Ho ho ho, it’s off to the shops we go. As the festive season rolls around again, it’s time to hit the online stores and our local shopping centres for lots of papery things, and gifts many of us don’t really need. Much of it involving copious amounts of plastic, whether it’s the packaging or the product itself, especially children’s toys.
According to Waste Management company BIFFA, at Christmas, 30% additional rubbish is generated. This equates to more than 100 million bags of rubbish; an estimated three-and-a-half black bags of Christmas packaging per household, or put another way, approximately three million tonnes. Wrapping paper is a big contributor to this. Government department Defra even claims enough paper is used each year to gift-wrap the island of Guernsey! Oh and let’s not forget the Christmas Cards – one billion of those sent and then thrown away each year.
We have spotted some very welcome progress and good initiatives this year. Some wrapping paper manufacturers have moved to non-metallic recyclable papers and removed the cling film wrapping. Positive steps like this can make a big difference.
Of course, no one is saying we shouldn’t share gifts. This is a time for showing appreciation to the people we love and value, and of course for children Christmas presents are a big part of the magic.
But the question is, can we think differently about Christmas? Can we find a way to share the joy and get in the spirit without adding to landfill, contributing to the plastic crisis, and increasing our carbon footprint?
We believe we can. So here are some great ways to enjoy a green Christmas.
Trade objects for experiences
A gift doesn’t have to be a bright shiny object. It can be an exciting, sparkling experience! So many experiences are now available as gifts, from hotel afternoon teas, visits to landmarks, quirky adventures like escape rooms, physical challenges like skydiving, memberships to attractions, and spa days.
If you want to be greener and less wasteful as a family or group of friends why not agree together to organise a theatre trip, dinner, overnight stop, or even mini-holiday as a chance to gather together?
There are also brilliant creative animal sponsorship gifts, ideal for kids or animal lovers. Many zoos and animal charities offer the chance to sponsor and support an animal, with an accompanying gift box and regular updates.
Support eco-friendly brands and products
If you are buying gifts, now’s the time to support eco-friendly brands and show your family and friends that it’s important to you, while opening their eyes to new products. There are some really innovative and creative, as well as traditional, greener versions of most products out there, from low carbon-footprint wines, to recycled stationery, wooden children’s toys, and bamboo gift items.
Cosmetics and beauty represent a huge proportion of gifts at Christmas, but many are not cruelty-free, and wrapped in swathes of plastic and in unnecessarily large boxes.
We use sustainable packaging, and cruelty-free, vegan, natural ingredients. Added to that we have B Corp status, so we have proved that we put the planet and people before profit. Supporting genuine eco and ethical brands at this time of year sends out a great green message.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Many of the gifts you’ll buy or order online may be coming from half way across the world. And you may also be shocked to learn just how much coal is used in the production of wrapping paper alone – 1.3 kg of coal to produce 1 kg of wrapping paper according to Greenpeace.
One of the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your gifts is to buy local. Christmas is a great time to start supporting local butchers, farmers markets, local shops and manufacturers. Perhaps even local vineyards if you have one.
For the ultimate reduced carbon footprint and personal touch, why not make your own? Repurpose a nice box or tin and make your own chocolate truffles, fudge, or cookies, or if you’re nifty with a needle why not make a cushion cover or scarf. For the artistic among us, it could be the perfect time to create some artwork, photography, or jewellery.
You might also want to make your own Christmas Crackers, or opt for a reusable, refillable advent calendar as greener alternatives.
Opportunity to educate
For children particularly, the market in climate change inspiration and education is booming. The shelves are filled with fantastic, child-friendly books on the subject, and garden centres or local outdoor attraction gift shops are also perfect places for books about nature and wildlife.
But you may also be able to gently educate or influence family and friends through introducing them to innovative eco brands or sustainable products they may not have used before.
These might be little stocking fillers like eco-friendly soap, pretty vegan wraps to replace cling film, reusable water bottles or coffee cups.
Buy what people really want
One of the reasons for so much additional waste at Christmas is unwanted gifts. A survey by Finder found over half of us receive at least one unwanted gift. And while most of these are regifted or returned, around 6% are simply thrown away.
Two great ways to avoid this are wishlists and gift cards. Both will ensure the recipient gets what they want, or in the case of gift cards, can wait and buy something when they need it.
It’s a perfect solution for tricky teenagers and fussy family or friends. And it makes sense for the environment, because the best kind of gift is one that will be kept, loved, and used.
And beware of the enticement of ‘gift boxes’. Often these come in excessive packaging and include items that aren’t wanted and end up thrown away. Buying individual products, you know will be used and loved, will be greener and a better use of your money.
If you are feeling disillusioned with the excess gifting, and feel that you don’t need anything in particular, why not request, or suggest charity donations.
Charities really need support, and you could pick one that does work that’s close to your heart, or get the whole family involved in choosing a worthy cause.
Don’t forget to support charity shops at this time of year, many have new as well as second-hand gifts, and lovely selections of Christmas Cards.
If you want to make a big statement, why not consider sending animated electronic cards and making a charity donation instead. It’s likely you’ll find your friends and family supportive, and you may even start a new trend.
Recycle paper, cards, ribbons, bags
A certain amount of paper is unavoidable, and presentation is important in gift giving of course. But what we can do is make sure we recycle.
Try to choose recyclable wrapping paper and sustainable cotton, reusable cotton gift bags, or at least more eco-friendly versions without glitter and metallics.
Keep all the gift bags, wine bags, ribbons, and bows you receive to use yourself next year, so you won’t have to buy again. Get arty and crafty by cutting Christmas cards up and using for tags, it’s a nice little activity for the kids.
And those unwanted gifts? Repurpose, regift, or give to a charity shop or school tombola, where they will stay out of landfill.
Christmas is a time for fun, celebration, and showing our loved ones we care. But with a little planning and greener thinking, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the earth.
Explore our range of eco-friendly, sustainable, cruelty-free gifts here. We have something for everyone (even your pet).