Jasmine Hemsley shares her tips for enjoying a more conscious Christmas season this year.
The Christmas season has become synonymous with overdoing just about everything — food, drink, spending, the accumulation of anything and everything — mass consumption in general served with a huge side of stress. This often translates to a less-than-sustainable occasion, with lots of unwanted presents wrapped in tonnes of paper and plastic tape, plus all the waste from Christmas crackers, etc. Now the world has finally woken up to how much waste even one household can generate — let alone how much damage big business can do. It’s enough to turn you green imagining just how “ungreen” those bin bags waiting for collection post-Christmas day can be… But on the upside, it’s absolutely possible to create a more conscious festive season. Don’t underestimate how your efforts impact you and others too, putting a note out to the universe of where your interests lie. Stay with me for a few tips on how to do it.
1. Waste not, want not!
Food waste is a massive problem around Christmas time, so make sure you’re not throwing out perfectly good food before, during and after your celebrations. Save your vegetable scraps to make a broth, and ditto with your turkey carcass. Fruit peel becomes fragrance (see below) and leftovers from the big day become Boxing Day soup — or any of your family’s day-after classics. Feels better already, right?
2. More is not more.
Too much food can be off-putting and overwhelming. I find that one homemade sharing dish from the oven or hob presented with a chutney or a side or two is
more than appreciated. On the big day, don’t overestimate the servings — since a traditional Christmas dinner has quite a number of dishes, people won’t have their usual portion of each dish, as there are so many more to get through. Leftovers can be put to good use (as above) but there’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to stuff yourself to appease your host and make a dent on the mountain of food on the table. As a host remember that a tonne of food will encourage people to load up their plates, as their eyes grow bigger than their stomachs, and seeing the excess being scraped into the bin is just plain sad. If canapés are part of the offering, remember that no one will be quite as hungry for the main event afterwards. An excess of food is a waste whether it goes into the bin or you eat more than you’re comfortable with.
3. Be present when you eat
Don’t get distracted by the hum drum (and inevitable dramas) at the table — make a conscious effort to be present with the food that eventually becomes you. Honour the abundance, tune in and connect with your food as you are eating it, savour the taste (even more so if you were the cook and put all that elbow grease in!) you’ll enjoy it so much more as a result and your digestion will thank you for it. Being present also helps you to tune into that moment of satisfaction. “I love feeling nauseatingly full,’’ said no one ever.
4.Turn your Christmas cards (or last year’s) into gift tags
Sounds twee but it’s honestly really cathartic! Great for those who don’t feel like they are particularly artistically inclined, this bit of craftwork just warrants a pair of scissors, a hole punch or skewer and some string. For the past few years I’ve roped in my friend’s son Jaden and we chat while we sit and cut out shapes (stars, hearts or the pictures from the cards themselves) to make our very own unique and bespoke gift tags. He’s just turned 11 so not sure if I’ll be able to convince him this year but for me it’s a Christmas tradition where I get to remind myself of everyone who wrote well wishes the year before, while recycling something that’s served its purpose so it doesn’t lead to clutter — it’s then replaced with all the new cards I get, and the cycle continues.
5. Wrapping-wise, opt for brown paper packages tied up with string for gift wrap
Timeless, tasteful and fully recyclable, it’s easy and so much better for our planet (and looks great with a flash of colour and pattern from your bespoke gift tag). Yes the usual wrapping paper would seem an eco and recyclable choice, but not if it’s got any kind of foil or glitter on it. Growing up our parents made my sister and I open our presents carefully, saving the wrapping paper as we went. Though it may seem frugal (and a tad embarrassing when I was younger in front of friends staying over), repurposing last year’s wrapping paper is still a habit I’ve kept — and now one that I’m proud to show off!
6. Scent your space with real festive fragrance
Avoid the synthetic chemicals from most commercial plug-in or spray fragrances polluting your indoor air quality and instead scent your space with real festive fragrance. At my pop-up Ayurvedic café in late 2016 I turned on the winter Christmas vibe by simmering cloves in water on the hob. Get creative and add any saved fruit peels like orange, lemon, apple and pear, try a cinnamon stick, bay leaves and nutmeg too. A pleasure for the senses and better for you (and a helluva lot cheaper) than a petroleum-based paraffin candle that looks the business but smells like a headache.
See our wellness gift guide for mindful gift ideas that are good for mind, body and soul this festive season and beyond.
Keep active over the holidays in Jasmine’s favourite ethical activewear brands.