Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

Despite attempts by many to reduce the nation's waste, it appears this festive season has been a bumper one for rubbish. This Christmas the haul of unwanted presents is estimated to be worth £1.2bn. Even a keen green like me has trouble dealing with the tottering mountain of unwanted presents with their attendant wrapping of unrecylable tin foil paper (I think they use this to torture me).

I'm partly to blame for my present mountain as its not easy buying for the green with obscure and occasionally epicurean tastes. What I really wanted was a recycled yoga mat made by prisoners, which I saw at the Yoga Show, and a bottle of ultra-Brut Laurent Perrier champagne (fewer calories, but all of the pleasure). But instead I got a selection of novelty gifts from the 99p shop that S passes off as eco-friendly by cunningly peeling of the "Made in China" labels. I know I always say don't buy anything expensive or go to any trouble, but I'm lying.

I do sympathise with the columnist Liz Jones, whose only present one Christmas from her boyfriend was a cheap twig pencil because she "liked writing and the environment". I got a horrible grey china mug with a blurred picture of a dog on it because "you like dogs and drinking tea".

We are encouraged not to throw these horrible presents away into landfill sites, but to give them to charity shops who will be thrilled to receive our old tat. But the trouble is in my neck of the woods they turn their nose up at my 99p shop presents even without their Made in China labels, so I must think of other methods of redistribution. In a bid to add to their allure, I put them all in the most exotic carrier bag I can find and offer them all up for general redistribution to anyone who comes to visit (amazingly enough, people do).

Luckily, my cleaning lady is like a locust and strips me of most of my unwanted stuff I suspect she has retail outlets. Even she turned her nose up at the dog mug, though, so I guess I shall just guerrilla-dump it in an insalubrious post code and hope someone pinches it.

I confess my present buying isn't much better and that I've added to the festive rubbish mountains of my loved ones. I'm a fan of the Life on Mars TV series because I think men look sexy in shirts with big collars, clip-on kipper ties and foot-long sideburns. Thus inspired, I bought an excitingly retro Seventies shirt with definite 3-Day-Week appeal from the swanky gents' outfitters Gieves and Hawkes.

Maddeningly, they didn't have any clip on-ties so I splashed out on a pair of bright-green, hemp boxer shorts from an eco-show instead. They are the sort of thing Kermit might wear if he were a man, not a frog. Disappointingly, I don't think S likes them. But I console myself with the thought that the hemp cloth will biodegrade quite naturally after a few years in his closet if the moths and mice don't get there first.