What I’ve done is write down lists: what I buy and what we eat. You get that balance over the years that can help you buy the right amount. If you have leftovers, find out what can be frozen, such as cheese and whipped cream. Then, for the shopping, go to local shops, like the grocer’s and butcher’s, so you can buy the amount you want – rather than a 12-pack, for example – and with less packaging. Another thing is to let people serve themselves at the table, as this means you will have leftovers that no one has had on their plate.


The best thing to do is get a real tree in a pot that you can bring in from the garden every year, but it’s hard to find a tree that will live afterwards, because most of the time the roots have been cut off. We bring a bough from a tree in our garden into the house and put it in a bucket like we would a Christmas tree. We have oranges studded with cloves, and cinnamon sticks in bundles, and we collect things from outside to hang on the tree. The nice thing about that is it gets you outdoors as a family, and it smells great. With cards, although it’s not as special to send an e-card, it’s something I do with my younger friends. I have older friends who love physical cards, though, so I do send those.


I favour giving people experiences. For example, I give my mum and dad vouchers for their favourite restaurant, and I’ve given theatre tokens, subscriptions to magazines, memberships of organisations like the National Trust – whatever they like. I also give things to eat that I’ve made, like biscuits. It’s harder to do this for children. People are going to buy things for them, and we take it with good grace. I have friends in their seventies and eighties who just want to spend quality time with me. Christmas now is very consumerist, but I think if you were to ask people what they remembered about last year it would be human interaction, not a present.

For wrapping I use cloth (known in Japan as furoshiki). Other ways are to make the wrapping part of the gift, such as a scarf or a tin. You can also use newspaper.

Marianne Brown is Deputy Editor of Resurgence & Ecologist.