Sustainability and the environment have (quite rightly) become particularly important and well-discussed topics this year.
With growing concerns around single-use plastic, fast fashion and a throwaway culture, attention is now turning to the ways in which we celebrate over the holidays and how we can reduce mindless consumerism and the environmental impact of the season. Did you know that, in the UK alone, we create 30% more waste than usual during the festive period?
As I’ve been trying to make sustainable changes to my lifestyle throughout the year, I’ve been thinking about some of the ways that we might all be able to reduce our waste this Christmas and cut back on unnecessary spending (which can cause a lot of stress at this time of year!) but still have festive fun in the process.
Here’s just a few suggestions of things that I’m doing, or plan to try, this Christmas that you might find useful. Even if you can just make a few conscious swaps this year, it’s a great place to start and every little change counts!
Reuse wrapping paper and materials
Instead of being recycled, a massive 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year!
An easy swap here would simply be to make sure we’re all recycling the wrapping paper used this December – but, another great way to reduce waste and save money is to keep reusing gift bags.
Over the past 5 or so years, my family and I have rotated our gift bags. Every time you receive a gift in one, store the bag away and bring it out for the next time you’d like to gift something. The bags will last a surprisingly long time and you don’t need to wrap each individual item in more paper. Win-win!
Why not begin this habit now? Look after your wrapping items, store them away for next year and you’re sorted come next Christmas.
Buy vintage and second hand items
Give pre-loved items a new lease of life this Christmas. Whether it’s a great vintage jacket, a glitzy bag or a set of books, you can find so many great gift ideas by hunting around a couple of second hand stores.
Don’t let the preconception of a dusty old charity shop and tatty items put you off finding your gifts this way. You can discover some really great, unique gems in thrift shops and they’re usually a fraction of the price!
If you’re worried about how your loved ones might react to second hand gifts – you don’t have to tell them! – but also, you could start by slowly introducing them to the idea. Let your friends and family know that you’d prefer to receive vintage or second hand items yourself, such as a new (old) denim jacket or a glass decanter for your festive spirits, for example. Give second hand a go this Christmas!
Make your own Christmas gifts
This is a great way to get a bit creative and enjoy a festive activity. You can get all cosy, put on some Christmas music or your favourite film, and make your own gifts.
It can be much cheaper than buying new and it’s much more thoughtful. It’s always special to receive a handmade item from friends or family. You can make sure it’s a reusable gift too.
For example, one year I made a delicious cranberry sauce with orange and vodka that could be used for Christmas meals and the traditional Boxing Day buffet. I gifted it in a nice glass jar, wrapped it up in a bow, so they could enjoy the sauce and reuse the glass jar. Food always goes down well!
You could try your hand at making Christmas cookies, a photo album of your favourite memories or (if you’re really adventurous) a cute cross-stitch to hang on the wall.
Swap expensive meals out for cosy home gatherings
Forget about big, fancy dinners that cost lots of money, time and energy to plan, and instead, get your loved ones together to watch a Christmas film and eat some seasonal snack (extra points if they’re veggie or vegan!).
It’s a great excuse to get cosy in blankets and you could even play some board- or Christmas themed games. Swap stress for spending time with the people you care about this year, that’s what you’ll remember in the long run.
Buy from local, small and independent businesses
I’m a big advocate for doing this throughout the year, but especially at Christmas time. As well as thinking about the environmental impact of your purchases this holiday season, it’s important to think about where you’re putting your money.
Buying from small, indie businesses means you are supporting another person and their family. It’s not just throwing your money at big corporations, but rather helping a real person to continue living, grow their business and feed into your local community.
Buying local can also be a great way to reduce the environmental impact of getting gifts transported around the world. I like to think of buying from small businesses as giving twice (and you get a nice warm fuzzy feeling too!).
Give gifts that can help to make positive changes next year
If you’re really passionate about reducing waste and being more environmentally friendly, now is a good time to gently encourage friends and family to get involved too.
You could gift the coffee lover in your family a pretty, reusable mug or you could give someone a gift set from Lush to help them discover cruelty free bath products.
For example, my brother is passionate about making positive ethical and environment changes and so he’s (early, I know) gifted me two books on homemade, plant-based beauty and the impact of fast fashion. These are great books that will help me to continue changing my behaviour next year, as well as being really thoughtful items that I know he has chosen with care.
Swap gifts for charitable donations
If gifting still isn’t your thing, why not consider donating to charity instead of buying something?
Christmas doesn’t need to be a time of excess. Plus, this is a particularly handy option if you’ve got a fussy family member who doesn’t want anything but you’d still like to make the gesture.
Why not consider donating to a charity close to their heart?
Around this time of year, you can often buy set ‘gift’ packages that will tell you what your money is going towards. Pop this in a card and let them know you’ve made a donation in their name. It’s a great swap to make instead of mindlessly buying when the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Will you be making any sustainable swaps this Christmas?
Are you hoping to make any environmentally-friendly changes during this festive period? Share your ideas below or let me know if any of these tips have encouraged you to make some simple swaps this year!