NI woman’s innovative approach to Christmas pays off

Sarah Bell with a home-made cracker
Sarah Bell with a home-made cracker

As the world begins to think more about the climate change crisis, one Lisburn woman is determined to make Christmas more sustainable.

Sarah Bell has been making her own reusable Christmas crackers, creating a more sustainable way of wrapping gifts, and upcycling plastic sacks into Christmassy bags.

Sarah wraps her presents in newspaper

Sarah wraps her presents in newspaper

The 23-year-old said she first became interested in environmentalism when she saw the extent of plastic pollution in Northern Ireland: “Beach cleaning showed me the harsh reality in Northern Ireland and I’ve been conscious of how much plastic I’m using and how much waste I’m creating ever since.

“I’ve tried to incorporate that into Christmas as there is so much consumption and it’s easy to go overboard.

“Christmas is the perfect time to reduce your waste and reusing what you have is the central message.

“Everything I used to make a cracker I already had. You don’t use them outside of Christmas Day so it’s a good opportunity to reduce your plastic.”

Upgrading a coal sack into a Christmas bag

Upgrading a coal sack into a Christmas bag

Sarah used three toilet roll holders, newspaper and ribbon to create her own reusable crackers and popped a hand-written joke inside.

She also used old newspapers to wrap her gifts and spruced it up by attaching some dried oranges and cinnamon sticks.

“It’s so easy to buy a nice roll of paper,” she said.

“But I saw a statistic that said we use so much wrapping paper it could circle the earth four times.

“I think everyone is a bit wary of moving to this as we’re so used to having the perfectly wrapped gift with glittery paper.

“It’s important to reuse and make the most of what you have.”

Sarah, who works in admin, also runs a blog and a podcast about the environment, called the Eco Eejit.

She said that she is slowly but surely changing the mindsets of her family and friends and praised Belfast for its forward thinking on the environment: “My friends and family are also interested in recycling and food composting as well and try to do their best with small changes.

“Water bottles, coffee cups and plastic bags are all easy things to cut back on. If you can remember your house keys you can remember your water bottle or reusable cup.

“I was at an eco Christmas fair in east Belfast and it was dedicated to plastic-free alternatives. I think there’s a great community feel for the environment there and it is so far ahead of other areas.”