What a great time of year Christmas is. If it wasn’t for the festive period, I'm not sure I would make it through the winter.
The problem is, the commercial focus of Christmas can wreak havoc for anyone trying to lead a zero waste lifestyle.
But it doesn't mean that you have to be the Grinch either. To help you on your way, we have put together a guide to navigate gifting at Christmas in a sustainable way.
OK, let's start with the elephant in the room.
People will want to buy you gifts for Christmas.
And you may not want them to buy you gifts, or you may have your eye on something in particular. If that’s the case, let people know!
Write a Christmas gift list, or mention that you are doing something different this year, e.g. you want people to donate to charity on your behalf.
I can pretty much guarantee that someone will ignore this list and buy you a random present (looking at you Grandma). Don’t panic! Accept graciously and be happy - they obviously love you enough to buy you a gift.
You may even like the present. If so, great! If not, do something about it. Got a gift receipt? take it straight back and get a refund. If not, don't just let it gather dust in the corner. Exchange it for something you will actually use, add it to your regifting pile, put it on eBay or give it away on Freegle or Olio.
One great way of reducing the amount of gifts at Christmas is getting people on board with Secret Santa.
If you're not familiar, the premise is that each person puts their name in a hat. Each participant takes turns pulling a name out of a hat and they have to give a gift to whoever they pull out. A price limit is usually set so that everyone gets a gift of similar value.
Pulling names out of a hat is rather old fashioned and there are lots of simple online tools that will automate the process, emailing each person the name of who they need to buy a gift for. Give Drawname and Elfster a try.
Secret Santa is great because it reduces the number of presents being gifted. However, be careful. If the budget is set too low or people don’t know each other very well, a lot of the gifts being bought will end up being novelty and one hit wonders destined for landfill after a few days (think beard glitter or desk golf!).
If you are part of a Secret Santa, it's the perfect opportunity to expose them to all the great sustainable products and brands out there and we have lots of ideas in the next section.
Being sustainable at Christmas doesn’t mean you can't buy gifts for friends and family, it just requires a bit of extra thought and thinking outside the box. There are loads of ideas out there, and here are our top picks:
Get people out of their comfort zone, give them a memory of a lifetime or just pamper them with an experience day. Here are a few suggestions:
The above suggestions, if you include transport and other costs, can end up being quite expensive. But you don't need to spend huge sums; why not make your own experience days?
We wouldn't be able to complete a list on eco-friendly gifts without talking about some of the fantastic sustainable products we stock!
When people ask me what my favourite zero waste swap is, I always go to the switch from a disposable plastic razor to a reusable safety razor. Why? Because it's a win-win-win. It's better for the environment, better for your wallet and gives a better shave. There isn't one good reason why people shouldn’t make this swap. Granted, there is a small learning curve but that's what our indepth safety razor guide is for.
Our plastic free shaving kit contains our 3R safety razor, shaving soap and 5 spare blades. It is THE perfect gift to start someone on the zero waste path.
As the old saying goes, give a person a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and they will eat for a lifetime.
Similar to the experience day idea, giving the gift of a new skill is a terrific way to expose people to something they may never consider signing up for themselves. They may even find a new hobby! Or at the very least you might now have a friend that can repair your bike for free 😊.
Here some of our favourite ideas:
Some people might think twice about giving a second-hand gift (I'm not advocating giving someone an old pair of sweaty trainers) but it's not as strange as you might think.
Think of how amazing it would be if a gift that you gave lasted so long that it could be passed onto the next generation!
Also, antiques, by their very nature, are normally 2nd, 3rd, 4th... who knows how many hands!
Have you read a great book recently and think someone else would like it? What a great personal gift.
We covered a number of apps in our eco-friendly apps list that you can use to find second hand products, some are below:
Some other great places to source second hand goods are:
Struggling to find a gift for someone that has everything? Donating money in their name to a cause that they are passionate about, be it a charity or a local community project, is a great gesture that avoids unnecessary purchases and instead contributes to a worthwhile purpose.
House plants are definitely in vogue at the moment and you can't go wrong with a nice house plant.
There are countless plants to choose from and you can find something to match any budget. Some of the amazing benefits of indoor plants have been shown as:
Are you a dab hand in the kitchen?
Why not make some edible gifts like cakes, pies, chutneys, jams etc. ?
The whole exercise of wrapping presents in paper and sealing it up with sellotape is a single-use nightmare - not to mention sellotape being from plastic. But don't fret, here are some other options:
Are you a fan of origami? If yes, then you'll love this. Furoshiki is a traditional type of cloth used by the Japanese to wrap presents.
Not only does it look super impressive, it means that you can reuse the material again and again for other presents. Here's a master at work showing how it's done:
The last thing you will want to do at the end of Christmas Day is think about NEXT Christmas, but now is a great time to stock up your reuse box.
Christmas cards can become next years' gift tags, and old wrapping paper can be given a new lease of life, depending on how presents have been opened!
So there are our tips, got something to add? let us know in the comments!
Founder of Reco, a marketplace and community dedicated to find shift from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one. #SingleUseSucks