As anyone who has recently been on the High Street will have noticed, the Christmas lights are up!? How very... efficient...? But also very scary... Where on Earth has the year gone? 52 days left, that's it! As National Lockdown II looms, and we head into anther period of uncertainty and restrictions, Christmas will be on many minds; will we be able to spend the holiday with family and friends? Will shops be open? The only thing we know for sure is that Christmas 2020 will be very different...
Different doesn't have to be all bad though. As local businesses struggle, and people re-evaluate their priorities, this might be a perfect time to really think about our Christmas habits... A natural reaction, especially with most of us staying home for lockdown, might be to turn to Amazon (or other big brand retailers) for some early Xmas shopping, almost to compensate in some way for a potentially "lesser" holiday. Whilst this response stems from good intentions, maybe we should instead see this as an opportunity and try to embrace some potentially challenging concepts: less is more, quality over quantity, and local over the big dogs. By approaching Christmas with this perspective, we have the opportunity to support our local businesses, reduce our carbon footprint, and maybe even create some new shopping habits.
Here are our top tips for a green, conscious and more stripped back, but still totally awesome, Christmas:
1. Shop local.
If you are an early bird, you have 2 days left to pick up some lovely, quality gifts. The Present, Room 89, and the lovely little SP Moments in the Spires are just some of the shops running extended opening hours until Thursday. They have some real treasures and are definitely worth a visit. Waterstones is a great place for some literary gifts of even vouchers, and the clothes shops in the Spires have an excellent selections too. Hopefully the lockdown will have the desired effect and shopping can resume on December 2nd, but if not, and in the meantime, many of these places offer online shopping. For a full list of our shops, restaurants and other business in High Barnet, visit www.lovebarnet.co.uk.
2. Hospitality and beauty vouchers
The hospitality industry has been among the worst hit as a result the pandemic. Vouchers for restaurants, cinemas, theatres etc make a great Christmas gift, help support the industry, and are eco-friendly too! Melange, The Everyman and Pizza Express are just some of the local establishments that sell gift vouchers. Do check out the smaller cafes and bars too, I am sure they can make up a voucher if they don't already sell them. Hairdressers and beauty salons are also having to close again. I'm sure a voucher for a hair-cut or a manicure would be very appreciated by both the recipient and the business owner!
Experiences make great gifts and there is now more choice than ever before! From afternoon tea, to relaxing spas, white-water rafting to cooking courses, there really is something for everyone.
4. Get creative
Hampers don't have to be boring! Why not get creative and make your own? Fill an old wicker basket with local goods, tailored specifically to the recipient's taste. They will love it! The Flower Bank in New Barnet may be staying open (as garden centres can) and always has lots of gorgeous floral gifts in store, and Ursula is a great source of inspiration! Alternatively, maybe lockdown is giving you more time to make some knitted gifts? Knitwear never goes out of fashion! If knitting is a step too far, why not try your hand at candle making? Bath soakers, tea towels and flavoured vodkas are other creative gifts you can make at home. For more inspiring ideas click here.
5. Love preloved & repurposed & refurbished
There are so many hidden treasures in our many local charity shops. By giving clothes or toys another lease of life we are helping to keep them out of landfill, and doing our bit to help build a more sustainable economy, not to mention being kinder to the old purse strings! There are also lots of fantastic online sites selling all kids of items such as Shpock, Nextdoor, Preloved and Ebay. Freecycle is a great site to find and donate items for free.
If you are considering getting a new device for someone in the family, choosing a refurbished one will save you money and is much better for the planet. CEX in the Spires has some fantastic deals on all sorts of refurbished and preloved gaming consoles, mobile phones, tablets, games and much more!
Subscriptions are fast becoming the go-to gifts, and there is good reason why. A subscription lasts far beyond Christmas, and can offer month of joy! Be it books, wine, magazines (online better!), or cooking packages, the options are endless, and the carbon footprint often significantly lower.
7. Say no to plastic
Obviously this isn't completely possible all of the time, but if there is a choice, opting for a renewable and sustainable material is not only better for the environment, but often ensures product longevity too. From toys to toiletries, food gifts to clothing, items made and packaged with natural or recycled fibres make excellent gifts, and they often keep their value for longer too, enabling them to be sold on when no longer needed. Our very own Kronos & Rhea on the High Street have some lovely eco-friend gift ideas, and will remain open during lockdown. Hopscotch also some loose leaf teas which make an excellent gift.
7. It's all in the wrapping
Traditional gift wrapping is not only beautiful, but also eco friendly. We use fabric or brown paper (that the children can decorate) and string and ribbon instead of Christmas paper (which is not recycleable), and we try to reuse the wrapping whenever we can. You can even attach little bells, twigs or pinecones to give it that special touch.
Christmas is all about the food! As veggie household we absolutely love a Portobello mushroom wellington with our roast (it's actually super easy to make, and delicious too!). Whatever your Christmas dinner preference, shopping local and preferably organic is a winner! Many business will deliver as well. Please continue to support our lovely market greengrocers if you can, many of them take pre-orders, so do ask. If lockdown does end as planned on December 2nd, why not treat yourself and the family (or friends, tier dependent) to a meal out at one of our wonderful eateries in the lead up to Christmas (or maybe on the day itself?) Savoro does a lovely, sophisticated Christmas meal, as do Hadley House, Melange, the Black Horse, Brother's Kitchen, and I am sure many of the Italian places too. And then there is Botannika in the old Carluccio's to look forward to! I can't wait!
Food waste is a big issue year round (7 million tonnes of food gets wasted every year), but at Christmas it is reaches ridiculous levels! During the holiday season, 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings, and 74 million mince pie get disposed while still edible, causing almost 270,000 tons of food waste in total. Meal planning and only buying what you need will help minimise waste, and getting creative with left overs will make your efforts go even further. If you do have food left over that is still packaged and edible, please do consider donating it to your local food bank, or check with local charities.
9. Out and about
Who knows what things will be like at Christmas, but whatever the situation, the Christmas break is a fantastic opportunity to appreciate our green and open spaces that we are so lucky to have on our doorstep. Be it alone, with family, or dare I say friends, a walk in the outdoors can do wonders for our mental health, our waistlines (especially with lockdown AND Christmas), and and it is a great way to stay connected. A takeaway hot chocolate from Huddle cafe (or a cheeky mulled wine) make the perfect accompaniment on a cold winter's day. Please do remember to dispose of litter sensibly, or even better, take it home to sort.
For some of us, Christmas can be a lonely at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a pandemic. Please look out for neighbours who might need a helping hand, or maybe just a chat. Age UK in Barnet is an amazing charity, as are the Samaritans. The local churches also offer help in various ways, although their services will be restricted somewhat during lockdown. We have lots of amazing business in Barnet who rally around incredible causes (just look at the outpouring of free food for children in need during half term). At Christmas there are often free events and and meals offered to those in need by local establishments (The Wilds Cafe in New Barnet do incredible work in the community!). Please keep an eye on social media to find out where schemes are being run, and do share this with anyone that could benefit.
Whatever happens at Christmas, please remember be kind to yourself and look after your loved ones. I hope you have found these tips useful, they are there to be helpful, not to be preachy or add to any existing pressure! In fact, by stripping back Christmas and making small changes that help the environment and the local community, a lot of stress can actually be removed from the equation! The "less is more" concept is surprisingly satisfying! The higher the bar we set for ourselves, the further we have to fall...
So here's to a wonderful Christmas, however it may be! We are not the first holiday to be impacted by Covid, and we certainly won't be the last. Hanukkah, Diwali, Eid, and Ramadan are just some of the celebrations that had to be adapted this year, and we will do the same. Hopefully one day in the not too distant future this will all be behind us and we can look forward again with a positive and maybe slightly adjusted perspective. Maybe a stripped back Christmas will help us create some new habits for a new, more sustainable normal.
Happy Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year! (I am sure we are all more than ready to see the back of 2020!)