea to help me get through the day!

Further Reading:

Follow the girls: Keep up to speed with Julia and You & Media Marketing on Facebook and Instagram and check in with Georgie at Bright Blue Yoga on Facebook or Instagram.

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