As Christmas approaches, a peak season for spending in the UK economy, it is as important as ever to be conscious of our choices as consumers. While structural change within large corporations urgently needs to happen, as individuals we can also encourage transformation through the influence of our spending choices. Therefore, making small changes here and there this Christmas will add up to reduce waste, help small businesses, and send a clear message that individuals want more sustainable and ethical options. Here are some ways to ensure your presents are ‘greener’ this Christmas:
Use reusable fabrics, reusable bags, or recyclable paper to wrap presents instead of adding to landfill this year.
Most wrapping paper is not recyclable – it often includes glitter, foil or plastics meaning it can’t be recycled. Therefore, buying second-hand fabrics such as old scarves, cushion covers, or even bed sheets that can be cut up are great choices. Buying decorated paper bags to reuse is another option. Charity shops are the perfect place to purchase fabrics or bags for wrapping: just make sure to keep them after the presents have been opened, or give them as an extra gift to the receiver to use again.
It’s worth having a conversation with your family and friends about Christmas spending, and a discussion about the expectation of buying multiple presents for everyone you know. Cutting down on consumption is one of the best ways to reduce waste and also to save money – if you organise a Secret Santa, so everyone only buys one present, the volume of gifts being thrown away or wasted is lowered. This discussion is also a great opportunity to think about what we really need at Christmas, and be grateful for what we have.
Buy experiences, not objects.
Experience presents are really great, because material presents often don’t last very long, or are very wasteful in their production. Consider buying someone a ticket to an art gallery, a gig, or give them a voucher to go out to dinner together.
Asking others to donate to a charity of your choice for Christmas instead of buying you a present will help those most in need, and reduce the possibility of throwing away unwanted gifts. Suggesting to your friends that your present to them this year will be donations on their behalf is also another way of thinking sustainably – you’ll also come to learn which causes your family and friends care about most.
Buy More Ethically
Choose small businesses instead of big corporations to buy presents from, or shop second-hand.
Shopping on Etsy, going to specific shop websites or Instagram pages, and visiting your local retailers are great ways to help feed small companies. It’s especially important to reward those who are going the extra mile when it comes to sustainability, and who need the economic boost more than Jeff Bezos and the top 1%.
Shop on Depop, Ebay, or in charity shops – buying second-hand doesn’t make the present any less special as long as it’s still thoughtful. It’s also a great opportunity to be creative and upcycle by adding your own personal touches to a gift.
Make it yourself!
Homemade gifts are often more truly appreciated than something bought. Consider your own skill set and what the receiver of your gift might love to be given – you could record a song, paint something arty, bake them a cake, make them a CD or jewellery container, grow them a plant, create a photo album, or even make a dance dedicated to them on TikTok. Getting creative really allows you to tailor your present to the person you’re giving it to – let’s give more thoughtful presents this Christmas.
AVOID certain retailers at all costs!!!
Amazon, Asda, Asos, Urban Outfitters, Zara, Nike, Pretty Little Thing, Shein, Boohoo, Missguided, Pull & Bear, Topshop, New Look, Adidas, H&M…
Basically any big brand that is well-known and outsources to factories in the Global South has a negative environmental impact, and a negative impact on workers’ rights. It’s so important to boycott these companies if we are able to – they need to know that consumers are unhappy with, and won’t stand for, their unethical choices.
Get a free trial with Ethical Consumer.
Ethical Consumer is a website that investigates, scores and ranks the ethical and environmental impact of products – food, drink, clothes, cars, and more. The ranking system is based on workers’ rights, animal rights, sustainability, the use of toxic chemicals, anti-social finance, etc. – Ethical Consumer provides a thorough and extensive breakdown of which companies should be praised and rewarded, and which should be completely avoided. If you want to shop more responsibly this Christmas, they are a reliable source to aid in your research!
It’s important to remember that not everybody can afford more sustainable and ethical products, as it often costs more to pay all workers fairly and choose sustainable practices in our current economic system. However, there are so many other options for those with a budget – second hand or homemade presents being only two of them! The best way to be more sustainable this Christmas is to have conversations with others about what a sustainable or ethical Christmas means to them. It’s so important to discuss these ideas with your family, friends, work colleagues, or anyone you may be buying presents for – if the message can be spread, we can make a real difference.
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Cover Image by Prudence Earl via Unsplash