5 Ideas for Positive Change this Christmas
What does Christmas mean to you? It can evoke so many different thoughts in each of us - excitement, presents, family time, glitter... Unfortunately, it can also mean waste, excess and worry for families that are on a tight budget. In this blog post, I share a few ideas for making some simple positive changes during the festive season. After all, it is meant to be the season of Peace and Goodwill...
1. Shop Local
The obvious reason for shopping locally is to have a positive impact on the environment. Leaving the car at home and walking to your local high street will reduce carbon emissions and have health benefits for you (or you could have an extra mince pie... just saying!) Buying most of your Christmas dinner from a local farm shop or farmers' market means there's a good chance it will have been grown less than 50 miles from your front door. If you are a meat eater, you can check that your Christmas roast has come from a small, high-welfare farm - you might even know its name!
There are other benefits to shopping locally as well. According to smallbusiness.co.uk, for every £10 spent in local businesses, an additional £50 could be invested in the local economy. This is simply because local businesses in turn spend money with other local shops, restaurants, cafes etc. This has the effect of creating more jobs in the local area and more money being donated to local charities.
2. Shop Small & Independent
There is quite a lot of overlap with this and "shop local" in that many local businesses will also be small and independent. However, it's worth mentioning this separately as supporting a small, online business can be just as valuable, even if they're not local to you. It has been said that when you support a small business, you support a dream, and that an actual person does a "happy dance" when you buy from them (I can confirm that this is true!) As the purchaser, you are likely to have an excellent, personal customer experience and possibly build a connection with a trusted online seller which can be good for both of you in terms of your mental health. There's even a special day to celebrate small businesses in the run-up to Christmas. It's called Small Business Saturday and is held on 4th December this year.
3. Choose Fairtrade
Not everything you need will be available from your small and/or local businesses. For example, if you're baking your own Christmas cake and need sugar, why not use Fairtrade sugar? The reason for this is manifold: fair prices for farmers and producers, safer conditions for workers, an end to child labour and exploitation... Not only that, communities benefit from the Fairtrade Premium, which is an additional payment that can be used by the community to improve their way of life. This could be a new primary school or medical centre, electricity throughout the village or a clean water supply. As the Fairtrade organisation works directly with small-scale farmers and workers helping them to set up co-operatives, you can be sure that money spent on Fairtrade products directly supports some of the World's poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Choosing Fairtrade is also good for the environment. Many of these communities are already suffering the effects of climate change, so it should come as no surprise that environmental protection is at the heart of Fairtrade. The organisation ensures that farmers and workers comply with standards to improve and maintain soil and water quality, protect biodiversity, manage pests responsibly, prohibit the use of certain harmful agrochemicals etc. They also educate and work with farmers to implement best practises that actively combat climate change: whilst some farming methods contribute to climate change, others can provide solutions.
Some readily available Fairtrade products include bananas, coffee chocolate, tea, wine, cotton and flowers. Oh yes, and gold!
4. Reverse Advent Calendar
Although this idea has been around for a little while, the reverse advent calendar has gained popularity over the past couple of years. Essentially, instead of opening a door on your advent calendar every day in the run up to Christmas, you donate something instead. It could be a food item, toiletries, clothes or toys - anything that someone less fortunate might need. If this is something you would like to try, do an internet search for charities and organisations that are accepting these sort of donations. Alternatively, you could get in touch with your local food bank or have a look on local Facebook pages to see if a local charity is asking for donations. It's worth starting a bit earlier so that your donations can be distributed in time for Christmas. Here are a few tips and ideas that I've collated if you need help getting started.
5. Give the Gift of Sponsorship
If you want to give a gift that benefits more than just your recipient, or you are simply over-run by "stuff" in your house, how about sponsoring something through a charity? There are lots of options available, such as sponsoring an endangered snow leopard, a rescue donkey, a child in a developing country or even a tree. One of my fondest memories from childhood was my gran sponsoring a horse at Redwings Horse Sanctuary for me one Christmas (it was Willow - I still have a photo of him in a frame at my Dad's house!) In a way, he was my first pony.
Well, there you have it - a few quick and easy ideas that could make a big difference to someone this year. What do you think? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, take care.