A Shambala Guide to a Sustainable Christmas – part 1

Shambala Christmas

We were struck by a quote that appeared in an article in the Guardian recently, from Reverend Giles Fraser (the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral who resigned over his support for the Occupy protest.)

The quote ran: ‘We are approaching this terrible time called Christmas. Go into the Westfield shopping centre and you’ll see tens of thousands of people buying things they don’t want with money they don’t have for people they don’t like.…’

Harsh, but, if we’re honest with ourselves, often pretty accurate.

But what if we refused? Don’t get us wrong, here at Shambala HQ, we are as susceptible to that twinkly, warm Christmas feeling as anybody – but what if we refused to join the scrum of consumerism? We’re pretty sure it’s possible to have a more sustainable, locally sourced, creative and thoughtful holiday season on a shoestring budget.

And thus, the Shambala guide to Christmas was born! We’re going to tap up our incredible network of artists, crafters, chefs and sustainability nuts to bring you a weekly dose of tips and advice on how to make your Christmas sparkle, without breaking the bank or lining the pockets of multinational corporations.

Tip 1 – Reinvent the voucher

Ah, the humble voucher. Whilst naturally, it’s the thought that counts, vouchers are not exactly the most thoughtful choice. But with a bit of creativity and personalisation, they could be.

That’s why we’ve designed an Act of Kindness voucher, to help you gift your time, rather than your money, to the people that matter in your life. What you give is up to you – from a long country walk followed by a slap up pub lunch, one handmade cake a month for a year, or even just a promise to weed the garden of an elderly relative.


Tip 2 – Memories live longer than things

As human beings, we all fundamentally crave certain things: Feeling that we are participating in our society and feeling connected to and appreciated by the people that surround us. While you probably don’t remember what you got for Christmas from certain friends a few years ago, you know you’ll always remember that incredible concert you went to, that hilarious comedian you saw or that amazing cottage you rented. If you want to give a truly memorable gift, give an experience. (Added sustainability bonus that you’re not adding to the mountain of plastic wrapped, mass made ‘stuff’ that ends up on landfill.)

For more on the importance of experience over consumerism, we’d recommend James Wallman’s ‘Stuffocation’ blog.

Tip 3 – Jam Jars for all

The humble jam jar is a fantastic base for any number of easy, beautiful and thoughtful presents for even the least artistically inclined people. From home made preserves to candles, or dry cake mixes to glow-in-the-dark galaxy jars (no, really), the list is endless. We’ve got a few simple tutorials to get you started..

We’re jammin’

Your simple step by step guide to a jam jar full of festive, homemade ..er…jam.

Plum, date and cranberry jam (this recipe makes 2 jars)


  • 3-4 plums, stones removed, chopped
  • Large handful of fresh dates, chopped
  • 300g fresh cranberries
  • Zest of two oranges (grated)
  • 175g demerera sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp brandy/port
  • Two glass jars
  1. Throw all of your ingredients in a large saucepan (see, we told you it was easy)
  1. Stir well, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure you keep stirring to prevent your jam sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  1. Take off the heat. Once it’s cooled, carefully remove your cinnamon sticks
  1. Make sure your jars are squeaky clean by rinsing well with warm soapy water, and then popping them in the oven (180 degrees) for 5 minutes
  1. Spoon your jam into your jars – nearly there!
  1. Cover with waxed discs, seal and seal your lids.

Now have fun creating some beautiful personalised labels. We recommend using patterned fabric offcuts to place over the lid and secure with string, to jazz them up.

Store these bad boys in the fridge until it’s time to give them away. They’ll keep for up to 6 months.

Dry cake mix jar

This one really couldn’t be any easier – simply weigh out the dry ingredients (no eggs, no butter) for your chosen cake or brownie, layer them prettily within a jar, and detail the rest of the instructions and ingredients onto a tag.

The Galaxy Jar 

Because who wouldn’t want their very own nebula for Christmas?


  • Glass jar
  • Plenty of cotton wool balls
  • Food colouring – keep it as cosmic as you can. Blues, pinks and purples work well.
  • Glitter!
  • Glow in the dark paintgalaxy jar
  • Water
  1. This is basically like making a space lasagne. It’s all about layers. Cover the bottom layer of your jar in cotton wools balls and compress them down with your fingers.
  1. Add a few drops of food colouring to a glass of water, and dowse your cotton wool ball layer with the colour, until they are saturated but not drowned!
  1. Sprinkle glitter and a swirl of glow in the dark paint on top
  1. Add a new layer of cotton balls, add more water (coloured with your second food colouring colour), add your glitter and glow paint and repeat this layering process until your jar is full.
  1. Close the lid, and wait 12 hours or so for the jar to settle. To activate the glow in the dark paint, leave the jar in the sun for a few hours.

Voila, galaxy in a jar!

That’s all from us for now, Shambalans, but we’ll be back next week with another blog jam packed with ideas to make Christmas that bit more personal, ethical and sustainable; from food to décor and even the the Christmas tree itself. We’d love to hear your suggestions too so leave us a comment to say hello and share your favourite festive tips!

Love, the Shambala team x