Sunday, 14 September 2008

Who's on your Christmas List?



I know the kids have only just gone back to school and we haven't even celebrated Halloween yet, but I'm already making headway with our Christmas Plans, which I kicked off in August.

This weekend, triggered by one of the comments on the blog (thanks to John) I've been thinking more about how we can plan for a minimal waste Christmas by reducing our present list. I attempted this last year and managed to save on five presents, that's five fewer presents bought by us and five fewer presents received, which meant a joint saving of about £100.

So I've finally written this year's hitlist, sorry I mean Christmas List, to work out who can be saved from the annual present exchange and all the wrapping and stress that comes with it.

Now before you start feeling sorry for them, please don't. It's hardly as if I'm going to cause anyone any harm. My list just features all those people, grown-ups and children who I consider will not be offended if I ring them to ask the all important question.

"Shall we do something different this Christmas?".

I thought that would be a good question to start discussions. It's non-assumptive and won't make me come over as a scrooge. Even better it also gives the other party an opportunity to suggest an alternative solution first. You never know, they probably have been muttering about it for years but haven't felt brave enough to suggest something different.

Christmas is so personal and my priority is not to offend, especially as there are people who we rarely see but who want to play some part in our Christmas celebrations.

So taking the opportunity now will enable time for careful planning on both sides.

Of course a Zero Present Exchange is the perfect outcome, saving wrapping paper, precious time and money. But there are lots of gift options that help to minimise waste.

  • Books (no packaging required)
  • Gift Vouchers from the Post Office (which use old fashioned paper)
  • Transferring money into a bank account
  • Contributions to a joint, shared present
  • Adopt an animal at a santuary, or a book at the British Library.
  • A home-made present such as chutneys, jams or biscuits
  • Seeds or bulbs that can be planted in the garden or in a container
  • Favourite products that the recipient already uses, e.g shampoos
  • Meeting up for a shared outing, especially if it is a special trip that is already being planned.
  • Donations to a charity that is close to someone's heart
So this week, I'm going to begin my round of friendly phone-calls, starting with those who I know make their plans early.



But what about the Christmas Cards?

As you can guess, the Christmas card list will also be pared down and where possible will be replaced by ecards and free phone calls, using the opportunity of technology to spread the Christmas Cheer.

I'm also going to ask the kids what they want to do about school cards and see if they and their teachers can come up with some suggestions for their class this Christmas. I think I might start with a small maths lesson to illustrate my thinking. See what you make of this.

If a class of 30 children each sends 1 card to every other child in the class, what is the total number of cards distributed?

Hmmm.....by my calculation that's 30 children each sending 29 cards, which means a multiplication of:

30 X 29 = 870

WOW 870 cards distributed by one class alone.



That's 870 cards that are destined for either recycling or landfill once the festive period is over. If that figure is extrapolated to take into account the capacity of our school (150 children), I guess the figure could possibly reach the whopping tally of 4530.

4530 cards in one school. Blimey I've never even considered that before. I'm now wondering how that translates to money.

If we assume that it costs 10p per card that's

4530 cards x 10p = £453

Now that's a lot of money to go to waste, even if it is recycled. It's like throwing NINE £50 notes in the bin and hoping it will be reincarnated as next year's toilet paper.

Now that I've picked myself off the floor in shock, I'd better get on with my phone calls, and after that, I'd better start thinking about the next stage of proceedings....making a good old-fashioned Christmas cake, now that's a zero-waste challenge if ever I've seen one.


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13 comments:

Mrs Green said...

Christmas has been on my mind already too. You'll see a bit of a solution coming up next week :)

With the class Christmas cards. Dd used to go to an eco school. What they did there was have a notice board, available for all to see that the kids decorated.

Each child could put one card on there wishing the entire class or whole school if they wished a happy Christmas.

Charity donations were collected for the other 30+ cards that each child was saved from sending.

It also cuts out the kids who don't get many v's the really popular ones who get hundreds. Plus, the parents could view them too, which bought a sense of community to the whole season of festivities.

This was great for the older kids, but not so for Little Miss green who, at the age of 5, cards were a big thing. So we hand made all of hers from old materials and she sent them out.

Perhaps that is a couple of ideas for you to put forward........

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE said...

Hi Mrs G - yep, it's that time of year isn't it. We've just been talking about plans over breakfast and little J mentioned sending just one card too. Great idea to create a decorated board. Thanks for sharing, I think that's perfect and I'll add that into the mix.

Of course the other aspect is Teachers' presents. The parents have been great in Little J's class, because the very first Christmas someone suggested a collection and the teacher got one well-thought out present, plus the odd one or two where people wanted to make an independent contribution.

All this is perfect timing, as it's our PTA AGM tomorrow and they will be delighted to know how much money could potentially be raised, without hardly lifting a finger.

As far as other presents go...we've also been laughing over a catalogue of gadgets this morning. Even though I'm not really into gadgets, even "green" ones, Mr A has found something perfect for his Christmas list...a solar powered charger that can be used for mobile phones and digital cameras. Glad it's not a wind-up one, he'd be there all day...could you imagine him making a phone call, it would be like one of those black & white movies. LOL

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

What a great idea - and a fabulous opening line.

I think I've mentioned e-cards before and will definitely be making use of that method especially to those who are now ex-colleagues but to whom I would like to send a seasonal greeting.

I've already knitted some little cravat style scarves for some older ladies I generally give to, and some of the younger ones who have admired mine.

And my daughter has had the idea of treating some of the family to a "Santa Express" train ride, so that should be fun and of course comes under your category of something to do together.

Every little helps!

A x

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE said...

Hi Anne - It sounds like you've got it all sewn up, so to speak. Making things for other people is fantastic, it breathes that extra bit of life into presents which otherwise could just be picked up off a shelf. I make wire and bead jewellery, and always look forward to making a few treats for some friends and family. Not sure if I'll get a chance this year though. I love the idea of a Santa Express ride. It's moments like that which make memories so special. Talking of special moments, hope you enjoy your trip over to see your brand new grandson. :-D

katyboo1 said...

My mother was always big on us making presents for our friends. One of her nicer ideas was seeds. She would save all her seed heads etc during the year and then would put the seeds in beautiful hand made envelopes and decorate them with the name of the seed in calligraphy and swirls and stuff. Us kids did it one year. Our friends were horrified. One of them ate the seeds!

Also, Ryton, the organic garden place used to run an adopt a vegetable scheme, if you didn't fancy adopting an animal! You got photos and everything. My friend's husband got given a cauliflower one year.

just Gai said...

The rampant commercialism of Christmas has increasingly got to me over the past few years. What was originally the simplest of events, ie the birth of a child, has been blown out of all proportion and threatens to consume us. So this year I have bought the book and decided to do December differently (Doing December Differently by Nicola Slee and Rosie Miles). I'm still working through the suggestions but one that we plan to include is Advent Teas, when we will invite friends round for afternoon tea on each of the Sundays in Advent. There are 4 of us and 4 Sundays so we will all take our turn in chosing the guests.

just Gai said...

Back again with some more thoughts:

Ideas from previous years include Secret Santa (where a group of friends place their names in a hat and then draw out one name and spend no more than a set amount on buying a present for that person), and a joint card which everyone in the workplace signs in return for a donation towards a chosen charity.

Like others I have started to give homemade presents - florentines, truffles, eastern european iced biscuits, mincemeat etc - which are always well received. I know I would much rather receive something someone had taken the time to make rather than something snatched off a shelf late on Christmas Eve (which is not to detract from the value of a well thought out purchase).

I favour practical gifts myself, two of my favourites from my husband being a pizza stone and a cast iron griddle pan.Ideas from previous years include Secret Santa (where a group of friends place their names in a hat and then draw out one name and spend no more than a set amount on buying a present for that person), and a joint card which everyone in the workplace signs in return for a donation towards a chosen charity.

Like others I have started to give homemade presents - florentines, truffles, eastern european iced biscuits, mincemeat etc - which are always well received. I know I would much rather receive something someone had taken the time to make rather than something snatched off a shelf late on Christmas Eve (which is not to detract from the value of a well thought out purchase).

I favour practical gifts myself, two of my favourites from my husband being a pizza stone and a cast iron griddle pan.

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE said...

Hi Katyboo - your mum's gifts sound beautiful. I reminds me of my friend you gave me some tulip bulbs wrapped last year. They were wrapped in a piece of organza which can now be reused. Hope the poor kid who ate the seeds didn't start sprouting brocolli or anything like that, poor thing. Thanks for the tip about Ryton too. I'm going to check that one out. ;-D

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE said...

Hi Just Gai - I know what you mean about the way it's all overblown. I woke up to it all a few years ago.

I'd been suffering from a chest infection that I'd picked up just before Halloween. I felt rough and couldn't do things as quickly as I could normally. I was disorganised and everything came to a head when I found myself staying up late one December night to wrap parcels ready for the last post the following day. I eventually got everything ready for the post office at about 3pm that day, headed off and was faced with a huge postage bill too. I think it was doing everything at once brought home the enormity of it all. I came home, had a cup of tea and pondered the madness.

I really love that idea about the Advent teas. That sounds really fun and I am sure the kids would enjoy themselves. Christmas to me is definitely about people.

Thanks for the tip about the book as well. It sounds absolutely the ticket and just what's needed.

Thanks too for the reminder about the Secret Santa. My husband does that at work and I think they limit purchases to a fiver. Perhaps this year they should limit to a fiver and no packaging.

It's an interesting point about the hand-made gifts isn't it? I too now prefer something that someone's made. I never used to be like this though. I wonder if it's got anything to do with age or just a sign of our times.

Whatever it is, Christmas is an important time that children remember and I really want ours to grow up with memories of the fun times and not the number of presents.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Me again - love Gai's idea of Advent teas, and katyboo1's seed idea is great but made me laugh too!

One friend often gives me home made - the year she said she hadn't had the time and it would have to be shop bought I was really disappointed - and told her so! (she is still a good friend)

A x

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE said...

Hi Anne - I wonder what you'll get this year, heehee. ;-D

Condo Blues said...

I've been meaning to write a post on this for my blog this week but Hurricane Ike knocked that idea right off of my list.

One fun way to cut waste and give an unexpected family gift is to give event tickets or memberships. I gave (and got) a zoo membership to a family and they loved it! It was a gift they used all year long and didn't fall out of favor with the kids like some of those "must have" toys. Bonus: the membership cost less than it would have to buy each family member an individual gift. I've given tickets to sports events, touring plays, even a water park.

ALMOST MRS AVERAGE said...

Hi Lisa - I love the idea of the membership ticket and indeed tried this one with some of our family yesterday, but hadn't considered that living in the north of Scotland the choices are a tad limited LOL...and annual membership of a Whisky trail might not appeal to the little boys (yet). But it's a great idea for us. We are lucky to have a few places withing a short driving distance, so thank you for sharing. I hope everything's settling over where you are.

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