So who's on the naughty list eh? Time to sort the gift-worthy wheat from the chaff. If like me you're organised enough to list your friends and family in order of preference (only joking, well kind of) then you've probably already planned present shopping as precisely as a master caliper-maker with a degree in accuracy from the University of Oxford.
But for the rest of you mere mortals, there's still lots of time to spread joy without resorting to the umpteenth pair of Christmas socks in a mug. And yes, of course this loops neatly round to greener healthcare. Stay with me folks. Clearly the happiness of giving presents and also opening something lovely is an endorphin-filled flurry, and that's all good for our mental health. Plus it's impossible to overstate the health benefits of fresh air and mental stimulation, so any activity or fun outdoors will get a big smile from your friendly GP. And better still, this can be done without incurring a massive shed-load of plastic-points. Hooray!
Urgh. Swathes of plastic everywhere. Many companies, though, are making a real effort to reduce packaging, make it compostable or biodegradable. Recycled plastic, however, is a totally different thing. It used to be something else in a previous life. Gloriously reincarnated like a garish PVC phoenix from the ashes, it takes the shape of low density polyethylene bags used as bin liners or garment bags. And like Nicole Kidman's forehead it'll still appear to be in mind-bogglingly perfect condition in 1000 years. Yes amigos, recycling for plastic is really an irritating con. Squeeze it or scrunch it up til the cows come home, but if you watched last year's War on Plastic you'll share my cynicism over what actually happens to plastic when we bid it a cheery "auf Wiedersehen flower". I hate to break it to you, but it probably ends up in landfill or burning on a hideous poisonous plastic-mountain.
But returning to the good cheer of this fluffy festive-tide, let's bask in the news that compostable potato starch technology is being embraced by magazines such as the National Trust, ?Which???!?!? (too many ?s ?), and the RHS use a paper wrapper which can also be placed magnanimously in your kitchen counter composting caddy to snuggle down with the organic apple peelings and Fairtrade banana skins.
And now tuck in your napkin folks, it's time for main course: presents. Grab your FSC-certified paper and a pencil. The climate crisis has made many people think more about reduce, reuse recycle, and of course to score points with the first of these you buy something that doesn't take up any physical space, yet provides the most memorable and fantastic gift anyway. What is this magic, I hear you say? Well friends, it's The Gift Experience. Many websites run red letter days where you can drive a race car (check out Formula-E, motor racing fans), bungee jump, or do other things that would make even the steeliest orthopaedic surgeon turn a little green. Read on!
By clubbing together with others, you might decide to treat the foodie in your life to a ticket to the Harrogate Food & Drink festival in summer 2021. Or how about a Vegan Foodie Tour with Tastings for Two - also in Harrogate? Or maybe you're looking for something a little less wine-tasting and a little more white-knuckle? Well then friends, Go Ape at Dalby forest could be just the thing! You can buy vouchers for various high-wire experiences, and don't worry they have toilets on site for those of you feeling a little nervous at the thought of doing what the sprightly chap in the above picture is making light of. That's pretty much a zip wire isn't it?
Ok ok, so you prefer to keep you feet on the ground? What about a beekeeping experience for the avid environmentalist in you? Learn how those cute stripy critters buzz around in the honeyish cuteness, little lynch-pins of the entire eco-system that they are. Just pay for the protective face guard yeah? I love dermatology as much as the next doctor, but multiple facial insect bites really put me off my lunchtime sourdough ciabatta. Alternatively if you prefer to embrace the countryside a little more, try a foraging day with Totally Wild UK. They have courses in Yorkshire, hooray!
Various charities offer 'gifts' in name, while putting your pennies to excellent use in projects in the UK and overseas. Check out Save the Children and Oxfam Unwrapped for some really heart-wrenching stories. Or why not sponsor an endangered animal at your local zoo? Have a look at Chester Zoo (where if you've completely taken leave of your senses you can stay overnight in a lodge, umm have you seen Jurassic Park?), where your budding conservationist kids in your life can learn about ecology and proper field skills! Or there's Yorkshire Wildlife Park, where you can be a 'ranger' for the day. Anyone who knows me will know I could barely muster the courage to feed a handbag dog, let alone a man-eating king of the beasts. But apparently it's possible to feed lions on some sort of bonkers gift experience day *covers eyes and hides under duvet*.
And of course there's annual passes to wonderful outdoorsy places like National Trust, Historic Houses, English Heritage, and local arts venues such as the York Museums Trust pass. And don't forget cinema vouchers, theatre tokens and concert tickets are all fantastic ways to offer a really memorable present. These places will reopen! Plus remember the Arts are in desperate need of our support after this year. Thumbs up and planet points in one neat recycled-paper-wrapped bundle of fun, and yes, your Climate Champ medal is in the post.
So whether you're planning an actual holiday getaway, or merely to see what excuses you can get away with (the handbag dog ate your present, Royal Mail was delayed (never!), the queues in town were too big, whatever gets the biggest eyeroll), have a think about something a little more experimental this year...