In order to live more sustainably, we eliminated Christmas shopping a long time ago. Apart from lowering our carbon footprint, we also avoid the post-Christmas spending blues. Yet, not everyone agrees that is a good thing to do. The Australian federal treasurer publicly announced yesterday: “We want Australians to spend money… We want Australians to go out there and spend for Christmas…” (Source: Joe Hockey pleads with consumers ‘not to let Santa down’).
This is despite the debt burden of Australian households being currently among the highest in the developed world, with $1.8 trillion owed to banks and other lenders – the equivalent of $80,000 per person and 1.8 times household disposable income. (Source: Household debt the big threat to Australian economy).
Whether you are motivated by environmental or financial concerns, or just not keen to join the hordes of shoppers battling heat, traffic, congested car parks and store queues, here are a few ideas for simple, home-made gifts. Let’s play some Christmas carols, take out the scissors, gardening gloves or baking tray, and get started.
There is no need to buy new fabrics. Look for second-hand cotton pillow cases, sheets, clothing, tablecloths or napkins, in colours and patterns you like. To make the pillows, cut 2 pieces of fabric in 10cms x 13cms rectangles. Pin right sides up and sew, leaving a 3cms opening for filling. Fill with stuffing for soft toys, finely cut fabric or wool left overs, and add 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried lavender to each sachet. Stich to close the opening and use crimping scissors to cut a decorative border around each pillow. If you do not have lavender, dried rosemary can be used as a substitute. Both herbs are good moth repellents.
To make eye shields, follow the instructions for lavender pillows but cut pieces of fabric in 11cms x 22cms rectangles. I have filled these with split yellow lentils – white rice, wheat grains and dried beans can also be used. Note these are not safe to go in a microwave or for small children to play with.
Dried mushrooms – see Preserving mushrooms
If you have a garden, or know someone who does, you have access to a ready-made source of gifts all year round – dried flower bulbs, herbal teas from fresh or dried garden herbs, seedlings or ornamental plants. If you enjoy baking, home-made biscuits and preserves are always appreciated.
I had a lot of fun making cards and gift tags by re-using light cardboard and a second-hand magazine. Pictures are simply cut out and glued to pre-cut and folded cardboard. For gift tags, cut into various shapes and finish with a hole-puncher and left over strands of wool in matching colours. I also re-used paper from second-hand magazines and made simple fabric bags to wrap gifts.
An alternative to making your own is purchasing local items made from sustainable materials. We are lucky to live within walking distance of a craft shop which sells unique handcrafted items made by local South Australian crafters – soft toys, glass ware, pottery, etcetera.
I always enjoy this time of year – the long, sunny days, beach swims, tasting the first backyard tomatoes and creating gifts for all my favourite big and little people – a simple, economical and creative Christmas season. And, Mr Hockey, I am not ‘letting Santa down’. I am just helping him meet his production deadline by contributing a little free time and labour. With a growing population and the poor reindeers collapsing from smog inhalation, Santa needs all the help he can get.