Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Celebrating Christmas Ethically: Do It Yourself

Christmas is a special challenge for those who are trying to live ethically. It's one thing to cut down on consumption in your own life, but quite another to skimp on others. I'm usually a fairly frugal and environmentally-conscious person (although of course there are glaring holes in my lifestyle, as with anyone). I mend my clothes, darn my socks, try to get my electronics second-hand, and generally try to think hard about any purchases that I make.

So when it comes to Christmas I always start with good intentions. But then, somehow, things get out of hand. It's hard to be frugal when it comes to the people that I love, and all my stern lectures to myself about the problems with showing love through Stuff tend to fade away as I find myself stepping out to brave the Christmas crowds.

I've been getting better: these days most of my presents come from Oxfam or other Fair Trade stores. There are some great options for buying presents ethically, which Shae's going to blog about soon.

I'm trying to be adventurous this year, though, and make as many presents as I can using recycled materials from around the house. I've been trawling the Internet for ideas that aren't too difficult and don't require that you go out and buy a heap of supplies. Here are a few:

CraftZine has some good ideas, including this run-down of a few of their easy projects. I especially liked the kids' crayon and sketchbook kit, because I think melted crayons are beautiful (image by wonderfully complex).

I also spent quite a while looking around Craft Bits: I rather like the mix-of-something-in-a-jar recipes and a few of the recycled craft ideas. If you've got a stack of old records sitting around the recycled vinyl rings and bangles might solve two problems at once.

One DIY project that I've tried out on previous Christmases is making origami boxes. There are plenty of instructions online, including on eHow and WonderHowTo. Last year I got a heap of old picture books from an op-shop and used the pages to make the boxes. You can fill the boxes with biscuits (I recommend spice cookies), handmade notebooks, re-melted crayons, or other treats (image from oschene).

If, like me, you enjoying fixing things, you might want to consider giving a coupon book. You can make coupons for servicing bicycles, darning socks, sewing on buttons, and the other little tasks that keep your things going for longer. Or for meals cooked, back massages, house-tidying, computer servicing, or whatever you can do and are happy to share. There are templates for coupon-books online, including on eHow. If you just happen to have a whole cupboard of paper scraps (luckily, I do!), you could use them to make a coupon book.

There are also some great recipes online for pickles and preserves. I'm rather partial to kimchi, and also quite like the look of Greek spoon sweets, although I'm not sure that my skills in the kitchen are up to producing edible versions of either!

Not everyone has time to make presents, but the DIY option is great if you do have the time and want to avoid the Christmas rush. It can also help make Christmas less of a burden on the environment, especially if you try to reuse and recycle rather than buying supplies new.

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