Blog Posts Archives - Sustainable(ish)

Category Archives for Blog Posts



  • Food production is responsible for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emmissions
  • More than half of food emissions comes from animal products
  • If food waste were a country it would be the 3rd biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (after the USA and China)
  • Around 50% of food waste in the UK occurs in the home.
  • Not wasting good food and drink would have the same positive environmental impact of taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads.

We all have to eat. And the food we eat clearly has a massive impact on the planet (and the lives of the people who produce our food).
For this month's checklist I've put together some 'sustainable(ish)' ideas to help reduce the environmental impact of what we're putting on our plates. Feel free to download and share far and wide - lets start some conversations about easy steps to sustainable(ish) living! It's also available here as a pdf if you want to print it and tick things off as you go 🙂

How many can you tick off already?

Which ones are you going to try out this month (and beyond?)

Do share in the comments!


At the start of a New Year many of us are reeling a little from the excesses of Christmas (perhaps despite our best efforts to tone it down a little or a lot) - our houses and cupboards are full, and our bank accounts might be empty. So it seems like the perfect time to take a step back from consumption and spend some time thinking about the power of our consumer choices to create a better world for ourselves and for others.

Here are some ideas/options/suggestions to get you started. Feel free to download and share far and wide - lets start some conversations about easy steps to sustainable(ish) living! It's also available here as a pdf if you want to print it and tick things off as you go 🙂

How many can you tick off already?

Which ones are you going to try out this month (and beyond?)

Do share in the comments!


2018 bought with it some big changes - the Blue Planet II effect meant that plastic pollution had a high profile, with lots of people looking for ways to reduce their own plastic use, and pressure being put on the big retailers and manufacturers to make changes too. Fast fashion and all things rubbish got prime TV time as well with brilliant documentaries on the BBC (Fashions Dirty Secrets and The Secret Life of Landfill). Even accounting for the 'echo chamber' of my social media bubble, it feels like things are shifting. Like more and more people are waking up to the disastrous impacts of our throwaway lifestyles and looking for ways that they can live more sustainably. Which is vital, as we also learned in 2018 from the IPCC report that we have just 12 years to take 'unprecedented action' if we are to mitigate the worse effects of climate change.
The scale of this 'unprecedented action' is overwhelming. It needs huge shifts in policy from governments and big business and it seems that at present there isn't the political will or momentum to make this happen. But that doesn't mean that we as individuals and as families can't take action. And it doesn't even have to be 'unprecedented'.

2019 is the year we grab hold of the momentum that is building around action on climate change, and we run with it.
It's the year we step up to take action, and the year we step into our power as individuals to create change and transform the world. All through our own small acts, our daily choices, our conversations.
Let's all make a #promisefortheplanet this year. Big or small. And share it far and wide. Share it on social media. Share with friends and family and work colleagues when they ask you if you're setting any New Year's Resolutions. Share it with your kids and encourage them to make their own.
Let's take action AND spread the word at the same time. Can we reach millions?
Share your promise for the planet using the #promisefortheplanet hashtag on social media and let's see how many people we can reach, and how many promises we can make. Let's transform the world in 2019 (and beyond).

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Switch you energy to a renewable supplier - this ONE act will last all year and is more impactful than either giving up meat or giving up your car.
  • Reduce your meat consumption, especially beef. Eat less and eat better - aim for one entirely meat free day a week. Or pledge to source all your meat from local, organic suppliers, or reduce your meat consumption by a certain percentage.
  • Tackle the 'Big 4' single use plastics - pledge to replace disposable water bottles, coffee cups, plastic bags and straws with re-usable versions.
  •  Go car-free - not entirely (although if you can, that's awesome!) but can you do one day a week? Or more?
  • Shop secondhand - household consumption is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Think before you buy and see if you can find what you need secondhand before looking for new.
  • Get mending - don't just toss your broken things 'away' (there is no 'away'...), see if you can fix them first. You Tube is an amazing resource where you can find videos for the most unlikely of mends. Alternatively, see if you have a Repair Cafe near you where you can take your broken things to be fixed by their team of volunteer menders.
  • Go on a fast fashion fast - how long could you go without buying new clothes? Set yourself a challenge - you could try a year of only secondhand clothes, or if you're feeling brave, a year of no new clothes at all...
  • Reduce your energy and water consumption - check out your bills for this year, and set the household the challenge of reducing them in 2019. 4 minute showers, switching things off standby, switching your lightbulbs to LEDS - all these little things add up!
  • Love your leftovers - if food waste were a country it would be the third biggest CO2 emitter after the USA and China. Pledge to reduce your food waste by meal planning, and getting canny with your leftovers (check out Love Food Hate Waste for lots of great ideas and recipes).
  • Go on a 'rubbish diet' - see how much you can reduce your landfill waste by in 2019. We haven't put our back bin out for about 4 months now, and it really hasn't been that difficult. Simple swaps, one by one, make a big difference.
  •  Write to your MP or policy makers. One of the major reasons MPs don't take action on climate change is that they aren't hearing from their constituents that it's an issue. Make it an issue. Let them know that you care. That you're taking action and you want to know what action they're taking. If you're not sure who your MP is in the UK you can find out here.
  • Have conversations. I get it. No one wants to be 'that person' who people avoid eye contact with for fear of another lecture on all their wrong doings when it comes to the planet. But we do need to have these conversations. Make them positive. Tell people about your wins, offer to help, share what you're doing on social media. 

This list could go on and on. There are literally hundreds and hundred of actions, big and small, that we can take each and every day (one of the things I am planning for 2019 is a monthly calendar of suggested actions). What matters is that we make that shift from knowing what we should be doing, from thinking about making change, to taking that all important first step. Picking ONE thing, no matter how small, and taking action.
Are you with me?

What's your #promisefortheplanet?
Let me know in the comments below, and do share on social media with the hashtag and let's see the transformations we can create.

Here's to a world changing 2019.

Jen xx


I love the New Year - all those possibilities and twelve shiny new months waiting for us.
And I'm guessing that if you're a regular reader here, then one of your goals or resolutions or aims for the New Year might well be to 'live more sustainably', which is awesome!
BUT one of the problems with big goals like this, or something like 'losing weight' or 'getting fit' is that they're just too big, too vague. And it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by all the things we could be doing, or that we feel like we should be doing, and then we end up very quickly feeling demoralised and doing nothing. Which is very much NOT what we want. So here are some tips for setting goals that are not only sustainable in the planetary sense, but that are sustainable in the long-term for you.


Any of you who have been on one of my webinars will know that I'm a massive fan of 'why' - it really is key to achieving the things you want out of life, and getting motivated to make sustainable(ish) changes. 

For me, and my big vision of living more sustainably, my ‘why’ boils down to the kids. I want them to grow up and have a safe and habitable planet to live on. The world is changing, and we learned in 2018 that we have just 12 short years to take 'unprecedented action' if we are to mitigate the very worse effects of climate change. Thinking about what future generations might be facing, what the world might look like in 50 years time, makes me feel overwhelmed at times, but it also helps to keep me motivated and helps to inform each of my decisions as I move forwards.
So get clear about your why. What is it for you about living more sustainably/going zero waste/mending your clothes that is important? How does it impact you, your family, the wider world? What are the benefits, for you and for others? Really take some time to think about this, and I would also encourage you to write it down – then it’s there to refer to when your motivation starts to dip and things start to feel hard (and they will).


You need to be as specific as you can about what it is you want to achieve. So for example for 'reducing plastic' are you going to try and halve the amount of plastic you're throwing away each week? Are you going to work on the 'Big 4'? Are you going to refuse single use coffee cups? (here are some great re-usable alternatives). 


Once you've decided on a 'big goal' or resolution, break it down. 
"Plastic free" or "zero waste" or "being a more conscious consumer" are BIG goals. Break it down into baby steps -eg. tackling one plastic item first. Or swapping out one specific item of unrecyclable rubbish from your bin. Or looking for more sustainable options for your clothes shopping. And then do that. One thing I find helpful is to focus on a different area of sustainable(ish) living each month - so energy, then shopping, then plastic etc etc. 


Having some way to measure your progress is really important, otherwise how will you ever know when you are succeeding?! For something like plastic or waste, a brilliant thing to do is to start with a bin audit - simply keep all of your plastic waste (or dive into your bin if you're focussing on all your waste) for a week and make a note of what is in there. Pick one or two items to work on first and identify the first steps you need to take. Then review after a month of so -is there less in there now? ​
So once you’ve thought of your specific goal for the month, spend a few minutes thinking about how you are going to measure it, and what success will look and feel like.


Goals need to be achievable and realistic otherwise they are overwhelming. 
Zero Waste for example is massive. People devote their lives to Zero Waste and it isn’t something that happens overnight, or even in a month. For me, the ultimate goal of Zero Waste still feels a very long way off, and feels un-acheivable and un-realistic for us at the moment. But I could set myself a goal of reducing food packaging waste, and work on that. That feels much less panic inducing and far more achievable. The ideal is to find the balance between something that stretches us out of our comfort zones, but doesn’t induce overwhelm (and therefore inaction!).


A deadline give us something to aim for. And for people like me who tend to procrastinate and put things off, there is nothing like the pressure of a deadline to ensure we get things done! Have a think about what kind of deadlines you want to impose – some might need to be shorter, some longer. Do you want to buy nothing new for a year (if you do you can read my years worth of blog posts from our own Make Do and Mend Year!)? Do you want to find an alternative to plastic milk bottles by the end of the month? Think about what deadlines would work for you and ideally write them down!

What are your goals for the sustainable(ish) changes
you want to make this year?
Do share below - I'd love to hear them.

PS. If you're looking for some support working out where to get started and how to make the sustainable(ish) changes you want in 2019 I'm opening up some slots for "Sustainable(ish) Power Hours" (or Power Hours for the Planet).
Hook up with me for an hours Skype call and we'll get your Sustainable(ish) 2019 off to a flying start!


The Waste Hierarchy sounds like the dullest thing imaginable, but I have to confess that I kind of love it.

I've recorded a podcast episode on the subject, but I figured that with Christmas bearing down on us it was worth a reminder and a look at how it can be applied to all things festive!


I guess technically you could refuse to participate in Christmas all together but there's nothing very "ish" about that is there?!
However there are still some things that we can 'refuse' without coming across as the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas:

  • Christmas cards - a billion Christmas cards end up in the bin each year, and lots of people are now choosing to make charity donations instead, or to send e-cards.
  • Presents for grown-ups - 81 million unwanted gifts are received each year, an average of 3 per household. Have 'that conversation' with friends and family and think about whether you could only buy for the kids, and make all go out for a nice meal together instead.
  • Anything new! 
    It's totally possible - we did it when we spent our year buying nothing new (check out this post here for all the nitty gritty). Buy secondhand, make, or gift experiences instead of 'stuff'.

If you can't REFUSE some or any aspects of Christmas entirely, then at the very least try to reduce them:

  • All of points in the REFUSE section can be REDUCED if total refusal would cause family upset!
  • Food waste - around 250,000 tonnes of food is wasted in the UK alone over Christmas. Meal plan, and make sure you include what you're going to with any leftovers.
  • The amount of plastic entering your home - buy loose fruit and veg and use re-usable bags; look for drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic. For other tips for shopping plastic-free at the supermarket, check out this post here.

Christmas has not only become a retail festival, it also seems to have become a celebration of both excess and single use. See how many things you can re-use this year, here are some suggestions:

  • Christmas jumpers - according to research done by the guys at Hubbub we spend around £220 million on Christmas jumpers each year in the UK and a quarter of those will end up in landfill or are only used once. Wear the same jumper year on year - make it a part of your Christmas traditions.
  • Your office party Christmas outfit - I guarantee you no-one will notice if you wear the same outfit again. And if they do, that they will even care. Make a 'thing' of it and use the opportunity to start a conversation about all that is wrong with fast fashion 😉
  • Christmas cards - cut off the fronts from your favourite cards, and use them as gift tags next year. Alternatively turn them into festive postcards to send instead of needing envelopes.

If there's anything you no longer want or need, don't ditch it, re-home it!
Try out these different options for decorations, artificial trees, unwanted gifts and anything else to:

  • eBay - if you've got unwanted gifts you might get lucky selling them on eBay and go a little way towards replenishing your bank account at the same time as saving things from landfill.
  • Freecycle/Freegle
    Pass on anything you don't want anymore to people in your community via your local Freecycle or Freegle group.
  • Charity Shops
    This is a great option, but just be aware that most charity shops will be inundated with donations after Christmas  and resist the temptation of using them to salve your conscience about sending stuff to landfill. Only donate stuff that is clean and in good condition. 

This isn't an obvious one for Christmas time - the most obvious thing I can think of is the fairy lights! Have a go at fixing them before ditching them - you might be pleasantly surprised.


Note that this is the last resort before 'rot' - if you've paid attention to all the other ideas in this post and the others on this blog, hopefully you won't have too much to recycle.

  • Christmas cards can be recycled in the bins that appear outside the supermarkets in the New Year.
  • Glittery or metallic wrapping paper CAN'T be recycled. Do the 'scrunch test' - scrunch your paper into a ball and it it stays in a ball it can go in the recycling.
  • Batteries - if you've not got round to replacing your regular batteries with rechargeable ones, make sure you recycle them - many supermarkets have recycling points, if not there should be one at your local recycling centre.

​Hopefully your waste to landfill should now be pretty minimal, but do remember that 'rot' also includes composting. 

  • If you have a food waste collection, make sure you use it!
    If you don't, consider asking Santa for a hot composter to go in your garden - these can take cooked and uncooked food, as well as meat.
  • If you had a real tree, most councils will run a special kerbside collection of them in the New Year, and will take them away to mulch. If not, then you should be able to take it to your local recycling centre to add to the garden waste.
How many of the '7 R's' will you be doing this Yuletide?
And what have I missed? Comment below with more suggestions to add to each of the categories!



Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources


I'm a big mince pie fan, especially with a disc of marzipan in the bottom before the mincemeat is dolloped on top (I LOVE marzipan. I could sit and eat a block of it.), but I needed to do some festive baking for someone else and thought that mince pies might be a bit old hat. So I came up with these, and they are a pretty good substitute if you fancy ringing the changes.

This is what you need:

  • 175g butter at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour 
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A jar (approx 300g) mincemeat

For the icing:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 100g marzipan (I use the white marzipan rather than the golden, but the choice is yours)
  • 100g room temperature butter
  • Almond essence to taste (I love the taste, so went with about 1.5tsp)
  • A couple of teaspoons of milk
  • Festive sprinkles (optional)

This is what you do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C
  • Pop 12 cupcake cases into a muffin tin
  • Combine the butter, sugar, flour, eggs and baking powder and mix together until smooth
  • Fold in the mincemeat
  • Portion out between the 12 cupcake cases and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until risen (they don't rise massively, I suspect because of the mincemeat) and golden brown
  • Leave to cool

    To make the icing:
  • Chop the butter roughly into cubes into your mixing bowl
  • Grate the marzipan using the large hole grater side on a box grater and add to the bowl
  • Add the almond essence and then whiz these together until light and fluffy
  • Add the icing sugar and whiz again, scraping down the sides if necessary
  • Add a little milk if it's a very stiff mixture and mix again
  • Scoop into a piping bag - use a star shaped nozzle if you want to make 'trees'
  • Add sprinkles according to taste!

Plastic free/zero waste tips:

  • Flour, caster sugar and icing sugar can be found in paper/cardboard easily at the supermarket
  • Some makes of butter wrapper will separate after soaking so you can recycle the foil and paper
  • I ordered baking powder from the Plastic Free Pantry and re-fill the plastic pot I got from the supermarket
  • I use silicone reusable cupcake cases for cakes we will have at home. If I'm gifting them to people, I use these ones here which are compostable and unbleached.
  • I've not found a source of plastic-free sprinkles or marzipan (I know you can make your own) - if anyone knows of any, please do let me know!
  • I bought a roll of 'disposable' piping bags about 6 years ago before I knew any better and have been re-using each one until it falls apart. I'm on my last couple now so will invest in a proper re-usable one.

What do you reckon? Will you give these a try?
Let me know!



Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources


My youngest has just moved into Key Stage 2 and in our school that signals the end of Nativity plays for us. I'm equal parts sad and relieved - it really does feel like the end of an era, but at the same time there's no more late night panics trying to throw together a Nativity costume at the last minute.
I'm proud to say that we managed to get through our Nativity Days without ever having to resort to an Amazon or supermarket special - which are kind of like the fast fashion of the Christmas Story - cheaply made, mass produced synthetic fabrics, and will only be worn a handful of times. However that doesn't mean that I spent October and November glued to a sewing machine - our costumes have I think epitomised all the things a Nativity costume should be: thrown together using stuff we had lying around; evidently homemade; and ultimately probably a little bit crap compared to some of the other shop bought wonders. But for me, that's what it's all about - after all, what's a Nativity without a tea towel head dress?

Here are some easy ideas to help you avoid having to resort to splashing the cash on a mass produced monstrosity made who knows where and for who knows what, that even if doesn't especially damage your bank balance will be damaging the planet.


We have class Facebook groups, and at Nativity time it's such an easy way to find out who has what outfit lurking at the back of their cupboards, and to all lend to each other.


- I just did a quick search on eBay for "Nativity Costumes" and after ticking the 'used' box in the search criteria, it still came up with over 400 results - everything from shepherds to stars and camels to Kings.
- Check out your local charity shops - many have dressing up sections, and this time of year will probably be dragging the nativity costumes out of storage to see what they can pass on.
- Put out a WANTED request in your local Freecycle or Freegle group - there's bound to be someone near you who has what you need and is prepared to gift it or loan it to you.


I've just spent a fruitless half hour searching the interweb for nativity costume rental. I was going to say that someone is missing a trick here and that there must be a gap in the market, but I'm guessing that sadly as they are so (relatively) cheap to buy new, it's just not viable to rent them out 🙁
Do let me know if you know of any rental places that will hire out nativity costumes, and I can amend this post.


Making a costume is really not as hard work as it might seem. If you hit lucky and get shepherd, inn keeper, Joseph or King, any version of a pillowcase tunic and a curtain cloak will work a treat 😉
If that's not cutting it, check out this post here from The School Run with 8 No Sew Nativity Costumes.


Whilst searching for rental options for nativity costumes I stumbled across While Shepherds Watched - a UK based company that use Fair-trade cotton to make their costumes. Some are made in India and support local craftspeople, and some have been made in the UK by a Workers' Co-operative.

Do you still 'nativity'?
What's been your favourite homemade outfit? Or what tips have you got for avoiding the fast fashion monstrosities?
Let me know in the comments!



Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources


Those of you who have been following for a while now are probably aware that my whole Sustainable(fish) journey began when I slightly randomly and naively decided that a year buying nothing new with my family would be a 'fun' thing to do.
And it was fun. On the whole. But it turned into so much more. It really forced me to confront the effects of our modern, disposable society on both people and planet. And when Christmas rolled around that year, I have to confess that it was probably the first time I'd ever really thought about the impact of all the extra 'stuff' and food on the environment, and started to question why we give presents. 

It was a real eye opener - we were about four months into our year buying nothing new (it randomly started in the September!) and I was just starting to get my head around the fact that there might be another way. A way that involved LESS, rather than more. And here I was faced with the biggest consumer festival of the year. And my mum. Who would always go a bit bonkers on the present front.
I remember them coming over for the day and unloading the car, which was crammed with presents, and then seeing this massive pile start to accumulate under the tree, and for the first time ever instead of feeling excited, my heart sank and I started to feel a little bit sick.

Whilst I wasn't able to do anything about my mum's over-consumption that year, our buying nothing new challenge meant that I had to get a bit creative with the gifts that we gave, and I'm not going to lie, it was a challenge. Made more so by the fact that I try never to do anything Christmassy before the 1st December. Oh, and I decided that we would have to make all the decorations ourselves, including the tree...
But it really, really did force me to re-evaluate all things Christmas, especially the gifts. I decided I was going to make most of the presents we gave, and time was limited (both the kids were still pre-schoolers), so I figured that if I was going to spend my precious time making gifts, they needed to be really appreciated (this turned out to be a work in progress - see later). This meant we bit the bullet and pruned our gift list as a first step, putting an end to the slightly pointless Amazon voucher swap that had somehow evolved with hubby's brothers.

Buying nothing new is a brilliant strategy if you're looking for a quick way to re-dress your relationship with consumerism. If you've fallen into the trap of buying for the sake of buying (especially gifts). It really does make you stop and think about it, partly because it's harder to find the thing you want, so you have to really, really want it! And it's one of the easiest ways to reduce the impact of your consumption on both people and planet - you save things from landfill, new resources aren't needed to make those things, and you're stepping out of being part of the demand for fast fashion/fast electronics/cheap plastic tat.

Here are some of my learnings, and some top tips if you want to have a go too.


Don't do as I did and wait until the 1st December. 
If you're looking for secondhand bits, start regularly whizzing around your local charity shops to see what you can find - I've managed to pick up some great stocking fillers in the past, as well as some perfect books for family members.


One year I was absolutely delighted to find a load of secondhand stocking fillers on my charity shop trawls, but it was only when the New Year cam round and I was faced with a load of plastic tat to find a home for/throw away that I realised that even if it's secondhand, it's still pretty much 'instant landfill'.


If you end up buying for Aunts and Uncles, and second cousins once removed, consider having 'that conversation'. Do any of them actually need anything? Could you all go out for a day out together in the New Year, and have a proper catch up rather than spending your hard-earned money on something they probably actually don't need or want, out of some sense of obligation to give 'something'.


If you're going to make some of your gifts, be realistic about your skills, and the time you  have available. I made some pretty hideous gifts in hindsight, that I'm pretty sure have never seen the light of day since. And that's just as wasteful as buying something new to give that isn't used.
Since then I've come to terms with the fact that my skills with the sewing machine might need some work, and that actually baking is the way to go. I  now batch bake biscuits, or things like fudge and macaroons. They all get packaged up in old jam jars, and are generally pretty well received.


Re-use what you already have. This applies to:

  • Decorations
  • Trees - if you have a fake tree, please please please use it to within an inch of it's life!
  • Cards - last year's cards can be used for gift tags. If you didn't keep them, make a mental note not to ditch them this year!
  • Wrapping paper - if you're anal about how the kids open their presents (like me!) you might have been able to save some of last years paper to use again. If not, why to use newspapers or magazines - they can look really stylish when tied up with (re-usable) ribbon or yarn

When I randomly decided that we would need to make a Christmas tree for our year buying nothing new (being unsure whether buying a real tree technically counted as buying something new) I took to Pinterest to search for some 'pinspiration' for upcycled trees. 
And settled on one that used green egg boxes. Can you guess which one was the Pinterest beauty, and which was our attempt to emulate it...?


My childhood Christmas' were all about stacks of gifts, and somewhere along the way our society (and the retailers and advertisers) has persuaded us that more is better. That stuff = happiness. Logically, when we stop and think, we know that this isn't true, but so often when we shop (and it seems especially at Christmas) there is very little logic there - we buy 'because it's Christmas)


Earlier on in our year buying nothing new we had got the news that my mum had cancer. And as much as we all hoped against hope that it wouldn't be the last Christmas we would all get to spend together, sadly it was. I was aware that year that instead of all the gifts and the stuff that my parents had loaded up the car with, all I really wanted was some quality time with my mum - where she wasn't stressed about the gifts, and making sure it was all fair, and worrying about what to buy.
I still struggle with this one. My head knows that Christmas should be about family and friends, about people and experiences, not presents and stuff. That memories are made in the silly games, and snuggling up in front of the fire to watch a film, or dragging the kids out on a Christmas afternoon dog walk. Not in the gifts they're given that are so quickly forgotten. But it's not easy. Pushing back against a lifetime of somewhat excessive gifting. Knowing firsthand the joy and excitement as a child seeing a whole stack of presents. Resisting all the incessant messages from society and advertisers that buying the perfect gift will make for the perfect Christmas is HARD.
But take a minute to stop and think about what you want to Christmas to mean for you and your family, the messages you want to give to your kids about stuff, and the memories you want them to have.
And then start to think about what small changes you can make step by step to get there.


Buying nothing new at all for Christmas is possibly a little extreme. And unless you've already started will probably result in additional stress, and the odd tear or two. 
Could you pledge to source a percentage of your gifts 'preloved' or homemade this year? What would feel do-able?

A cricket ball hat I made for my brother. I cringe now eve to think about how crap it was!


  • Charity shops - great for stocking fillers, books and Christmas jumpers
  • eBay - useful if you're searching for a specific make or thing 
  • Freecycle or Freegle - if you're on the look-out for decorations, then post a WANTED in your local group and I pretty much guarantee you success
  • Vintage fairs and shops
  • Local Facebook buy, sell and swap pages
  • Have a toy swap with friends (without the kids there!). Get together for coffee and cake, and bring the toys that your kids no longer really play with, and swap!

Christmas spiced fudge - this is way more successful than my hats...

​Could you/would you do a Buy Nothing New Christmas?
If you'd love some additional resources, idea and suggestions with clickable links for Sustainable(ish) alternatives, check out the Essential Guide to a Crap-free Christmas! 



Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
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Christmas - "It's the most wonderful wasteful time of the year" (feel free to sing that bit. In your head. Unless you're alone.)
I've already freaked the bejaysus out of you with my 12 Not so Fun Festive Facts, so to re-dress the balance I'm countering each of those slightly scary stats with a sustainable(ish) solution.


'Upcycle' old newspapers, magazines or maps to wrap presents in. Use some re-usable ribbon to pretty them up (ask for it back to use again 😉 ) and then make sure the paper is recycled afterwards.


Don't by crap people don't need or want.
So that means NO novelty gifts for the office Secret Santa or to irritate your brother with.


Recycle them!
Avoid cards with glitter on them, and if you can buy a pack in a cardboard box rather than wrapped in plastic you get double brownie points from Santa.


Try out 'furoshiki' - it's a Japanese technique of wrapping things in fabric and tying it up cleverly. It looks great, and if you use secondhand fabric from the charity shop you're definitely on the nice list (just make sure it doesn't get thrown away - ask recipients to return it to you if you don't think they'll re-use it!)
There's a great video here from Lisa at Less Stuff.

  • Don't buy it if you don't really like it
  • Buy the right sized bird - ask your butcher or look on the pack for the recommended number of servings if you're not sure
  • Use up leftovers: turkey sandwiches, curry, soup etc etc
  • If all else fails, freeze it to eat later in the year when people aren't quite so fed up with turkey

Repair or recycle! 
Often it's just one bulb that needs replacing. Or the fuse in the plug.
If you can't fix them yourself, you might be lucky enough to have a Repair Cafe near you where you can take them to see if one of their volunteers can have a  go for you.
If you have no luck with the fix, they can be recycled at your local recycling centre.

  • Don't buy it if no-one likes it
  • Just buy a small one (unless you really, really like it!) - it's quite rich so usually people only eat a small bit
  • Use up leftovers - eat it cold, or there's some great suggestions here from BBC Good Food.

Don't buy people crap they don't need or want. (It bears repeating!)
Gift experiences (days out, cinema tickets,) or even things like babysitting vouchers. 
Anything rather than more 'stuff' for the sake of it.
(If you're struggling there's a whole list of ideas for experiences in the Crap-free Christmas course)


If you have a lot of kids in your family, how about a Secret Santa, so that each kids ends up with one decent present, and everyone has to spend less time and money.


Meal plan.
Yes, I know it sounds dull and grown-up. It IS dull and grown-up, but just because it's Christmas doesn't mean we get out of doing dull and grown-up things.
When you know who is going to be where and for what meals, do a quick back of the envelope meal plan and then shop accordingly.
And remember - the freezer is your friend!


Don't buy crap people don't need or want (are you sensing a theme here...?)
Make this the year you grab the bull by the horns and have 'that conversation' with family - the one where you suggest you all just buy for the kids (there are 'swipe files' of wording suggestions in the Crap-free Christmas course if the thought of this makes you want to curl up in a ball in the corner!)
If you feel obliged/want to buy a gift for your kids hard-working teacher, why not club together with some of the other parents to get them a voucher for afternoon tea, or even a book token.


Plastic-free(ish) principles still apply at Christmas.
Buy loose fruit and veg. 
Look out for cards and paper that aren't encased in plastic.
Avoid overly packaged gift sets.
Buy kids toys secondhand - my kids are quite accepting of the fact that Lego doesn't always come in a box!

Which steps will you choose to embrace this year?
If you'd love some additional resources, idea and suggestions with clickable links for Sustainable(ish) alternatives, check out the Essential Guide to a Crap-free Christmas! 



Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources


This post could essentially be just three words long:


Because it's not rocket science is it?
If we want less crap in our Christmas, and in our lives, we simply need to buy less crap right?
Well...yes and no.

If it really was as simple as that we wouldn't need posts like this, and I've have no-one signed up to my Crap-free Christmas course.
Because buying stuff isn't as simple as the financial transaction - it's an emotional thing. And at Christmas, those emotions that we associate with 'stuff' and gifts and giving get ramped another good few notches.

I will hold my hands up and say that we don't have a perfectly crap-free Christmas.
My kids still want stuff. Even they have enough Lego to build a life sized Millennium Falcon there is apparently still the desire (and they insist the room..!) for more. Despite my fervent wishes, our kids are not immune to the lure of stuff, and bright shiny plastic crap.
And to be honest, I still have a tug of war between my heart and my head when it comes to buying them presents - In my heart I want them to be happy, to have a magical Christmas, to be so excited they might burst. In my head, yes I want them to be happy, but I logically know that that happiness shouldn't come from 'stuff' (and that if it does it will be fleeting)
So it becomes about compromise. 

And I'm guessing I'm not alone.

If you're fed up with feeling guilty about the sheer volume of stuff that somehow finds it way into your house each Christmas.
If each year you swear you're going to do it differently, but then leave it too late and it all gets too busy and stressful to do anything other than 'Christmas as usual'.
If you love the idea of less crap at Christmas, but you have no idea how to get the in-laws on board, I've got some suggestions here for how to go about it without ramping up your stress levels.


This applies to all things Sustainable(ish) (the 'ish' is there for a reason!).
Think of any changes you make as a diet - if you crash diet and got at it hell for leather, you'll end up miserable, cranky and resenting the choices you've made.
Plus the family will think you've lost the plot and you're unlikely to be able to bring them along with you if you suddenly go all evangelical and start berating them for their choice of cracker.
Slow and steady (as dull as it sounds) wins the race.

Pick one or two things to work on first.
Go for the 'low hanging fruit' (i.e. the easiest changes!) first, and pick your battles. 


Be the one who makes that phone call suggesting that maybe only the kids get pressies this year.
Or that the grown-ups do a Secret Santa.
Or that you do a Secret Santa for the kids if you have lots to buy for - they get one decent present they really want, everyone saves time, stress and money.

I've got swipe files with suggestions of e-mail/conversation wording to use in the Crap-free Christmas course if you're filled with dread at even the thought of suggesting this!


If your house is already full to bursting and you hold your head in your hands and weep when you peek into the kids bedrooms, your inside voice may well be screaming "NOTHING!!!" when you get asked by anxious relatives what the kids want this year.
Have some suggestions ready for them. 
EITHER for stuff the kids genuinely do want and you know they'll love and play with for a long time
OR for days out/experiences you can all do together - I always think National Trust membership is 'the gift that keeps on giving' for families.


Families are complicated beasts at the best of times, and even more so at Christmas.
As much as you might be visibly wincing as you see that Aunt Mildred has wrapped up the gifts in glittery metallic paper (a total no-no, it can't be recycled) don't berate her. 
But make sure that your gifts are wrapped up in re-usable or recyclable options - e.g. brown kraft paper, 'upcycled' newspapers, magazines or old maps, fabric wraps. And if anyone comments or asks, just have a sentence or two at the ready like "Yes, I'm really pleased with them - we've been looking at how to make our Christmas a little bit greener this year".


Christmas is stressful enough for lots of people.
Do what you can.
Focus on the positive changes and the different choices you HAVE been able to make, and don't feel guilty about the things you might not have got around to. The last thing Christmas needs is more guilt attached!

Where these helpful?
How do you tackle 'crap' at Christmas?
If you can feel your blood pressure rising already, check out The
Essential Guide to a Crap-free Christmas below for all the resources you need at your fingertips!



Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

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