I’m all about making small changes, ‘or steps’, in my life towards being more environmentally aware. I’ve made a small change this week that is so glaringly obvious, it has literally been right under my nose, that I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before. Inspiration hit me whilst reading about how we can all help in small, but important, ways towards climate change on the Chasing Ice website. One piece of advice is to use cloths instead of paper towels. Although I try and use washable cloths whenever possible in my kitchen, my gaze immediately fell on the roll of kitchen paper that I had on the side. The most frequent thing I use the paper towels for are to blow my nose. It then occurred to me that I have packs of pocket tissues everywhere, in all my bags, in case I ever need them. I’m so careful to use as few paper towels as possible at work, so why don’t I think the same way when I’m blowing my nose? When I was a child I never used a disposable tissue to blow my nose. My Dad always had a cotton handkerchief on him ( a clean one mind), and one of my most frequent childhood memories is of him holding them to my nose in a desperate attempt to stop the unbelievable amount of snot that my it produced. When I got a bit older, my surrogate grandmother (long story) even made me my own handkerchiefs out of scraps of material with my initials embroidered onto the corner.
I don’t remember the point at which I stopped using my handkerchiefs and switched to disposable tissues, but this week I am making the pledge to switch back. I’ve bought some plain white handkerchiefs to get me going, but maybe one day I’ll get creative and make my own with my initials on.
It’s official. The Coca-cola commercial has aired, and the run-up to Christmas has well and truly begun here in the UK. I have experienced Christmas in a few different countries, and I have to say that here in the UK I just find it very stressful. So much so that I try to keep away from it as much as possible. Before anyone says ‘bah humbug’, because I hear that a lot, it’s not that I don’t like Christmas itself. I just don’t choose to celebrate it the same way as most other people in the UK, and it’s actually quite insulting when people tell me how I should be celebrating the holidays and what I must do. I’m a grown adult, and in exactly the same way that I have the right to spend my birthday how I choose to (lot’s of people told me that I couldn’t fly to America on my own for my 30th), I also have the right to do whatever I want on the 25th and 26th December every year.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I want to talk to you about Christmas shopping. As you know, one of my things is to try and ‘buy local’ wherever possible. Not only is it a lot more environmentally friendly and kinder to our fellow humans, it supports your local economy and makes for more interesting presents. My family love it when I take gifts home for them that they can’t get in England.
So why not check out your local Christmas markets or craft fairs for gift ideas this year? If you’re struggling to find them, community notice boards in places like coffee shops and launderettes are usually good places to find local adverts and information. Where I live in Cardiff we have loads of local, eco-friendly, fairtrade shops and markets. My local food market in Roath is teamed up with a craft market every Saturday, and we have a great Christmas market in the city centre every year, which makes my Christmas shopping very easy. Perfect for someone like me (I always enjoy the start of Christmas shopping, but I soon get bored and can’t wait for it to be over).
To give you a few ideas, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite gift ideas from here in South Wales.
Handmade in the Hills Childrens toys, homewares, jewellery and food goods hand-made by artists and makers in Ceredigion. Not only are their crafts incredibly cute, the hobby horses are my favourite, but I felt very well looked after by Handmade in the Hills. When I encountered a problem with Pay Pal during my order (for some reason it didn’t believe that I live at my address), their team not only sorted it out straight away from me, they kept in contact via email to make sure evrything was to my satisfaction. Rarely do you encounter a company in today’s modern world that is so keen to look after it’s customers.
Nature’s Little Helpers Sorry vegans, this one’s not for you. This Cardiff based company make all their products from bee-keeping. As well as the most obvious product we get from bees, honey, these clever bee keepers also create cosmetics and soap from bees wax. Their ylang ylang hand balm helps to stop my hands drying out in the winter. It comes in a handy little tin that’s easy to pop in your bag or pocket and carry around with you, and because it’s made from bees wax it stays solid until you’re ready to use it. If you’re interested in keeping bees yourself, their farm shop has everything you need, and you can even join them on an experience day and learn how to become a beekeeper.
Land of Make Believe I first discovered this fantastic local company at our annual Christmas market here in Cardiff. They make adorable name boards, coat rails, book ends, hanging mobiles and other personalised gifts for children. Seven years ago, I bought a name board for my godson for his first Christmas, and since then it has become a tradition for all my godchildren, nieces and nephew. When my youngest niece was born in September this year, I wanted to get her a name board that I could take out to Austria with me in October. This was a good month before the Christmas market starts, and I clearly have problems ordering through Pay Pal. I messaged Land of Make Believe, and they made one up for me and arranged for me to collect it from their workshop. I couldn’t have asked for better customer service.
Funky Feet Whenever one of my friends has a new baby, I use it as an excuse to visit the Funky Feet website. Their baby clothes and gifts are gorgeous. They are all really good quality as well, items that I’ve bought in the past are already being passed down to younger siblings.
Sebon Want to know what to buy for the vegans in your life? Sebon is the place to go. They produce natural, plant-based soaps and body products that are made with no palm oil (better for the rainforests) and no animal products. My personal favourite is the spearmint lip balm, I’m addicted to it! Although Sebon products look tiny, they pack lots in and they last for ages.
Hipo hyfryd I’d heard of this company in a Welsh magazine that I read last year, but I only got around to trying their chocolates last week at a local Christmas market. Boy am I gutted that I’ve missed out on a whole year of eating these treats. Started by a vegan chef, hipo hyfryd make vergan, gluten free chocolates. Whether you prefer savoury or sweet, they will have something for you. Even if you’re not vegan or gluten-free, these chocolates will rival any of their omnivore competitors. If you have any other allergies or dietary needs, it’s worth contacting Gareth from Hipo hyfryd. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about food and is happy to develop new recipes so that everyone can enjoy chocolate.
Untapped Brewing Co If your family are anything like mine, the men are always the hardest to buy for. The Untapped Brewing Co were the answer to my prayers when, once again, I was stuck with what to get my dad last year. Their selection of hand made, home grown beers are perfect.
Have you got any great local finds to share? Get out and get discovering!