This Boxing Day, we’re choosing people over purchases, slowing down and making the most of what we already have. For a more sustainable alternative to the instant gratification of sale shopping, Beatrice Murray-Nag shares her favourite activities to consider doing instead.
The 26th December has long marked a day of mayhem in the retail calendar. Come the morning after Christmas, serial shoppers have been known to queue (yes, queue!) along the high streets from the small hours of the morning in order to bag the best bargains in the Boxing Day Sales. It’s a desire for newness that is seemingly overwhelming; yesterday’s presents become old news as shiny new purchases call out from the shop windows, their price slashed in half and their labels adorned with red discount stickers.
Christmas is notoriously a time of excess, with the average brit spending far more during December than any other month of the year. So, once the big day draws to a close, why does our focus fall once again on consumption? The cost price of these bargain buys might be halved, but the cost to the planet certainly doesn’t come quite so cheaply. And while discounted prices do undoubtedly make items more accessible to those who need them, the frenzy that accompanies the post-festive sales fuels the constant need for something new that modern marketing has sold. It’s arguable that, with its daily drops and 52 seasons per year, the fast fashion industry has sped up consumption to such an extent that something now becomes old in the blink of an eye.
In such times, the holiday season can actually be an antithesis to the speed at which the world moves for the rest of the year. You know that hazy, lazy period between Christmas and New Year in which days blend slowly into one another and nobody really knows the day of the week? Well, the truth is that these few precious days spent away from our work screens and reconnecting with people around us mean we can break our overstimulated mindset and reflect on what we already have.
So, instead of heading back towards the bright lights of the big city come the 26th, take some time to appreciate the slowness of the post-Christmas period. Society is moving ever faster, so savour these special moments while they last. Shun the shops and swap consumption for consciousness; the planet is sure to thank you for it. Here is a roundup of our favourite activities to try on Boxing Day instead.
Head out for a walk
The Boxing Day walk tradition was alive and well long before the sales got started. A breath of fresh air is sure to snap you out of your post-Christmas slump, and a study by the Scientific Reports journal has even pointed to the fact that spending time in nature can boost health and wellbeing. So, round up your friends and family and head out for a stroll in the crisp winter weather.
Get a feel for foraging
When it comes to slowing down and getting back to nature, what better activity than foraging for some winter fruits to get creative with at home. According to the Woodland Trust, the plants and herbs to look out for in December include pine for a cold-remedy tea and chestnuts for roasting, while Countryfile recommends foraging samphire along the beaches for cooking at home.
Organise a Boxing Day beach clean
If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, round up your friends and family for a brisk beach walk and do your bit for the planet at the same time. Take some leftover Christmas dinner sandwiches for a picnic and a few big bin bags to collect any rubbish you see while you’re strolling. The Take 3 For The Sea challenge urges people to pick up three pieces of rubbish any time they leave the beach, and by getting everybody on board you’ll be helping the marine ecosystem while having spending some precious time together.
Make the most of your leftovers
Most of us begin Boxing Day with a full fridge, packed with everything we just couldn’t eat the day before. In fact, in the UK alone, statistics have it that the equivalent of 4,000,000 Christmas dinners are wasted every year as a result of overspending on festive food. Rather than throwing out these leftovers and contributing to the global food waste problem, spend your Boxing Day trying creative ways to repurpose them into something newly delicious to serve up that evening. Danielle Copperman has plenty of suggestions, while Jasmine Hemsley falls back on her trusty Boxing Day soup.
Learn a new skill
Make the most of the time at home by pestering your relatives to teach you some of the skills that might otherwise get lost from generation to generation. Whether you’re learning knitting from your grandma or sewing from your mum, these slower days are the perfect opportunity to learn the sort of skills that are now back on the radar thanks to an increased interest in making and mending in order to live more sustainably. This year, I’ll be sitting in front of the sewing machine with my mum and might even ask my dad to teach me how he makes his famous sourdough loaves (although he’s never keen to disclose this information!)
Get creative with your wrapping paper
Chances are that come December 26th, somewhere in your house you have a big bag of used wrapping paper waiting to be sorted. Since papers that contain glitter or metallic foils cannot be recycled, why not use the day to get creative and upcycle them instead? We suggest trying your hand at some decoupage plant pots or making some homemade bows ready for next year’s gifts.
Press some flowers
Take a stroll around your garden or local park and pick a small selection of winter flowers to press. Now is the perfect time to tuck your favourite floral fancies away between a few sheets of newspaper paper inside a stack of heavy books and leave nature to work its magic. A true exercise in slowing down and an anecdote to the modern need for instant gratification, check back on them in a week or two to find your delicate treasures. Store them in an airtight box away from direct sunlight and use them to adorn homemade greetings cards throughout the year.
Start a good book
For a slower, screen-free Boxing Day, what better than curling up with a good book and a warm cup of herbal tea. Research from the National Literacy Trust has explored the relationship between mental wellbeing and reading, finding that engagement with literature to have a positive effect on our mindset. If you’re stuck for ideas on what to read, pick up one of Eco-Age’s Sustainability Books of the Month from 2019. Whether you go for Rob Hopkins‘ ‘From What Is To What if’ or Dana Thomas’ ‘Fashionopolis,’ diving into a new eco-read is sure to have you feeling motivated and ready to shake up the system come January 1st.