• Christine Grosart

A plastic Christmas



I think most of you get it now.

If you don’t - where have you been?


Sure, the world is full of ostriches when it comes to plastic and even the most die-hard of environmental activists suddenly forget how big a scourge many single use plastics are. This is especially true when they need to access healthcare (one of the worst offenders) or ‘must have’ products.

We all have an excuse that we can justify on the day. Sometimes we care less that day. Sometimes we have genuine need.

So, with that in mind and accepting that we are all offenders when it comes to single use plastics, frivolous or not, we can move on to the non-essentials - the unnecessary.


Christmas.


What a complete and utter nonsense and a huge consumer of single use plastics.

Every generation is guilty, but there is this habitual ritual of dishing out ‘bathroom sets’ and ‘pampering kits’ that are made of, wrapped in and packaged up in layers and layers of non-recyclable plastics.


And here’s the thing.

Nobody likes them!


We don’t want an elderflower body cream set that comes in a moulded plastic tray. We don’t want Christmas cards with glitter all over them - you do know they only go in the bin, or on the fire, right?


Since we moved into our house in the vibrant Somerset village of Evercreech, we vowed to be as eco-friendly as reasonably possible. Christmas is always a minefield because other people are involved. Other people who don’t share your plastic free values and see Christmas as different and an excuse.


Sourcing stuff


We are lucky that our village has a Facebook page where there is always some kind of swap shop going on. If your local area doesn’t have one, start one.

Shout out for second-hand stuff or things people may be throwing away. They may also want some stuff you need rid of as well.

One person’s rubbish is another’s treasure!


Here are a few things I’ve tried these last few years. Apart from anything else, they are really good fun to try, look so much better than the plastic tatt on sale and have way more meaning than a run of the mill bathroom set with glittery bath salts - bound by shrinkwrap.


Christmas Cards


These can cost between 50p and £3.50 each and then you have postage on top. Call it a fiver.

Why not send an email instead, telling your family member/old friend/colleague that you have spent the money instead on a donation to their favourite charity. You can write more in an email than you can in a card and attach the donation you’ve made - they’ll be chuffed with that and remember it for longer than a card they have to dispose of.


Gift labels.


Save yourself a fortune and never buy gift labels again. Still got some of last years Christmas cards? Perhaps some of this year’s came early.

Got a neighbour or relative who hoards them?

Cut them up and punch a hole, add some string and voila! Your own, completely unique gift labels. Remember to check the back for any writing….


Gift Wrapping.


Did you know: That shiny paper that when you scrunch it up, it unravels…well, that cannot be recycled. Most Christmas wrapping paper has some form of plastic in it and is not recyclable. It all goes to landfill.

Get hold of some brown paper, check it for any plastic content, add pretty string and some sprigs of herbs such as rosemary or any kind of green foliage and your gifts will look classy and plastic free.

Cellotape is avoidable. Get yourself some plastic free parcel tape - it looks better anyway!


Plastic free gift wrapping from Non Plastic Beach


Table decorations.


All you need are some candles, string, used wine bottles, printed Christmas carol music sheets, greenery such as holly and ivy, fir cones, old jam jars and some old baubles.

I have been using the same Christmas decorations since I was a child.

I guess the only advantage of plastic is that it lasts…so I re-use old decorations from when we didn’t know any better and that is fine.

Please don’t throw them away in an attempt to be ‘all plastic free’. Keep using them as long as possible. If you don’t want them on the tree, add them to your table decoration or mantle-piece display.


The Tree


I’m in a constant quandary as to whether real is better than plastic that you use every year.

My partner is half Norwegian and loves a real tree. I use decorations that were hand-me-downs and have to be getting on for 60 years old!

I’ve also made my own from dried oranges (chuck orange slices in the oven for a couple of hours) star anise, string, cinnamon sticks, old ribbons and scrap material and wire for hooks. You just need a hobby glue gun and some glue sticks.

Here are some I made earlier...


Napkins


We use linen; washable and decorate with string and sprigs of rosemary from the garden. Beautiful!


Christmas Crackers


These have to be up there with the worst offenders of single use, unnecessary, plastic tatt.

How many crackers have you pulled? How much of that stuff did you keep?

It’s super simple to make your own. Start collecting loo roll cardboard or even better, the middle of kitchen rolls. Ask your neighbours or local businesses for theirs so you have enough to go round.



You’ll have a load of fun sourcing plastic free treats to put inside. Foil wrapped chocolates and liquors are popular. Google and print off your own jokes and pop them in the cracker.

Mini jars of jams and chutneys fit inside loo rolls, likewise booze minis.

Anything dinky, plastic free and useful will go down a storm.

Plastic free toothbrushes, mini ocean friendly sunscreen or Divine chocolate bars are all classy ideas for crackers.

Check out Non Plastic Beach for excellent stocking and cracker fillers.

Make sure you tell everyone that they can have a swap shop if they prefer, to make sure everyone gets something they want and will keep.

Now, this is quite a pricey way of doing crackers so make sure everyone knows that this forms part of their present if you are hosting them.

If you are not the host then, well, what a cool way to personalise a present!



Wreaths


I love making these - they are totally unique and Pinterest has lots of great ideas for how to decorate them.

Start with a wire frame.

We have a holly bush in our garden so I use mainly that and I go out walking looking for ivy and other hedgerow greenery.

Before I knew better, I bought a bunch of red sparkling fake berries off Amazon. However, these are re-usable so I save them each year for the next creation.

Add old nuts, dried orange slices, fir cones, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, anything you fancy!


Hampers


Avoid pre-made ones! They will come swathed in plastic and you’ll have no control over the plastic contents. Building your own means you can budget better and make them look fab with brown paper, string and foliage decoration.

Use the shredded paper packaging from non-plastic beach to pad out your hamper basket. You need not buy these new, ask around for second-hand baskets going begging.

Make your own and build it up with as many plastic free items as you wish.

I had an attempt at this last year - can you spot the two plastic mistakes?


Ideas


I LOVE Pinterest for stuff like this and there are also some great plastic free groups on Facebook.

For gift ideas, I’ve added a few of my own personal favourites here so if you are stuck for ideas, hopefully these will help!


£5 - £10

Non Plastic Beach - Hey mango Shampoo/Conditioner bars (these are lush!)

Heady scent aside, this shampoo bar sent ripples of excitement among all those who tested it because it works as well as the very best liquid products meaning you will only lose the plastic.

SLS free

Palm oil free

Vegan-friendly

Cruelty free

The bar will last between 50 and 80 washes depending on hair length.


For best results APPLY GENEROUSLY (really go for it!) by rubbing it directly on the hair and scalp, massage as normal and rinse. Avoid leaving the soap standing in water and combine it with the "Hey Mango" conditioner bar.


£11 - £20

Bracenet bracelet


Handmade from real ghost nets. Each bracelet is unique and can differ slightly optically and in size due to the different net mesh quantity and sizes. Before the production all nets are cleaned in an environmentally friendly way.

Net: Ghost net made out of HDPE (high density polyethylene).

Clasp: Matt black magnetic stainless steel clasp (18 x 9mm) and engraved with Bracenet logo.

All profit goes to registered charity Ghost Fishing UK.


£21 - £35

Non Plastic Beach Ski and Snowboard pack

This beach ready pack contains a Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush, 60 Fluoride Toothpaste Tablets, a small tin of Shade All Natural Sunscreen, a Ku.tis Lip Balm, a Borneo Breeze Shower Soap and a Shaving Soap and Shampoo Bar from Friendly.


Also included is a toothpaste tablet tin (holds 60 tabs) and a soap tin, which will take two full bars of soap or shampoo or all three if they are cut down.


  • Palm-oil free soap products

  • Vegan friendly

  • Cruelty free

  • BPA free bristles

  • Biodegradable/compostable

  • Recyclable packaging


£36 - £50

Adopt a seal pup

You can help support the well being of the amazing creatures at The Cornish Seal Sanctuary by purchasing one of our animal adoptions.

Animal adoptions make the perfect present whatever the occasion!




An animal adoption includes:

  • 2 free entries to the sanctuary

  • 20% voucher for the Cafe or Gift shop

  • Certificate of adoption

  • Cornish Seal Sanctuary gift

  • Photograph of your adopted animal

  • Profile of your adopted animal

  • Presentation folder

Prices - Resident Animal/Seal Pup - £40.00 (+ £4.40 postage if purchased online or over the phone)


Or


Marine Conservation Society membership (Adult and junior options)

Membership benefits

As an MCS member, you will receive:


  • A welcome pack containing an introduction to our work and how your support makes a difference

  • A cotton tote bag – helping you to ditch the plastic bag

  • An MCS pin badge

  • Regular editions of our exclusive members’ magazine, Marine Conservation, showcasing our amazing marine world and the conservation work you’ll be supporting





Over £50

Fourth Element Storm Poncho

This all weather poncho is warm, fast drying and packs down small, enabling you to take it anywhere. Throw it on to get changed into your wetsuit at the beach or on the boat. Use it to warm up after a session in the water or to cover up between dives. The waterproof, fleece-lined fabric is lightweight, cosy and manufactured using an environmentally friendly, fluorine-free waterproofing treatment. With side vents secured by poppers, getting changed is simple, with generous hand warmer pockets adding to the comfort factor when warming up. The adjustable hood features a peak, providing excellent protection even in the worst of weather, making this a piece of gear you’ll never want to be without.


What makes this OceanPositive?


Using fabric manufactured according to the Bluesign® standard, the Storm Poncho is produced using innovative, resource-conserving and environmentally friendly techniques. The fleece backing contains 37% recycled yarn with S.Café® technology, derived from post consumer plastic bottles. S.Café® process embeds coffee grounds into the recycled yarn surface, changing the characteristics of the filament and provides faster drying times along with increased odour resistance and enhanced reflection of UV rays.


About the author


Christine Grosart is a Paramedic, working offshore mainly on diving vessels. She started beach cleans around 2011 and has gone on to be a trustee, secretary, instructor and underwater photographer for the charity Ghost Fishing UK. She wrote the first training course for scuba divers to remove lost ghost nets, in the world.

In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Ghost Fishing UK as well as her cave diving exploration.

In the same year she was included in the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List.



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