Going green is all very well, but how does Santa get down the chimney now that a wood burning stove fills our fireplace? A few years ago when our children were young enough to believe in Father Christmas this would have been a dilemma, but now that they realise that visiting millions of children in a single night is beyond even the fastest of sleighs (although they secretly wish it were true), we no longer have to leave space for Santa’s landing. This is fortunate as we have recently undertaken an eco audit as part of our commitment to the 10:10 campaign, and installing a wood burning stove came high up the list.
A good eco audit is invaluable and need not dampen your spirits before Christmas, so don’t be scared off by the reporting of Adair Turner’s which bandies about £15,000. What every household needs is a simple list of things to do to be more eco friendly, ranked by cost/impact, which is specific to each situation. The eco expert who did our report charged £300, which we feel is good value. We’re on priority two at present, which for a draughty Victorian farmhouse means draught-proofing the sash windows and doors. When this is done, Christmas should be even cosier than normal.
The next dilemma is choosing an environmentally friendly Christmas tree. The ones to avoid are those which have been shipped over from the continent. They will have been cut weeks ago so won’t last long indoors and the fuel used for transportation cannot be insignificant. Locally grown trees are better, or an eco friendly Christmas tree made from recycled cardboard, which has the benefit of not dropping any needles. A scented Christmas candle with a cinnamon and clove fragrance will soon put paid to any longing you may have for the Christmassy aroma of pine needles.
The biggest dilemma has to be eco friendly Christmas gifts and undoubtedly the best rule is less is more. Buy only those gifts that you can’t make yourself, that are from sustainable sources and that will give long term pleasure. Wool is a good place to start for ethical Christmas gifts. A warm, soft alpaca scarf and fingerless gloves will put a smile on anyone’s face, especially if the items are handmade by a cooperative. Gardening gift ideas are a safe bet too, like Gardeners friends plant labels or an allotment kit for those new to the pleasures of growing vegetables.
But what about the kids? Surely they’ll want the latest electronic wizardry that has been mercilessly plugged on TV? Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe that a traditional Christmas gift of a toboggan is ever going to be spurned. Owning a real wooden sledge that will outpace and outlive its plastic impersonators should be a source of pride to any child. And recycled Christmas gifts can work well too. A reindeer swing made from a recycled tyre will be popular with girls and boys alike, until they hit that awkward teenage stage when swings are as cool as Dads dancing at the disco.
At least there should be no dilemma about how to spend Christmas night. Santa may not be able to get down the chimney any more, but with a wood burning stove its still possible to use a chestnut roaster and toasting fork to rustle up that quintessential Christmas snack. Better get foraging for some local chestnuts.