Cutting back on the Christmas tat


Christmas gifts at Penny Golightly

We’ve been making a much bigger effort this year to reduce, re-use and recycle, and we realised that Christmas was a major contributor to less sustainable living here at Golightly Gardens. While I wouldn’t go as far as to describe us as the neighbourhood eco-warriors we have made quite a few changes for 2019 and I thought I’d mention a few of them to show how easy they’ve been.

By the way, I do appreciate that many people love the brighter and, er, more garish and tacky bits of the festivities, but there are probably a few ways around that too, and there’s likely to be something to appeal to most people, so don’t start thinking this place has turned into Grinch Central.


We’ve mostly been using old decorations this time around, and although it’s fun to try something new every year that might now change to us buying just the one new glass bauble for the tree instead. What really tore it for me in 2019 was seeing loads of tacky ornaments this year in the shape of burgers, ketchup bottles, ‘donuts’ (aarrgh, they’re doughnuts people!) and jars of peanut butter – correct me if I’m wrong but we haven’t quite turned into the 51st state of the USA yet, at least not completely. I often love a bit of kitsch but it was too much even for me, so it might also be home made decorations next year if we don’t go for the single bauble idea.

We have a plastic tree and matching wreath that are several years old, and it’s okay for the time being as we’ve taken good care of them and they both still look quite smart. It’s thrifty at least, and saves a real tree from being chopped down each year. I do love a real tree, mind, they smell lovely. This is a ‘watch this space’ type of situation, as I’ve recently heard there’s a scheme in some areas where you can rent trees in pots that come with their roots intact so they don’t get cut down, and I like the sound of that very much.

Meanwhile, Beau loves his tinsel. Absolutely loves it. I’m not so fond of it any more, and it’s plastic and bad for the environment so I’m not buying any new from now on, and sadly the same goes for most glitter. So we have a compromise and we’re using old tinsel in one of our rooms, then we’ll store it carefully away for further re-use after Christmas. It’ll probably last for years and who knows, maybe someone will eventually invent some kind of non-plastic tinsel and Beau can go to town on the twinkly stuff in the future.

All told, we have technically managed to be zero waste this Christmas, even though some of our old decorations do contain reusable plastic – so it’s not too shabby an effort, and the place looks more than festive enough.

Merry Christmas from Penny Golightly


This year quite a few people we know are doing gifts just for the kids. Instead of presents for the adults we’ve been out for a couple of meals or a few drinks and it’s been really lovely, piling up happy memories rather than material goods. The few presents I have been buying for grown ups have been small or low key, mostly books or food and drink, or something they’ve specifically asked for. There’s a lot to be said for a small, thoughtful treat, especially a well chosen book or their favourite sweets or tipple.

No acrylic novelty socks or daft plastic gadgets this time around. For kids we’ve mostly done gift vouchers or plastic-free stocking fillers, and that still gives loads of scope for fun things which sort of surprised me given the amount of plastic tat that’s out there. The only thing we’ve made an exception for is Lego, as there’s one small person we know who really, really loves it, and I note with interest that the company are starting to move into more sustainable territory from now on so they’ll probably keep our custom if they do that.

Wrapping paper & cards

We’ve sent a few charity cards to elderly relatives, including personal messages, as they’re well received and seem to make people happy, and given a limited number out to friends we’ve met up with and seen in person in December. Apart from that we’ve cut back quite a lot this year and will mostly send emails or make phone calls instead.

I know a lot of folks out there have stopped buying non-recyclable wrapping paper too, and we’ve tried wrapping a few things in brown paper or bagging them in reused gift bags and tissue paper. The bags looked very nice but I honestly wasn’t too sure about the brown paper and will definitely be looking for a more attractive alternative next time around.

We do still have a couple of old half rolls of Christmas wrapping paper to use up first but perhaps I’ll try making some reusable fabric wraps after that, at least for use in our home and with friends we see regularly who might be interested in swapping or returning them. That way we can have some nice bright colours and patterns that look more festive.

So those are a few ways we’ve been thinking about the environment and sustainability recently, and I hope they’re inspiring to others because most of them have been so easy to try out.


Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas! Hope it’s a good one and I’ll be taking a short break and then coming back with some new articles on the 27th.


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