It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Wastemas

It’s the season of giving, and by giving I mean needlessly consuming and spending, which let’s be honest is what Christmas has become. I’m not trying to be a party pooper, and seriously whichever holidays you celebrate I hope you have a great time, but try and remember what is important this time of year (and all other times of the year). Supporting each other, being with loved ones and helping those less fortunate.

There are plenty of ways in which you can still enjoy the holidays and reduce waste/ not buy into the consumerism culture.

  1. Think honestly about what it is that you need/want this holiday season.

I had real trouble finding things to ask for this year when my family members wanted to know what I want as a present, and that’s because i’ve rewired my thinking. Practicing mindful living has made me take stock of what is important materialistically in my life, and the answer is not a lot honestly. I live very comfortably as I am now, I don’t need new clothes, I don’t care about the latest gadgets anymore, so what is there to ask for?

How about asking friends and family to donate the money that they would normally spend on you to a charity? If you still want something to open then many charities provide ‘gifts’ this time of year. For example Friends of the Earth are giving out ‘Christmas Bee Saver Kits’ with a minimum donation of £12.

2. Think about gifts beyond what you can buy

  • Many people show their love through well thought out gifts that they know their family and friends will enjoy, and i’m not saying that we should stop that, but there are more ways of providing gifts than spending money on fancy new items.
  • Provide experiences – things such as experience days, trips, lessons etc – one of my most memorable gifts was when my nan bought me a ‘walk with hawks’ which allowed me to spend the day learning about and watching various birds of prey with a group of other enthusiasts.
  • Provide your time – why not gift your loved one with the promise of your time, whether it be the promise of helping them move/decorate, going out to the cinema together, having lunch. If you have children then why not create a little coupon book with things such as ‘a day of play’, or ‘mum cooks with me’ etc (I don’t know what kids like).
  • Make your gift – Some of my most treasured possessions are gifts that were handmade, for example the quilt that one of my best friends made for me for my 18th birthday, or the story that the same friend wrote for me one year. Don’t worry if you are not super creative, just putting the thought and time into making your gift will make it all the more meaningful.
  • Re-gift or buy second hand – Re-gifting gets a bad wrap (unintentional pun), but as long as your not giving it back to the person who originally gave it to you then I don’t see what the problem is. If you think that someone else will get more enjoyment and use out of something than you, and as long as it’s in a decent condition why not re-gift it? Also, look in charity and thrift shops for your gifts before buying new, you could find something extraordinary and you’ll be helping a good cause while you’re at it.
  • If you buy, buy local – Finally, buying new gifts should be a last resort in my opinion, but if you’re going to buy new then patronise your local businesses before you give your money to giant multinational corporations. The quality of the gift will often be higher because they have more to lose from shoddy workmanship, and the conditions in which the product is created will often be better because things are normally locally sourced and not from sweatshops.

3. Use this time to think of others

Why not donate your time/money/unneeded items to those less fortunate this holiday season? If you can’t do all three that’s fine but look for things to help out with.

  • Time – volunteer at a soup kitchen, help hand out blankets and food to the homeless, invite a lonely older person to your house for Christmas dinner (there are charities that will put you in touch with people who want that, don’t just pick up a random pensioner off the street). There are plenty of foundations that you can join that really need the extra help (all year round but especially during the cold months).
  • Money – make a donation to a charity, give money to the next homeless person you see (or if you don’t want to give them money then buy them a hot meal). But be vigilant about which charities you support, the Salvation Army will be making the rounds again this holiday season however I will personally never donate to them due to their harmful, anti-LGBT rhetoric and archaic values.
  • Unneeded items – many charities offer donation boxes for the homeless and the poor all around the world, why not check your cupboards for unneeded canned goods, toiletries (seriously sanitary towels etc are a godsend for these things), and even children toys. This is a great time to teach your kids about giving to those less fortunate and about how fortunate they themselves are. My old school used to do a christmas shoebox exchange where each child filled a box with old toys etc which were sent off to children in the third world.

How you can help:

Here are some links to various charities with advice on how you can help out this holiday season.

Money:

  • Friends of the Earth and their ‘Bee Saver pack’ – giving you the tools to help save the bees
  • KidsOut and their ‘Giving Tree’ – helping children who have escaped domestic violence
  • Unicef and their ‘Inspired Gifts’ – providing lifesaving supplies to children and communities around the world
  • Savethechildren and their ‘Virtual gifts’ – life changing gifts for children in third world countries
  • Refuge and their ‘Christmas gifts’ – give a christmas present to a woman or child that has escaped domestic violence
  • WWF and their ‘adopt an animal’ – protect an endangered animal and get a cuddly toy
  • Centrepoints and their ‘More than a gift’ – buy a homeless person christmas dinner, a gift, or a bed for the night
  • Impact and their ‘gift tokens’ – help restore a persons health and improve their life through medical funding

Time:

  • Crisis at christmas – volunteer to help run one of Crisis’ homeless centres, from cooking to counselling there is plenty that you can do
  • Age UK’s ‘telephone befrienders’ – Age UK are looking for people to have a 30 minute chat with a lonely older person once a week. Seriously just 30 minutes a week.

Unneeded items:

  • Local foodbanks – you can find out what is needed at your local food bank and help take part in the ‘reverse advent calender’ where you donate an item of food everyday in the run up to christmas.

The Negative Impact of Fast Fashion

The emergence of the fast fashion industry has not only caused an impact on most peoples bank accounts but also on the economy of the third world countries that supply this industry and on the environment as a whole.

Back in the 1950s and before there were a maximum of 4 seasons in the fashion calendar, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, or sometimes only two seasons, Winter and Summer (dress for the cold and dress for the warm). Now with the advent of fast fashion we have on average 52 seasons a year, this constant creation and movement of new clothes requires the growth of more materials, the use of more chemicals and results in more waste.

Most fast fashion companies outsource their production to members of third world countries because they know that they can pay them less and exploit lax health and safety laws, whilst touting about how they are helping these countries and their employees because ‘this way they have a job and are earning money’. Never mind that this money may not be enough to feed their family, or that their employees risk death and illness in these factories.

As well as causing a negative impact on the world environment, fast fashion also has an impact on our wallets. Whilst most high street shops offer their clothes for a good price, this quick change in stock often results in people buying more clothes than they need, often clothes that they will only wear once. There have also been reports of big name companies taking overstock and slicing it with packaging knives so that it cannot be resold or donated once new stock comes in, thus driving more sales.

So what to do?

Try shopping only when you know that you need something. I never window shop and only go into town when i’m looking for something in particular, this helps me to save money which then means that I can afford to buy something that I really want that is usually of higher quality and will therefore last longer. Also, moving my thinking from ‘I want that’ to ‘do I need that?’ has reduced the effect that advertising has on me. Instead of being sold on the lifestyle that these companies are claiming to provide, I now see adverts for what they are, a company trying to get my money by making me feel inferior.

Shop in charity shops. Whilst they may not always have what you want charity shops are a great place to find a bargain and you may stumble across a hidden gem. I’d been wanting a leather style jacket for ages but didn’t want to buy one from the high street, then whilst I was looking for a scarf in my local charity shop I stumbled upon a second hand leather jacket for £6! The other upside to supporting charity shops, other than the obvious, is that by buying at charity shops I can reduce the amount of things thrown away and I can extend a clothing’s lifespan.

Try making some stuff for yourself. Now this isn’t going to be for everyone, I enjoy sewing and making things so the prospect of making an outfit for myself is quite exciting, for some of you that is probably not your idea of fun and that’s okay. Dressmakers and tailors are still around and will make something for you that fits perfectly and will last longer than the cheap mass produced items.

For more information about the fast fashion world and the impact it has on the environment, third world countries and your own pocket then I highly recommend watching ‘The True Price’ on Netflix, it goes much more in-depth into the impact the fashion industry has and ways in which you can help combat it.

Scrapstores: Where Nothing Goes to Waste

For many of you creative types out there you may be wondering how you can keep up a low waste lifestyle whilst still indulging in your hobbies. Many hobbies such as sewing, sculpture etc leave you with off-cuts and other bits of waste that you often don’t want to keep, and can’t find a use for.

There are many ways that we can reduce waste whilst still doing what makes us happy. The biggest and most effective way is to reuse things in your creative endeavours: Make sculptures out of old nuts and bolts, make organisation boxes out of old cardboard such as cereal boxes or toilet rolls, use old clothes for materials. This helps to reduce your impact as even if you’re left with offcuts its still less than if you hadn’t reused in the first place.

Now when it comes to getting your hands on these refuse materials that can be another matter. If you’re like me then you don’t want to keep hold of every bit of scrap just in case inspiration strikes, especially if you have already decided to reduced the amount of waste that you create by buying products with less packaging etc in the first place.

This is where the Scrapstore comes in.


A new discovery for me, the Scrapstore is a place that collects refuse material and offers it up to schools, youth clubs and even individual artists in return for a yearly subscription. There are many Scrapstores across the UK, and a quick google search will let you know if there is one in your town. You can utilise the Scrapstore in one of two ways, by donating your offcuts and other waste products to them for use by others, or by getting your own supplies there.

A yearly subscription may initially seem off-putting but it often isn’t a lot considering that once paid you can take as much as you want, this is especially good if as I stated earlier you run a craft group or a youth club. Most scrap stores also offer a student discount on this subscription, for example the yearly subscription for the London Scrapstore is£70 for non-students and only £30 for students.

For those of you interested in visiting a Scrapstore here’s a link to the ReusefulUK website where you can find a list of Scrapstore locations and find out more information about the charity and how you can help: https://www.scrapstoresuk.org

 

All photos used in this post are curtesy of Jenny Camp.

Finding a Way to Love the Junk

I started this year with a bullet journal, i’d wanted a way to keep myself organised and be crafty and creative whilst doing so. However, a few weeks into it I realised that what I wanted wasn’t an organisational journal but a scrapbook style journal. A couple of hours of research later (and by research I mean scrolling through Pinterest) I found a much better fit for what I wanted to do, Junk journalling. Of course i’m still going to keep up with my bullet journal, no point in wasting a perfectly good notebook, and it does keep me organised. It’s also a great place to jot down blog ideas.

Junk journalling is the practice where you take items such as old tickets, recipes, business cards etc and use them to create a work of art on each page of your journal. It’s a great way to reuse bits of waste and un-recyclable rubbish that you’ve collected over the years and can also be used as a good way to remember certain occasions, holidays, and days out.

You can also use thing such as clothing tags, old envelopes, and buttons to make 3D or textured pages. I myself have used parts of old birthday cards, lace and even feathers to create nice sensory pages. Its a nice and relaxing past time that costs nothing except for the price of the original book, and even then you can make you’re own journal by sewing the pages together, that way you can make your journal as big as you want.

For those of you looking for a relaxing, waste reducing hobby I would highly recommend trying out a junk journal. It’s so easy, whether you think of yourself as creative or not, it’s a great way to look back over the year, and its another way to reduce your waste footprint.

Here are a few pages from my current junk journal.

Small Habits, Big Changes

So it’s a few days after New Year and i’m visiting a few of my dear friends and saying at one of their houses. Now neither of my friends consider themselves minimalists, and whilst they are both trying to reduce their impact on the environment neither of them are as stringent in their low waste living as me. However for the few days that I stayed with them I noticed some low waste habits that they have without even thinking about it.

The first happened early on in my visit, we were returning from the supermarket having picked up ingredients for dinner (with a reusable shopping bag of course) and we noticed that my friends neighbour had left a small, wooden, wine rack by their bin. The wine rack was in perfect working order and whilst neither of us drinks wine my friend picked it up and said, ‘I can use this’. Up-cycling other peoples unwanted items is a great way to reduce waste and save money, in fact my friend regularly takes in old, unwanted items and reuses them.

The second came once my other friend joined us. The friend who we were staying with pulled out a box of clothes and invited us to rifle through them and take anything we wanted as she didn’t wear them any more. After this visit i’ve now gone home and had another rifle through my closet and plan on offering my friends the same opportunity to get some free clothes before I donate the rest to charity.

Both of my friends also regularly knit and sew, making their own jumpers, adding patches to damaged clothes etc. Which, other than being a fun past time, is another way to both save money and reduce your impact on the world. I myself have used old T-shirts, dresses etc to make pillowcases, shirts etc.

It’s these small habits that can soon enough become second nature that will lead you to a fulfilling low waste life.