A MUM has hit back at people who judge her for regifting presents and not splashing out on her three kids at Christmas.
Hollie Barber, 29, said people say "it's mean" but that doesn't stop her from buying secondhand clothes and toys for Alexis, 10, Zachary, eight, and Nox, two.
The mum-of-three, who's a mindfulness coach, with her glass artist partner Josh Cottrell, 32,has been making eco-friendly lifestyle choices at their home in Thornford, Dorset, since having her youngest child in September 2018.
And this year for Christmas, she is giving family and friends secondhand, homemade or regifted presents, wrapped in fabric, as well as putting up decorated sticks instead of a tree.
Also, instead of using traditional wrapping paper she is employing a Japanese method called furoshiki, which uses repurposed fabric.
She explained: “It’s really easy to do and there are lovely ideas on Instagram.
“You can just use whatever fabric you have. For example, I’ve used pashmina type scarves – then embellished them with dried orange peel or fir from a tree as a decoration. I’ve also made tags from last year’s Christmas cards."
She said: "I always come back to how I would feel if I was given a regifted present and I wouldn't feel any different from getting a new one.
"It's not about giving away something you don't like for the sake of it – you're still putting thought into it."
As well as breaking the taboo around regifting, Hollie hopes to normalise giving handmade presents like soaps, fudge and cookies.
She added: “This year, many of us either don’t want to or can’t go into shops anyway, so I hope I can encourage more and more people to go for handmade gifts, or regifting, which is a good way to declutter.”
In lieu of a classic fir, Hollie and her family have cut up a stick into different sections, arranged it in a tree shape and kitted it out with traditional baubles she has owned for years.
They have also hung up a homemade wreath, and some decorations they made themselves from old ribbons – saving them a fortune.
“It looks wonderful and we’re not ending a tree’s life,” she said. “When you see all these trees cut down in garden centres, it’s such a waste.”
It was having Nox that really triggered her journey into sustainable living, when she realised how much new stuff parents of new babies were expected to buy.
After her son was born,Hollie started using reusable nappies and picking up secondhand baby clothes.
She explained: “I chose to use reusable cloth nappies and everything else followed suit.
“I started getting secondhand clothing for Nox and that kicked off a different way of shopping and living for the rest of us.”
Now, Hollie only buys secondhand clothing for her family – after resolving not to buy anything new in 2020.
And she has also upcycled old pieces to give them a new lease of life thanks to her sewing skills.
“The children only get wooden toys too, so we aren’t buying plastic. Usually, they will also be preloved,” she added.
In July this year, Hollie decided to start an Instagram challenge, calling on people to have a plastic-free month.
And there were 2,000 entries from people who took part, using the hashtag #setmeplasticfree, to share tips and resources.
Hollie said: "In reality, it wasn't possible for me to be entirely plastic-free for the month, due to food shopping.
"But keeping track of all the plastic waste really makes you realise how much of a challenge it is – and how we do it mindlessly."
Finding the experiment a resounding success, she set herself another goal – to have a zero-waste Christmas.
Once again encouraging others to join in, she has, for the past three weeks, been running an Instagram photo challenge.
She explained: “Me and another account @earth_punk_mama, are running a photo challenge all month, asking people to get involved and share their ideas for how to have a zero-waste and eco-friendly Christmas.
“The first week, we focused on handmade things, so lots of people were sharing their ideas for handmade gifts and decorations.
“Last week, the theme was secondhand, and this week is about food and how we can lower our waste in that area.”
And Hollie said she had been most impressed by participants reusing sustainable toilet paper brand Who Gives A Crap?'s packaging and inner tubes to create zero-waste Christmas crackers.
Following the news that most families will be unable to see each other at Christmas this year, due to increasing Covid-19 restrictions, Hollie advised people to freeze, give away and donate excess food, to save food wastage.
"The main thing is donating it to food banks," she said.
"If you can, donate or regift it. Don't just cook it all for the sake of it!"
She added: "There are also two apps I use and would really recommend – Olio and Too Good To Go – where you can upload your surplus food for local collection to other app users.
"They could be such a valuable resource for so many feeling overwhelmed by the extra food and not able to get to a food bank."
And Hollie has even calculated that her eco and meat-free Christmas is costing her just £80 – for the family's full meal and all the presents for her children and relatives – almost 99pc less than the average Brit's spend of £1,116 – including £381.60 on presents alone.
While Hollie admits that it is not practical to live a completely waste-free life – especially with three young children – she wants to encourage people to make small changes that will add up and have a big cumulative impact on the planet.
She said: “This time of year is the most wasteful.
“I don’t think anyone can live completely zero waste but making small steps here and there can make a big difference.
"I want to encourage people to make those small changes, without feeling overwhelmed.
“Every time you say no to a plastic bag in a shop, every time you buy something secondhand, you are making that conscious decision to live more sustainably. It all adds up.”
Another mum reveals how she's only giving second-hand or homemade gifts & wrapping everything in newspaper – Christmas has cost her just £87.
And this mum shared how she got ALL her girl’s Christmas presents for just £20 & a FREE Barbie Dreamhouse.
Meanwhile, a money-saving expert reveals how to save money on your last-minute Christmas shopping & fill up stockings for free.
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