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We are having an eco-friendly Christmas!

From overbuying food to receiving (or giving!) unwanted gifts, we produce more waste at Christmas than we would during the year. Our Alternative Christmas Markets showcased something different - a more sustainable festive season is possible!

We recognise that Christmas can be a very wasteful time of year. According to The Independent, the UK produces an additional 3 million tonnes of waste at Christmas and fills 100 million bin bags every year. It has also been found that around £42 million of unwanted Christmas presents are thrown out in landfill each year. With this in mind, we wanted to show that Christmas doesn’t have to cost the earth, by holding two Alternative Christmas Markets – one in Shirecliffe at Shirecliffe Community Centre and the other in Nether Edge at Common Ground Community Centre. The markets were organised by South Yorkshire Climate Alliance as part of the Can Do South Yorkshire project, funded by The National Lottery.

There can be a strong emotional attachment associated with Christmas, which is why we don’t want to be Scrooges and tell everyone to stop celebrating. Instead, we want people to switch to more sustainable habits such as buying less, wasting less and shopping secondhand or making their own decorations. The market showcased lots of tips from our website, hosted crafters who use recycled and upcycled materials to make things, and we aimed to get people talking with fun activities and questions. We also had stalls from campaign groups including Sheffield for Democracy, Future-friendly Christmas, Craftivists of South Yorkshire, Scrap Dragon and Greenpeace. 

We know that food is a great way to get people smiling and talking, and we wanted our markets to be as open and welcoming as possible. Our amazing volunteers served coffee, tea and non-alcoholic mulled wine, as well as vegan cakes from Blue Moon Cafe, a local vegetarian and vegan business. While people enjoyed some warming treats, we were able to engage them in conversation about why sustainability at Christmas is so important to us.

To brighten up the community halls, we commissioned Cloud Nine Decor to make us a poinsettia, a seasonal festive flower, and some red, gold and green fringed bunting. Ruthie Ford from Cloud Nine Decor spoke to us about the process of making the decor. 

‘’For the poinsettia fabric we have used some disused drapes from a circus themed tent that we did for a festival a couple of years ago. Parts of the fabric got marked or damaged so the drapes couldn’t be used again but we saved them and they have been perfect for the poinsettia as we only needed small sections of fabric.

To mount the poinsettia we have repurposed one of the welded steel frames from one of our other giant flowers. We get our flower frames fabricated to our design here in Sheffield. They make the flowers super sturdy, safe and durable.

We hire out our giant flowers to festivals and events around the country. The reason we chose to work on a hire basis was to create artwork that can be used again and again, making it more affordable for events whilst cutting down on waste and allowing lots of people from all over to enjoy it.”

Whilst we had to pack up the first market early due to the quickly falling snow, we still had a great (but chilly!) time. The second market, at Common Ground Community Centre, gave us a better chance to welcome over 120 people to the Can Do South Yorkshire project, helping them have a sustainable festive season this year.

Did you attend our Christmas markets? Share your snaps with us on social media using the hashtag #candosouthyorkshire. Or let us know what you have learnt about having an eco-friendly Christmas!

All photography by Maddy Winter / Against the Grain Photography.