Buy Nothing For Christmas – say whaat???

Blog, Environment / Sustainability, Family, Opinion

So today I’m writing in a rush, as part of a blogathon organised by Bristol Green Capital. (Typo forgiveness please!) The task is to blog about a green christmas. Mine will be  about my ‘Buy Nothing Christmas!’

About twenty people are blogging at AtBristol and listening to xmas songs like that one that goes ‘when the snowman brings the snow’ – and like the penultimate line ‘why don’t you give your love at christmas’, that’s exactly what my Buy Nothing Xmas is about. I can show my love for those in my life, without spending money, getting in debt, stressing about bills, or adding to the need for mass production in the chain stores.

Working at Knowle West Media Centre  (KWMC) and the people and places and projects it has brought into my life, have changed me for the better and made me think about my actions, the impact an individual can have on the environment, and those around them.

I generally started to practice what we (KWMC) preached: or actually we don’t preach we ‘do’, so I practice what we practice : s.  Anyway…I’ve became more aware of how food, energy, nature, waste, thinking local, are all part of the bigger picture of sustainability.

So onto Christmas…
My previous xmas themes in the last few years included recycled (mainly from charity shops), ethical (lots of fairtrade, non sweat shop etc) and shop local (lots of independents in Bristol).  (P.S. Did you know about the Bristol Pound?)

The recycled xmas was the hardest  theme prior to this year and received the most criticism and misunderstanding from friends and family at first. I swayed about 80% in the end that I was not simply being ‘stingy’ when they saw the effort I had gone to, trawling charity shops every weekend for months, and I’m proud to say a few even started to follow my example (Ok someone did get a dodgy old omelete maker – but I made up for it the following year when he thanked me for my fab personal gift).

Throughout it all, it has been encouraging  that I knew people in KWMC were making presents e.g. alphabet biscuit quizes (what do your cookies spell – family game – re-arrange them on table, then eat…not for the hygiene particular!) and knitting socks; I wish I were that skilled!

This year I took it up a notch and decided to do a christmas theme of not buying anything. I basically don’t like that christmas has been about spending money on things people don’t really need, or could do without, or seem important now but will be forgotten, the mass production of it all. So I know it’s about the economy and jobs also (but that’s another argument that I’m really not equipt to make.) I just wanted Christmas to be so much more than what it had become.

So this year I searched online and found a website for Buy Nothing Xmas here. I didn’t find it particularly useful, but it was nice to know my concept was nothing new, and there was already a movement around it.

This year ‘Buy Nothing’ has got me even more taunts and comments, like ‘are you really that skint?’ asked my aunty. Once I start to explain it’s about not being a consumer, she looks at me with that “oh yeh your an ‘eco warrior’ ” look. And I must say I think it’s sad that people still have that way of thinking about acting more sustainably…but people are changing, one example is me. (Don’t get me wrong: 1. I love my aunty, she is awesome, and I’d be the same if not exposed to the things at KWMC. 2. I am by no means perfect, or at all an eco warrior, but I just know we need to be more thoughtful of how we are living our lives not just for the whole but also for ourselves (see my previous post on happiness).

So back to how I’ve been doing with buying nothing…
Well most people who have been curious rather than dismissive, have actually found they like the idea (even if it does all sound it bit too much effort). Below are some examples of what I’ve got people, and let’s hope no-one on my xmas list looks at my blog (other bloggers will know that’s extremely unlikely!!!).

[*Here’s the small print – I slightly cheat on my own invented loophole that if I spend money on an experience not an object it doesn’t count, if I only do this a little bit. Please give me a break…I’m trying!]

Here are some examples of the things I haven’t bought for family:
– Mum, Dad, any other family, if you are reading this, STOP NOW, or ruin the surprise! AND go on Santa’s naughty list forever!

• Baby sitting vouchers printed from the buy nothing website. These are for my cousin, who is a single mum and rarely gets a break from her little one and doesn’t want to burden people by asking. Just to clarify, I’m doing the babysitting, she cashes them in with me!

• A book from the library for my dad that I know he will love (and read before it needs to go back). Also I’m giving one of my books that I read and think my mum would really benefit from and enjoy. I’m also having them over Xmas day. Plus vouchers for 2 free nibble boxes full of yummy healthy snacks (worth £4 each, that I got for free from Graze as I joined them recently. Then they sent out more for their subscribers to give for xmas – so I can also give some to aunties and uncles. – It’s like the universe is helping me succeed!)

• A picture I painted for my sister, and an ice cream making machine won from a raffle (she loves sweet things but is diabetic, and so she can make her own with Stevia leaf sweetener rather than sugar). I also wanted to book her free tickets to Bath fashion Show in Easter time, but you can’t book until January…typical! … I may print out the page with a note to promise to book them : -/

• Cushions with my nephews names sewn onto them. The names are made from some of my old PJs! – they were in good nick. (No scrumpy bobbliness!)

• An unused laptop bag for another cousin, found de-cluttering my cupboards.

• Tickets to something locally for my man and little girl, and of course I will go too, and get us all dinner before. This was a hard one, trying to get him to book in the time in his diary as not free to do anything. I’m not sure how well I did at being vague and generally annoying him!

• Also a tip I got from another website was to save your kids school pictures and give them as presents rather than just when they come through. (Don’t worry this only applies to doting grandparents, I know pictures of your kids aren’t great gifts for your mates!).

And for my friends, my close friends (not everyone on my facebook list)…

• An extra Christmas day, wuhay! I take them to an activity, cook them dinner, play typical xmas songs and music, drink wine and generally have fun Christmas stylie. (I’ve done two so far, for different groups of friends, so it’s more intimate, and not just a repeat of my usual house parties).

One friend couldn’t make the group thing so we planned an afternoon, that really had no plan actually except an exhibition we both wanted to see. It kind of grew to an epic 16 hrs extravaganza. Here’s his post the next day on facebook:

“Life is good, had an amazing day with Makala Cheung seeing lots of friends reminding me what a great place Bristol is. Falun Gong exhibition at the Island, grub at Royce Rolls, walk around the docks, free wine at the Watershed, chips at Renatos, Wicked live act Stanz at the Louisiana, Latin boogie at Fiddlers, 2am bite to eat at The Mayflower, introducing Juan, a Spanish immigrant to Bristol and finding him a spot at The Full Moon, finally rolling off til 6am at a house party in Montpelier. Good times!”

Now how many people can say your xmas present gets that kinda response?

P.S. You can continue the Bristol Green Christmas conversation on twitter #greenbristol

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One thought on “Buy Nothing For Christmas – say whaat???

  1. loving it Makala! I also tried to do the same – I did buy some things but i also made a few from found objects. me and my bloke make a good team, I find things, we think of something to make them into, he does the DIY and I do the decorating! So far we’ve made a walking stick with beautiful natural twist at the top – I painted the top quarter with a pastel pink gloss wood paint (not my little pony style mind, more cottagy, if thats even a word) which was given to me by a friend when I moved house, put a rubber stopper on the bottom bought for 50p at a local shop on Stapleton Road, and wrapped dark green garden string around where the paint ends for a hand grip! We also bought for £1.50 a collection of small wooden childrens kitchen bits from the same shop – we used a mini rolling pin and a mini chopping board drilled together with some wee hooks to make a pretty key hanger (painted the same cloudy pink, made rustic looking with mild sand paper and painted with a squared labyrinth). Some earrings I bought for a lady who does not have her ears pierced (my bad) have been made into a necklace, and I’m giving some people my home made mince pies for christmas! Of course, you have to buy the gin, but slow gin is also a great christmas present, one i hope to be receiving from my mother this year!
    Oooh almost forgot, my man is making cool wallets and tobacco pouches from gaffa tape and empty baccy packets, and i’m also giving my father a beautiful barely used Morrocan leather bag bought in Morroco by my boss, who kindly donated it as he never uses it and just thinks it looks pretty!
    An idea for wrapping also, especially if you’re an artist is use scrap paper, newspaper or that big thin paper used for flip boards to doodle on and wrap with that! I like brown paper meself. Anyway, thanks for sharing Makala – keep calm and carry on x x x

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