Wednesday 29 January 2020

Helen Chandler Wilde: 'The children who are dreaming of a green Christmas'

'After Greta Thunberg (pictured) led thousands of pupils in school strikes across the globe this year, some are now taking the next radical step – eschewing Christmas presents altogether.' Photo: AP
'After Greta Thunberg (pictured) led thousands of pupils in school strikes across the globe this year, some are now taking the next radical step – eschewing Christmas presents altogether.' Photo: AP

Helen Chandler Wilde

Never mind a white Christmas, a growing number of children are hoping for a green one.

After Greta Thunberg led thousands of pupils in school strikes across the globe this year, some are now taking the next radical step - eschewing Christmas presents altogether.

One such child is Bo Hurwitz, only eight years old but already a seasoned environmental campaigner. Earlier this year, she started a petition at her south London primary school calling for an end to engine idling at the gates.

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"The cars are burning out fossil fuels, which is bad for our health," she explains. "I showed my teacher and she said she would sign. I got 40 or 50 signatures."

This has carried through into her Christmas wishes. "Our world is in danger because of climate change and I am very concerned," she tells me. "I'm not asking for plastic toys - all I wanted to ask for is to help the environment."

To which end, she has requested pledges: to not buy products containing palm oil, to turn off the lights when they're not needed or to avoid meat. Like many children, she did also ask for money - but she has already spent it buying supplies for a local food bank: "I had £74 so we got five bags of shopping," she says.

There is still one concern marring her dreams of the perfect eco celebration - Santa's carbon footprint. But he does at least understand what she's trying to do.

"Last year, Father Christmas got me a bamboo toothbrush," she says, approvingly.

Nine-year-old Bella Simons has taken a "stand against unnecessary consumption", reports her mother, Hannah. Instead of presents, she asked for ways to spend time with her loved ones, such as baking a cake together or going on a trip to Shakespeare's Globe. She spent a long time thinking of ideas that "would be good for the planet, as well as fun for her", says Hannah, "I'm really proud of her."

Other eco-conscious children may be still asking for presents, but thinking of ways to make them more environmentally friendly. Milo Sinha (10) is perfectly happy with second-hand gifts. "I'm asking for games for my PlayStation," he says. "But I'm asking for reused ones."

The only stipulation is that his presents aren't hand-me-downs from his older brother. "When Milo said he wanted a new bike, he didn't mean it had to be new, just new to the family," says his mum, Lucy Davis.

Together, the London family has set up a Christmas list on Patchwork, an online platform which allows people to band together and pitch in for a present.

"If you are thinking of giving us a gift, here's a list of things that will help us continue to tread lightly on the planet," they write, alongside ideas such as a trip to the cinema, looking after the children so Lucy and her husband, Ashok, can have a weekend away and taking the family bowling.

As well as the obvious financial appeal for parents, there's the promise of filling the house with less clutter. "I can't stand the thought of more plastic rubbish," says Melissa Woods, mother to six-year-old Ezra and two-year-old Nico.

"It's environmental," she says. "The volume of pointless plastic toys coming into the house that end up not getting played with is too much."

What might look like kindness can actually be a nuisance, she points out, adding that she's in the process of "educating" friends and family. "They are stuck in this mindset where they would rather buy a gift," she says.

She has asked for them to give the children experiences instead and, if some insist on physical gifts, the Birmingham-based family has suggested second-hand ones such as toys and clothes which other children have grown out of.

Melissa hopes that having a Christmas without presents will help her children to learn how lucky they are compared to others around the world.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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