Christmas: a time of love, laughter, family traditions and, inevitably, a huge amount of waste. I know, it's all fun, and I don't want to be the big Scrooge here, because I truly do love Christmas, but it has all got, well a bit out of hand hasn't it? Mountains of shiny (non-recyclable) wrapping paper thrown in the bin, endless boxes from Amazon and bits of plastic wrapping and tags chucked out mindlessly, and a whole bunch of stuff that most of us don't really need at all sitting in a pile by our feet that we'll have forgotten about in a few months time. Okay, maybe I do sound a bit Scrooge like! It's just that as I get older I am drawn more and more to simplicity, to memories over things, to experiences over possessions, and I don't think I'm alone in this. For me Christmas is really about being with the people I love, eating good food, playing games and laughing lots.
So, if like me you're craving a little less waste and over-consumption (and I don't just mean of the wine and mince-pies) and haven't even started your Christmas shopping yet, then here are 5 fabulous charities that you could support this Christmas and help make a real difference in this world of ours.
World Wildlife Fund
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the best known of all animal charities. Established 50 years ago they now work in 100 different countries helping to save endangered animals and support conservation. You can support them and solve your Christmas shopping problems by purchasing gifts from their online store, adopting an animal for a year, or asking someone to donate on your behalf.
Born Free Foundation
The Born Free Foundation was set up in 1984 by Virginia McKenna OBE and Bill Travers MBE, the stars of iconic movie Born Free (the first film I ever cried in!) and their son Will Travers (who, incidentally, was kind enough to answer some questions for an article on Ethical Travel featured in our upcoming special digital edition on Travel & Adventure after 40). An 'International wildlife charity working throughout the world to stop individual wild animal suffering and protect threatened species in the wild' it is my youngest daughter's (a wildlife vet wannabe) chosen charity to support - she sponsors a Lion called Dolo and has done fundraisers at school. As well as sponsoring an animal this Christmas you can also buy all your Christmas cards and an array of gorgeous gifts.
Beagle Freedom Project
If you haven't come across the Beagle Freedom Project yet then I encourage you to take a look at the incredible work they are doing to rescue and rehome Beagles (and other animals) who have been used in laboratories for scientific and cosmetic testing. These animals have most often never set foot outside having been bred purely for experimentation, and have certainly been shown little, if any, love and affection in their lives. Again you can buy gifts for loved ones from their shop, donate or even put your name down on the register to adopt an animal in the future - it just might be the best gift you ever give yourself. If nothing else, take a look at their site and learn about some of the cosmetic companies that you should be avoiding supporting this Christmas if you want to help ensure that these animals no longer have to endure the agony of cosmetic testing.
Bees for development
I'm pretty sure that everyone is aware of the plight of the bee and how vital they are for our eco-systems, so supporting bees this Christmas seems like a pretty good use of anyone's money. Bees for Development is a charity focusing on alleviating poverty through sustainable beekeping - helping both the bee population and some of the worlds poorest communities at the same time, very clever. You can take a course with them, sponsor a resource box (a pack of training materials about beekeeping and honey and beeswax selling) which is then sent directly to a beekeeping group in a developing country, make a donation, or, if you live near Monmouth in Wales visit their shop.
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
What's not to love about combining extraordinary art with wildlife conservation? Wildlife Artist David Shepherd established this charity in 1984 having become passionate about conservation after seeing '255 dead zebra at a poisoned waterhole in Tanzania' in the 60s. His wildlife paintings and prints are world famous and his charity has given away over £8million in grants to key projects. Describing themselves as a 'small and effective wildlife conservation charity funding key projects in Africa and Asia working to save endangered wildlife' they are truly making a difference in this world. Sadly, David passed away in 2017, but his legacy lives on as this charity continues to do amazing and much needed work. You can donate to them, and buy gifts (including prints of David's artwork).