My Green Christmas: Annie Ridout, writer and editor


While reflecting on the amount of waste children create, The Early Hour editor Annie Ridout decided that it’s time her family had a greener Christmas. Second-hand presents, a locally-sourced Christmas tree and handmade decorations…

I’m not much of an eco-warrior. I do care about the planet to some extent, and we recycle. I’m conscious of not using the car too much, so take public transport whenever possible. And we’ve curbed our meat consumption. But I’m not obsessive about it.

However, since having children, I’ve really become aware of a few things:

1. How much ‘stuff’ kids are given. For my daughter’s birthday in the summer, she was given so many (lovely) presents that I held a load back, giving her one a month. That way, she appreciates them individually, and not in a ‘look how many presents I have!’ way.

2. How little space we have for it. Our house is big enough for the four of us, but each room is dominated – in some way – by the kids’ toys. They are everywhere. And we bought about 5% of them ourselves. The rest have come from birthdays and Christmas.

3. So many of these presents are made of plastic. The more demand there is for plastic toys, the more they will be manufactured. We really don’t need more plastics in our landfill. There are lovely toys made of wood. There are also existing plastic toys that need re-housing.

It’s for these reasons that we’ve decided to go green this Christmas. This means buying second-hand presents from the internet (Ebay, Gumtree, Depop, Facebook) and charity shops. Also handmade gifts or presents bought from local, independent shops.

ladybird wheelybug
Second-hand Wheely Bug from Facebook ‘sell or swap’ group – £10

My daughter’s three and my son’s 10 months. I’ll explain to my daughter that her presents were ‘pre-loved’ – that another family used them – once ‘Santa’ delivers them to her. I think it’s good to instil the notion that brand new isn’t always best. She won’t care either way.

My son will play with the boxes and wrapping and forget about the presents, so I’m only getting him a few token bits to pop in a stocking. I don’t want him to be left out, but he’s not short of toys, with all his sister’s hand-me-downs. And has no idea what Christmas is, anyway.

Imagine if everyone went green this Christmas

Christmas can be really exciting. Buying presents can be really exciting. But it’s no less thrilling finding a second-hand bargain on Ebay than it is buying something first-hand with a tag from a shop. It saves you money and makes you feel smug knowing that you’re doing your bit for the planet.

Brio in box
Second-hand Brio train set from Facebook sell or swap group – £38

This year, my siblings and I have decided not to buy for nieces and nephews. There are quite a few of them and they have everything they need. It can be overwhelming receiving lots of gifts for the kids – for them and us.

I’m encouraging my family to think about buying second-hand as well. This has led to lots of jokes about second-hand boxer shorts for the men. But I think it has made them think outside of the box. My mum loves buying the kids books from Oxfam, so she’s happy to go along with it.

Decorating the house for Christmas

We love having a real Christmas tree, and always buy it from our local florist, five minutes up the road. This year, we had it delivered by ZED (Zero Emissions Delivery). The guy arrived on push bike and carried it in for me. He was lovely. And seeing it on the back of his bike was rather sweet.

Disney fairy dress
Pre-loved Disney fairy dress from Ebay – £5

I know having a tree dug up to decorate our living room for a few weeks each year isn’t great for the environment. But we’ll recycle it afterwards. It’s at least less damaging for the planet than the manufacturing of a fake one, made of plastic.

Tree decorations are made up of gifts from past years, and bits we’ve picked up on our travels. My favourite is a bauble (the blue and white one pictured below) made by my good friend Jane Howard. There’s nothing more delightful than being given a handmade decoration, crafted by someone you love.

Christmas tree
Locally-bought Christmas tree. Handmade bauble, by Jane Howard

This year, for Christmas, I’ve asked my husband to get me a drill. He’s a builder and very handy around the house but I’m fed up with asking him to fix things and put up art work for me. So he’s going to get me a (second-hand) drill and I’m going to become a DIY expert.

Our Christmas Day

We’ll spend Christmas Day at home with our two kids and my parents. It’s going to be a lovely London Christmas. Now that our family is growing, it feels nice to be setting up our own traditions for the Big Day. They include:

– Upon waking: stockings from Santa in the sitting room, hanging on the wood burner.
– Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on sourdough toast for breakfast.
– Mid-morning Prosecco.
– A big fat turkey with lots of organic vegetables served mid afternoon (my husband will probably cook; I’m the mid-week cook, while roasts have become his domain).
– Games (Articulate. Snap with the three-year-old).
– A walk. I love going out on Christmas Day and saying hello to everyone. It’s the one day of the year when everyone in London is friendly.
– At least one Christmassy film. Probably after Christmas lunch.
– All day boozing.

For me, the presents are never the most important part of the day. It’s about being with family, eating good food, drinking good wine, laughing, singing, dancing (and an argument or two). I’m looking forward to teaching my children, as they get older, that there’s more to Christmas Day than the gifts.

What are you planning for your Christmas Day? Are you going green this year by buying second-hand, local, handmade, ethical?