Sustainable Christmas Gifts 2019

A thousand apologies for publishing a Christmas gift list so early in November but I have to be realistic. People are going to be getting their shopping mojo on soon and by suggesting alternatives I’m hoping to steer some away from all that mass-produced toxic crap that goes straight to a charity shop in January!

If you read some of my Christmas posts from previous years you’ll know that I’ve given up buying Christmas gifts for anyone other than my kids and godchildren. Even the hubbie and I have given up getting gifts for one another, preferring to spend the money on a night out. Honestly having a (practically) gift-free Christmas is one of the best Zero Waste decisions I ever made. It frees up so much time every November and December, allowing me to enjoy the festive season and spend more time with the people I care out. If you’re tempted to give it a go you can read how I went about it in my Christmas Gift Post from 2018.

If you’re still in the market for Christmas gifts then consider some of these beauties for under the Christmas tree.

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Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.
You can listen to an audio version of this post on my Soundcloud account.

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Experience Gifts
Adopt a vine at the bio-dynamic Welsh vineyard Ancre Hill Estate. You’ll have to visit the estate to avail of all the benefits of you gift, which includes; Your name plaque on the chosen vine, Lunch (Welsh cheese platter) including a glass of Estate wine, Your photograph in the Vineyard, A tour of the Vineyard, Free access to the Vineyard during your visit, A bottle of Estate wine to take home and a chance to return to join the team for a day’s picking at harvest time where you can pick the grapes from your adopted vine.

So this is a gift for next Autumn but i think it’d be worth the wait for the fungi lover in your family; wonderful wild mushroom foraging tours. If fungi aren’t your thing then look on Orchards Near Me for a list of other foraging opportunities in Ireland.

This is a big gift but worth every penny if you’re planning on building your own home or you’re a designer. 6 Day Workshop: Learn How to build everything out of anything

Or learn how to make a straw skep (traditional housing for bees) with Jane’s Bees

Read that Image host a series of bookbinding workshops for the crafter in your life.

Another fabulous workshop idea is to make your own solid silver jewellery with This Jewellery in Dublin 2.

If you or your loved one is a budding photography treat them to a bird or wildlife photography masterclass with professional wildlife photographer David Tipling. Other types of courses available on the website too.

Cavan based basket weaver Eddie McGrath gives basket making demonstrations and tuition. as does Baurnafea Studio in Wicklow.

Or learn how to clean your home naturally with plastic-free recipes from Naturally at The Wrens Nest in Abbeyleix, Co Laois

woman standing and talking to others sitting around a table

Or make your own natural skincare with Wapo in Dublin.

Games
An investment in a game Carbon City Zero on Kickstarter. For just £12 you get one copy of the game due to be delivered in Jan 2020. This is a deck-building game for 2-4 players (aged 8+), in which players develop a sustainable city by building factories, managing people, lobbying government ministers, and raising public awareness. Each player starts with an identical Draw Deck (and a Carbon Level of 40), buying additional cards from a shared Marketplace to create a more sustainable city. Balancing the need to generate income with reducing carbon, players can follow numerous paths to victory, creating synergies between Government, Industry, and Domestic sectors, while avoiding Snags and responding to Global Events. Once a player’s carbon level reaches zero, they win.

Nudge is another board game. This time with discs made from fully biodegradable starch-based bioplastic and a fully recycled gameboard that is debossed instead of printed. While the box is FSC certified fluted kraft board printed in a single colour to minimize production and help reduce environmental waste. It donates 1% from the sale of each game to The Woodland Trust.

And if you need games for kids I highly recommend the beautiful board games by Marbushka which you can get in Designist in Dublin 2, and the Conscious Store, Fade St, Dublin 2.

Crafts
Okay, these are beyond cute and love the fact they’re made by hand in Ireland using natural materials and food-grade products. Jamie Lewis felts natural yarn into gorgeous creatures using just olive oil soap and water in a washing machine (see photo at the top of the blog). His studio and showroom in an old Butchers shop on Benburb Street in Dublin city centre and you can buy his items from the Irish Design Shop on Drury St, D2 and the Jam Art Factory on Patrick St and in Temple Bar, D2 as well.

If you are based in the capital check out my Sustainable Day Out in Dublin for a list of fabulous craft stores.

And for the knitter in your life take a look at my post on Knitting

Gadgets
It’s not cheap but the Gomi speaker has a certain recycled chic that’s often missing from recycled goods. Not sure if they’ll have any ready for Christmas but you can ask to be notified when they have more to sell.

Jewellery
La Jewellery in the UK make fabulous pieces from recycled brass and fair-minded silver.

But if brass and silver aren’t your thing how about earrings made from bouncy castles by Stellen

Awake is a Japanese solar-powered watch with a recycled plastic straps made from plastic bottles recovered from the ocean. It comes in lightweight 100% recycled FSC certified cardboard box.

Culinary
Bake your own bread? That’s nothing! How about grinding you own flour? Now you can with your very own mini flour mill from Fruit Hill Farm.

Accessories
Billy Tannery tans British goat leather, using bark extracts and an innovative microtannery process that generates only compostable waste. They do a range of leather products from key wraps (see above) to aprons.

Do you like a firefighter? Well how about the next best thing, a watch strap made from old fire hoses! Okay, maybe it’s not the next best thing, but still. Available to buy from The Design House on Crow St, Dublin 2.

Do Good Yoga Mat Bag from French brand Common Texture are made from recycled cotton and they do a snazzy wallet made from upcycled leather.

Irish company Loved and Upcycled make laptop cases and wallets from wetsuits, bike tubes, tents and kites.

The Upcycled Movement in Wexford make accessories from post-consumer wetsuits and other materials. 10% of the profits from the neo collection goes to Seal Rescue Ireland where Lynn, the founder, volunteers.

 

For the person who has everything
Gift a tree this Christmas. There are lots of organisations to choose from including

 

E

PS – In previous years I’ve posted the following gift guides. I’ve checked all the links so they should all still work.

 

Sustainable Events – Updated 8th November 2019

Amidst my fascinating research into furniture reuse in Ireland and beyond this week I had a fun night out on a current affairs show on national Irish TV. The Claire Byrne Live show is a weekly one hour show on headline stories from the day, sometimes with a bit of fluff thrown in. This week I was the fluff, on to talk about how to lessen the impact of our laundry on the planet.

I had been on the show twice before, in the audience, talking firstly about packaging waste and then food waste. Both of those invites came via the Zero Waste Facebook Group. This time I was contacted directly and asked to be the lead guest on the item, which was such a thrill, particularly as it involved getting my hair and make-up done – something I didn’t think I’d get such a kick out of but totally did. I also got to sit in the ‘green’ room with all the other guests, which was a treat; like being invited into the inner sanctum.

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Nothing mentioned in this post has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your bloggers to remain independent then please share this post or support me with a small monthly donation via Patreon or with a once off donation via Paypal.
You can listen to an audio version of this blog post on my Soundcloud account
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

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It’s been a very busy few weeks, with all manner of events to attend. One on B Corps, one called climate cocktails, one on business opportunities in the circular economy.  If you’re involved with organising events there a few simple ways to make it make it environmentally lighter. I’ve previously written blog post on hosting a sustainable wedding, a sustainable barbeque and a sustainable party. and now here are some tips for more formal gatherings.

Transport

  • Choose a venue close to public transport and give discounts or access to limited events to those who use public transport
  • If there’s not public transport available consider putting a coach on for attendees and give discounts or access to limited events to those who use it. Glastonbury’s Green Traveller programme rewards people for travelling by public transport or bicycle with a special Green Traveller lanyard. This provides them with discount vouchers for food and merchandise, exclusive solar showers and access to compost toilets. Glastonbury also offers 15,000 coach + ticket packages in advance of general sale, rewarding green travellers with the chance to be the first to secure their tickets.
  • Facilitate car pooling for those who can’t use public transport and give free car-parking and parking close to entrance to those who carpool.
  • Use contractors that don’t have to travel far too.
  • Encourage companies sending delegates to allow staff to take more sustainable forms of travel, i.e. train over planes where possible. Climate Perks is one such organisation helping companies to do this.

 

Food & Water

  • Offer a high percentage of vegetarian and vegan options
  • Use local caters and local food.
  • Ensure that caters are using as much fairtrade organic coffee, tea and chocolate as the budget allows
  • Organise to have waste food donated to charities. Food Cloud matches food suppliers to charities in Ireland and the UK. While Olio is an app based sharing platform for individuals.
  • Avoid food waste from over ordering of food. Record the food waste at the end of the event to allow for better planning next year.
  • Have a water refill station or have signs out saying venue happy to refill
  • If it’s an outdoor event Irish based non-profit Refill provide a reuable cup service.
  • Use jugs of water and reusable glasses instead of disposables.
  • Avoid single-use paper coasters unless completely necessary.
  • Use ceramic cups instead of disposables. If that’s not possible encourage attendees to bring their own reusable bottles and coffee cups.
  • Use ceramic tableware and metal cutlery.
  • If you can’t avoid disposables you or your caterer can get very well priced compostable paper plateware from Klee Paper in Dublin 8 or palm leaf and sugarcane tableware from Down to Earth or Zeus Packaging.  Be sure to explain to your guests and any catering staff that your cups and plates are compostable and should go into the brown bin and not the recycling bin.
  • Opt for fabric napkins if appropriate, if not limit the number of napkins left out for guest to take. A small pile of napkins regularly replenished will encourage modest use than a huge pile.
  • If you’re using tablecloths ask for them to be reusable fabric and not single-use and if single-use paper and not plastic.
  • Only provide paper straws on request.
  • Prevent hidden disposables like toothpicks and cocktail sticks by asking the hotel/caterer ahead about how things will be served / presented. If some toothpicks / cocktail sticks are essential, ask that they be wood, from managed forests (FSC certified) and composted with the food waste.
  • It might also be possible to serve soft drinks and mixers by way of a soda gun instead of bottles, which would cut down waste even more.
  • Aim to serve wine, beer and cider from the largest container appropriate. If they must be in single-servings then aim for cans over plastic or glass bottles.

 

Waste

  • Provide segregated bins and use clear signage to explain what goes where. In Ireland I’d suggest one for
    • food waste and compostable tableware & napkins
    • glass
    • recyclable paper & plastic
    • landfill or don’t have anything that needs to go into a black bin and leave it out!
  • If you’re having a large outdoor event considering using one of the following to encourage people to pick up litter
    • a reverse-vending machine
    • a drink / food / money in return for a bucket of litter
    • a deposit-return scheme for packaging

 

Signage & Literature

  • Paperless post lets you create funky digital flyers and invites to events.
  • Use digital tickets instead of printed ones.
  • Avoid single-use signage with dates etc or use reusable plasma screen instead.
  • It’s best if you can completely avoid single-use items like wristbands but if you must have them Brandelity in the UK offer plantable seedpaper wrist bands
  • Avoid laminating paper and using plastic lined leaflets / brochures. Ensure that all printed material is done on uncoated or starch-based coated paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and printed with water-based ink.

 

Conferences

  • Offer video conferencing or online viewing to reduce the number of people who have to travel for the event.
  • Reusable name badges are much more sustainable than single-use ones, unless people don’t return them. Consider using a deposit-return scheme to encourage return. Otherwise use recyclable stickers or cardboard badges instead. If you want to avoid plastic ones consider these bamboo and chalkboard reusable namebadges
  • Email notes instead of printing them out.

 

Sporting Events

  • Provide bananas for fuel instead of packaged items, fairtrade organic of course.
  • Notpla are edible pods of water made in the UK.
  • For races use reusable timing chips and use a deposit-return scheme to encourage their return for reprogramming at the end of the race.
  • Avoid merchandise and donate money to charity instead. Make sure to explain to attendees why you’re doing this.

 

Outdoor Events

  • Irish company Happenings use solar powered generator to run outdoor cinema events
  • Use solar powered lighting where possible
  • Use energy-efficient LED’s throughout.
  • A green alternative is a no-flush, compost toilet, such as those made by Thunderbox or Natural Event. Not only do compost toilets not require water, they are chemical free, odour free and reduce transportable waste by up to 90%. Compost toilets also produce an end product that is beneficial to the land, helping tackle the problem of soil infertility. Loowatt for example, works with utility companies to turn waste.
  • Wayward Plants rehome unwanted plants at the end of gardening festivals. They’re based in the UK.
  • Avoid all balloons and glitter.

 

Fun!

  • I made this category especially for RHP Events who organise hands-on energy workshops like making a smoothie by bike!

 

A lot of these tips I gleamed from the lovely people in the Zero Waste Facebook group. If you’ve any more to add do please let me know below.

E

 

PS – In previous years I posted

 

 

Sustainable Day Out in Dublin

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you’ll now that since my last blog post I got a tour of a skip processing plant in Dublin. What an eye opener! The thing that surprised me the most, apart from the tidiness, was how few people are required to work in that area; it’s virtually all done by machine.

Here’s what happen to the waste; rubble and stone is used for road making or back filling old landfills, wood is chipped and either burnt as biomass or used to make blocks for palettes elsewhere, metal is recycled, organic waste is composted and ‘fine’ material, i.e. small pieces of waste is used to cap residual landfills (general waste landfill) daily. The rest is sent as Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) to cement factories to be used to make cement instead of fossil fuel.

If you’re doing building work or home decoration my advice is to rehome as much usable material / goods as possible and to separate as much material on site as possible. For example if you bring plate glass down to the recycling centre it can be recycled into new glass, whereas if it goes into a skip it’ll only be used as SRF.

A huge thank you to @thortonsrecycling for letting me visit as part of research for my Masters in a product Design for the circular Economy in @ncad and with @rediscoverycentre.

This week’s blog post is looking at sustainable happenings in my home town of Dublin. I’ve lived in this county, albeit different spots, since birth. I love it’s historical architecture and general friendliness but I hate the lack of civic pride a lot of Dubliners and our governments interest in making it a sustainable city. By supporting those that are trying to lead the way hopefully we can nudge it in the right direction. So if you’re planning a trip to Ireland, or you’re a local looking to reacquaint yourself with the capitol here are some tips on how to do so with a lighter footprint!

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Sustainable Laundry – Updated 27th Oct 2019

I’m a student again! The best time of my life was when I studied Spatial Design in DIT in 1992-96 and I’m thoroughly enjoying the course so far. This experience is different to my Undergraduate course and previous Masters because I won’t be ‘in’ college in NCAD every day; most days I’m researching at home or meeting people in the industry and then one day a week I’m in with the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun, Dublin 9 which is now also the National Centre for the Circular Economy.  Having time to really drill down into sustainability and circular design and business models really is a dream come true and I’m having a ball. I’m also completely overwhelmed by the task at times and worry I won’t be able to deliver any ‘new, but that’s me all over. I’m not great with being out of my comfort zone. I just have to focus on the steps and believe that I’ll get there in the end.

By the way did you see me in the Irish Independents Little Green Book over the weekend, along with some of my tips for sustainable ethical cleaning! How cool.

Onto the more mundane, but equally important, issue of sustainable laundry. There are a few sustainability issues when it comes to laundry and we can break them down into 3 sections;

  • How we launder
  • What we use to launder
  • How we dry clothing

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Sustainable Schools

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Kids are back in school over a week now and I’m busily trying to get through all of the errands I have on my to-do list before I start back to college on Monday. Sometimes I feel like life is death by a thousand errands. You start off thinking ‘this will only take 10 minutes’, then you realise you need x to do it, which isn’t where is should be so you spend 20 mins looking for, only to find out that it doesn’t work / fit so you have to buy a different one, which you have to research, collect / order. Meanwhile your ’10 minute job’ sits in the middle of the dining room table getting in the way of homework and dinners and other ’10 minute jobs’. Being a list person I’ve catalogued all of the ‘errands’ I am not longer going to indulge in when I start college. From next Monday on I’m going to be a lean, mean, deep-working machine that refuses to get distracted by trivial to-dos. Wish me luck!

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