Zero-waste mum doesn't care if people think she's 'mean' for regifting presents

Mindfulness coach and mum-of-three Hollie Barber is wholeheartedly dedicated to doing her bit to save the planet.

So much so, that she aims for a zero-waste Christmas by only giving people secondhand, homemade, or regifted presents.

Some have called Hollie, 29, and her partner, Josh Cottrell, 32, ‘mean’ for their approach to present-giving, but the mum doesn’t care, as saving the world is far more important.

She said: ‘I always come back to how I would feel if I was given a regifted present and I wouldn’t feel any different from getting a new one.

‘It’s not about giving away something you don’t like for the sake of it – you’re still putting thought into it.’

Regifting isn’t the only way Hollie is making her Christmas celebrations more environmentally friendly.

All gifts will be wrapped in fabric rather than paper, using the Japanese art of furoshiki.

Instead of a Christmas tree, Hollie has put up decorated sticks, and will serve vegan food free of plastic packaging on the big day.

Of course, it’s not just Christmas when the family, made up of Hollie, Josh, and their three children; Alexis, 10, Zachary, eight, and Nox, two, make an effort towards sustainability.

Hollie says she’s terrified of the implications climate change has for the future of her kids, and so since having Nox in 2018, she’s made an effort to cut down all waste.

A key component of that lifestyle is using reusable nappies, along with choosing secondhand baby clothes and eco-friendly baby wipes.

Hollie, who lives in Thornford, Dorset, said: ‘I have three children and I’m concerned for their future. We are really seeing the effects of climate change.

‘I really care about protecting our planet and everything on it. I live by the philosophy that no one is too small to make a difference.’

Despite always being interested in the environment, it was having Nox that really triggered her journey into sustainable living, when she realised how much new stuff parents of new babies were expected to buy.

‘We wanted to make sure having a baby didn’t impact at all on the planet,’ she explained.

‘I chose to use reusable cloth nappies and everything else followed suit.

‘I started getting secondhand clothing for Nox and that kicked off a different way of shopping and living for the rest of us.’

Now, Hollie only buys secondhand clothing for her family, and resolved to buy nothing new in 2020.

‘The children only get wooden toys too, so we aren’t buying plastic. Usually, they will also be preloved,’ she added.

In July this year, Hollie decided to start an Instagram challenge, calling on people to have a plastic-free month.

There were 2,000 entries from people who took part, using the hashtag #setmeplasticfree, to share tips and resources.

Hollie said: ‘In reality, it wasn’t possible for me to be entirely plastic-free for the month, due to food shopping.

‘But keeping track of all the plastic waste really makes you realise how much of a challenge it is – and how we do it mindlessly.’

After the experiment’s success, the mum set herself another goal – to have a zero-waste Christmas.

#Me and another account @earth_punk_mama, are running a photo challenge all month, asking people to get involved and share their ideas for how to have a zero-waste and eco-friendly Christmas,’ she said.

‘The first week, we focused on handmade things, so lots of people were sharing their ideas for handmade gifts and decorations.

‘Last week, the theme was secondhand, and this week is about food and how we can lower our waste in that area.’

Hollie hopes that she can break the taboo around regifting and get more people thinking about sustainability when celebrating Christmas.

And following the news that many families will be unable to see each other at Christmas this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, Hollie advised people to freeze, give away and donate excess food, to save food wastage.

‘The main thing is donating it to food banks,’ she said.

‘If you can, donate or regift it. Don’t just cook it all for the sake of it!

‘There are also two apps I use and would really recommend – Olio and Too Good To Go – where you can upload your surplus food for local collection to other app users.

‘They could be such a valuable resource for so many feeling overwhelmed by the extra food and not able to get to a food bank.’

Hollie has calculated that her eco and meat-free Christmas is costing her just £80 – for the family’s full meal and all the presents for her children and relatives.

While Hollie admits that it is not practical to live a completely waste-free life – especially with three young children – she wants to encourage people to make small changes that will add up and have a big cumulative impact on the planet.

She said: ‘This time of year is the most wasteful.

‘I remember last year driving through my village and the amount of rubbish I saw on the side of the road was quite frightening. It makes you think there really is a better way.

‘I don’t think anyone can live completely zero waste but making small steps here and there can make a big difference.

‘I want to encourage people to make those small changes, without feeling overwhelmed.

‘Every time you say no to a plastic bag in a shop, every time you buy something secondhand, you are making that conscious decision to live more sustainably. It all adds up.’

Hollie shares her adventures in sustainability on Instagram with the handle @rainbeauadventures.

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