8 great ways to go green this Christmas

Woman reading a book and drinking coffee at Christmas at home in the living room.

With careful thought you can relax and have a green Christmas this year. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Are you dreaming of White Christmas or are you instead craving a green one? CHRIS BROADBENT talks to three environmentally-conscious Devon businesses on how to serve up an eco-treat this festive season 

1. Launched in the pandemic, Ashburton-based business Postal Pantry met the need for local people who were limited by COVID-19 restrictions but needed a reliable and healthy grocery delivery service.  

With a focus on organic, vegan, gluten free, whole foods and eco-friendly lifestyle products delivered in plastic-free packaging across South Devon in a zero emissions electric van, Clare Brayshaw and her nephew Cal Sherry have provided a popular resource for a Devon public taking a greater interest in the environment. 

The owners of of Postal Pantry delivery business holding produce in front of their van.

Cal and Clare of Postal Pantry service the whole of the UK from their Devon base. - Credit: Hannah Eveleigh

Ethical consumerism is something that has always interested Clare, who ran a Fair Trade Shop in Totnes in the early 2000s. She took a career break to have children, but has gravitated back towards entrepreneurship with an environmental ethos. 

“During the first lockdown, people were advised to shop locally and avoid going out. At first, we were just helping family and neighbours with their shopping. Suddenly, people couldn’t really find what they wanted, especially if they had dietary needs.  

“So, for example my Dad is a diabetic and my daughter needs gluten-free foods. So, we began to take orders and help people. Cal then created a website as it was easier for people to place their orders. I don’t know if I thought it was a business! 

“But it came to the point where we had 300 items and we were coming out of lockdown, so we had to decide whether we go forward or finish.” Of course, they pushed forward and with the acquisition of an electric van, they enhanced their eco credentials. It is an area that Clare is passionate about. “I hate it when I go to the supermarket and you see all the excess packaging. You don’t need to have apples in plastic bags. 

“I understand how hard it is to switch from some packaging for suppliers. But we have committed to only using bags that are recycled, compostable or biodegradable. We will also take packaging back from customers we deliver to so that it can be recycled, for example the crisps, we are able to take those packets back to the company for recycling.”    

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For Christmas, Postal Pantry has some special seasonal hampers with sustainable packaging in recyclable cardboard boxes to enable customers to step towards a more sustainable season. 

2. They are not the only Devon-based enterprise offering more eco-friendly options for the season of goodwill. In Westward Ho!, North Devon Soap have carved out a niche with hand-made vegan, organic body wash and shampoo soap bars. Their colourful range is inspired by the North Devon landscape of green hills, sandy beaches and the Atlantic Ocean.  

Three organic soap bars displayed on a table.

All North Devon Soap products are made using organic materials and are plastic-free. - Credit: North Devon Soap

They also have a unique Koffie Art bars including cappuccino and latte bars for the caffeine addicts. Sparked by the plastic pollution outcry prompted by the BBC’s Blue Planet II presented by David Attenborough, founder Helen Cross was moved into action. 

“Watching the programme explain how harmful plastic is to our oceans was a lightbulb moment,” explains Helen. “Looking at my own bathroom I realised how much plastic I was using.  

“It is estimated each of us will use over 52,000 items of plastic in the bathroom during our lifetime. That plastic used is the equivalent weight of 300 blue whales! Making 100% natural soap for use as body wash or shampoo is not only hugely satisfying but I know each soap bar is reducing plastic and helping protect the ocean too.” 

3. Bovey Tracey’s House of Marbles is a ritual stopping point for thousands of festive shoppers in South Devon and this business too has placed a strong emphasis on a brand-new range of environmentally friendly toys and gifts this Christmas. This includes a move away from plastic, with a host of vintage toys and classic family board games, all produced using sustainably sourced wood. Plus, paper and card items made with recyclable materials.  

A Christmas tree reflected back in a mirror.

Visitors to House of Marbles will notice more eco-friendly gifts this year. - Credit: Liz Ruffles

Operations director Andrea Harkin said: “Removing all plastic overnight is impossible, but with each new product designed or re-ordered from our suppliers, we are making modifications and redesigning to remove or minimise plastic wherever we can.  

“From replacing polystyrene inserts with recycled cardboard and removing unnecessary plastic bag wrapping inside boxes, we are making positive changes all the time. We are not perfect and are not totally plastic free or sustainable. But we certainly aware, awake to it and doing our bit, not just from customer comments or legislation but the fact we actually care.”  

Five more green Christmas tips 

4. Tree – rather than buying a new tree, buy one that is potted and you can replant and re-use the following year. 

Florist preparing zero waste Christmas gift.

Make your own gifts to really show the spirit of Christmas. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. Make Gifts – make some biscuits, a cake or a meal for family, friends or even an isolated neighbour to really show the spirit of Christmas. 

6. Buy local – look nearby for gifts, when you buy local, more money stays in the local economy. 

7. Prioritise experience – instead of presents you hope loved ones will like, why not buy an experience, like a night at the theatre for you all to enjoy? 

8. Make your own crackers – instead of crackers with throwaway gifts and unrecyclable wrapping, make your own using toilet rolls. Have some fun with personalised jokes and a tailor-made paper crown. 

Climate impact on Devon

Environmental sustainability is becoming an issue that is concerning more adults and children across Devon and the rest of the UK, with immediate signs of climate change becoming ever more apparent. 

According to the Exeter-based Met Office, a series of UK temperature records were broken in 2019, including the hottest ever recorded temperature (38.7°C). South West England now experiences 10% more annual rainfall than in 1961 and the relative sea level in the region has risen by 25cm since 1916.  

A UN body concluded that it is “extremely likely that the warming is man made from the emission of greenhouse gasses.” Devon County Council has declared a climate emergency and have plans to reduce Devon’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. 

A couple standing on the cliff edge looking at Hangman Point in Devon.

Devon County Council has declared a climate emergency and have plans to reduce Devon’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. - Credit: Neville Stanikk/VisitDevon