Column: Janey Lee Grace goes for green at Christmas

PUBLISHED: 14:06 24 July 2010 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013

Janey Lee Grace

Janey Lee Grace

Janey's got some ideas for greening up your gifts this Christmas and suggests a 'gift of your time' is the best eco present there is

WHILE I'm no eco zealot, I do know it's extremely rewarding to have a sustainable Christmas and green is (without doubt) the new black for the festive season. It's the one time of year I actually do the full recycling thing - I sort out all the presents I've bought during the year and, I must confess, I occasionally pass on gifts that have been bought for me but weren't quite appropriate. Though she's no eco warrior either, my mum taught me the art of 'regifting', otherwise known as 'give that old thing someone gave you that you definitely don't want to someone else' - but just don't forget and give it to the original giver! If that sounds utterly shocking to you there are countless other ways to have a wonderful Christmas without blowing the budget or increasing your carbon footprint.

Make a promise
The best presents are the homemade ones and, if you're a domestic goddess, handmade sweets, preserves or chocolate are always welcome. But if that's not your thing, don't worry. All of us can offer our time to others and I love the idea of a voucher or 'promise' as a gift everyone can appreciate. For example, for your husband you may write - 'This voucher entitles you to an undisturbed evening watching the football'. In return he may offer you 'One lie-in every week for a year and breakfast in bed'. The possibilities are endless.

Share your skills
For your parents or friends you can offer your skills, so it could be an afternoon's gardening, helping friends sort out their wardrobe or repairing or altering clothes - one of the best gifts I ever received was a voucher for a night's babysitting my four kids!
For your children you could offer a whole booklet of vouchers ranging from promises such as an outing to the ice rink, a game of Twister, a sleepover with four friends - in fact whatever is age appropriate. Let them choose when they redeem their voucher.
Instead of giving children money for them to choose a gift for the other parent/relative, let them make their own. A simple drawing or pressed flower will look great in a reclaimed old frame or again kids love the 'promise' idea. For their dad they can offer to clean the car, for their mum offer to make breakfast or if they're very little just offer hugs and kisses every day.

Know your limits
If you want actual gifts to open at a big family meal then a great idea is to agree that everyone will spend no more than 5 and buy only one present that could be suitable for anyone. Put all the wrapped gifts into a big sack and everyone can rummage around and get one. If you encourage everyone to go to charity shops it's amazing what you can get for a fiver, of course people can then swap gifts and you can have a little competition for the most impressive use of five quid.

All wrapped up
Whatever you decide to buy, put lots of effort into creative wrapping - forget buying new paper. Here's an interesting fact for you - we throw away enough wrapping paper each Christmas to cover an area the size of Guernsey! Instead of adding to this, find remnants of old fabric and bits of cotton - hessian looks wonderfully rustic tied with a big red ribbon.
For children get them to re-use newspaper, careful of the headlines on it though! Wash over it with watercolour paint and when dry it makes cheerful wrapping paper, again tied with a bow. Whatever your gift, always add a homemade gift tag, it adds a really personal touch and is useful for putting a date on for consumables.
You can buy great recycled labels which you can attach to your gifts whether old, new or a gift of your skills, which make it seem perhaps more acceptable from

This is my last column for Hertfordshire Life so thanks for being lovely readers over the year and keep in touch.

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