Last Christmas, my first as a blogger, I ran a series called Ethical Advent. The idea was to give people inspiration and ideas to seek more ethical and sustainable alternatives to the crazy consumerism and excess that the holiday season can encourage. Honestly, I think it brings out the worst in people, and I was longing for a return to simpler, more meaningful exchanges in our giving, not simply gifting someone whatever cheap unsustainable thing we happen to find because we ‘should’.
I posted every day from December 1st to 24th, alternating between more ethical companies to buy from and recipes for things you could make yourself, ranging from food to beauty to alternative Christmas playlists. It was a big challenge for me, as I was just returning from a tour in Australia when the series began, but it was also incredibly fulfilling. And while people were interested in the companies I talked about, I got much more response from the recipes I posted. I’ve been making the majority of my Christmas gifts since 2011, and it was the first time I’d really shared any of my recipes with anyone. I was also a pretty small blogger then, so it was an even more incredible feeling when someone would tag me in a photo of gifts that they had made using my ideas. Gifts that they made by hand with love, and then actually gave to their friends and family. It was so so rewarding.
So fast forward a year, and we’re heading back into Autumn/Winter. Halloween hasn’t even hit yet but the Christmas decorations are starting to appear around town. And, as I’m lucky enough to have grown a bit over the last year, I wanted to get a headstart on encouraging you to embrace DIY this year, because it’s actually really good for you! Here’s four reasons why:
The great thing about making your own gifts is that you can usually make large batches with relatively inexpensive ingredients. If you have a lot of people to give gifts to you can make a big batch of something identical or customise them to each person with a variety of flavours and colours, with it still working out cheaper than buying from high street stores. A great example is something like infused oils or sloe gin; same basic ingredients to make huge batches, with flavour additions that can be easily changed around. One bulk buy might get you gifts for 20 people, both saving you money and saving you from buying from businesses that you may not really want to support in the name of the holidays.
It’s good for your health
It’s been scientifically studied, being creative can help your health. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, getting stuck in and making something can reduce stress and anxiety, improve positive emotions, and even help us feel physically better too. Craft is perfect, because it doesn’t require you to have a specific artistic skill or think up something for yourself. There’s no pressure, you can just find and follow any recipe that you feel isn’t too challenging, and still reap the same rewards. When I think about the stress of rushing through crowded shops and long queues trying to find the perfect gift compared to sitting in my kitchen, mixing ingredients and seeing the results of my own handiwork, I know which one makes me feel better. I think it’s time we declare the holidays a stress free zone (because otherwise, doesn’t it defeat the point?) and spend time actually enjoying our time instead. Being creative and practising self care simultaneously? Well that’s a no brainer.
It’s better for the planet
Going for the DIY approach essentially enables you to pull a Taylor Swift, and exclude yourself from narratives you don’t want to be involved in. It’s activism through non-consumption, as you take your funds out of companies and products that are unsustainable and probably not built to last, meaning you’d just have to buy another one next year. It keeps items out of landfill and it drives down overall need (hopefully if enough people get on board, this eventually leads to companies producing less, but that’s a long term dream of course). Even if you can’t fully commit to going zero waste, this is a great way to massively reduce your footprint and impact. Most craft utilises natural materials, whether weaving, pottery, or DIY gifts, so you instead become part of a cycle. You don’t contribute to straining our planet, and what you make can eventually biodegrade back into the earth.
When people decide to commit to a minimalist lifestyle, it can be really hard for friends and family to know what to give them as gifts. I always give the same answer, give them something expendable. Let me explain. If you give someone a solid, physical item, that’s another piece of clutter that they’re either going to have to find space for in their home, or they’re just going to give away as soon as they have a chance. Is that really meaningful or helpful to anyone? If you give them something like food, or a beauty product, that is something practical they they can use. And, over time, they will finish it. Instead of adding a burden of new ‘stuff’, they have something of use, that will eventually be finished. It takes away the stress of materiality, and instead leaves them with something they can enjoy and be grateful for with each use, no pressure. If you know anyone who’s trying to commit to minimalism, making things is the best way for you to show your support and help them in their journey.
So, I hope we can all agree that craft is the way to go this season, to look after ourselves, the planet, and the people we love. While this post is gift focused, even just creating things for our own use can be incredibly fulfilling too. So don’t forget to treat yo self too!
And now, I have two options for you for how to embrace craft this winter.
Firstly, if you’re in London, you can come learn from me personally!
After all those years of tinkering with recipes, I’m going to be teaching them in real life! I’ve partnered with Bezalel Workshops on their Embracing Winter workshop series to teach a special workshop called Ethical Beauty: Embracing Care. It’s a 2 hour class and Q&A focusing on natural winter beauty essentials which you can use for yourself or give as gifts. I’ll guide you through making each recipe and you get to take it all home! We’ll also be talking reducing waste, understanding ingredients and finding ways to slow down this winter. You can buy tickets here, do let me know if you’re coming!
Secondly, would you like to see Ethical Advent again this year?
It was pretty popular last year, but I know there’s a lot more of you this time around. Is Ethical Advent something you’d like to see again? Would you like more recipes and ideas? Let me know!
You can also check out my suggestions for ethical tree decorations and eco-friendly wrapping options for more general holiday inspiration. And to find out more information on Bezalel Workshops, check out their website here.
Photos by Bezalel Workshops
Until next time, stay magic y’all.