It is well recognised that if you've got young kids in your life, you're guaranteed to end up with a pile of excess clutter filling their bedrooms as well as the remnants of cheap broken toys and packaging filling your bins.
So if you're lucky enough to enjoy the company of little angels, the great news is that it is becoming easier to choose a zero waste present that they will enjoy and won't impinge on the sanity of their parents. And even better, you don't have to look any further than your high street, which as far as green credentials are concerned it comes as a refreshing change.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, if you're shopping for toys this Christmas, it is well worth checking out your local Early Learning Centre.
I haven't been to our local ELC for ages but this weekend I popped in to look for an elf costume. I didn't find what I wanted but I didn't come out completely disappointed.
As I browsed the store I was cheered to see a good range of toys that didn't have packaging. Many of those that were packaged came with compostable interior card, or were in open fronted boxes with none of the usual superfluous plastic.
From a parent's perspective. the less packaging on kids' toys the better, regardless of your zero waste intentions. It means far less mess on special days such as birthdays and Christmas Day. Less time for clearing up and more time to play.
So having had a good browse around the shop, I couldn't wait to check out their website and I'm glad I did because there is some happy news...
...The Early Learning Centre, a company that is owned by Mothercare, is officially going greener....and here's the lowdown.
* 20% of their toys have no packaging
* 25% of their toys are in recyclable packaging
* All instore display signage is on recyclable material and all catalogues and leaflets are printed on FSC or recycled paper
* Their innovative 'Book Amnesty' has recycled 130,000 books
*60% of their wooden toys are now made from 'forest friendly' wood certified by the Forest Steward Council
And it doesn't stop there. The Early Learning Centre has got a cunning plan to make us even happier and the world a greener place with some major targets for 2010 to make their business even more sustainable. Here are just some of them.
*By 2010, all their wooden toys will be made from either recycled wood, bamboo, rubber wood or wood independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
*All packaging will be made from materials that are easy to recycle
*All cardboard packaging will be made from at least 70% recycled fibre
*They will reduce the amount of packaging by 30%
*They will cut carrier bag use by at least 30%
So, with 215 stores across the UK, this company seems to be doing its bit towards sustainable retailing. If you don't have a shop near you, you might be able to find some of the company's range of toys at your local Debenhams, Sainsbury's or Boots or even order online. Visit www.elc.co.uk for more details.
Things are starting to happen on the high street but we need more shops to follow suit, enabling people to make zero waste choices even if they don't know they're doing it. So I wonder who else will be standing out from the crowds this Christmas? If you spot a high street chain doing its bit for waste, do give them a shout-out.