We spend more money at Christmas than we do any other family holiday, even when we can’t afford it – gifts, food, decorations, clothes – ‘tis the season of indulgence. Our wallets take a big hit at Christmas – and so does the planet.

According to Which, people in the UK received £2.2 billion worth of unwanted gifts this year! That’s a lot of stuff that ends up gathering dust in our homes, given to charity shops, or ends up in landfill.

We’re probably not going to stop spoiling our loved ones at Christmas any day soon; but what if we could find more sustainable ways to show them we love them? 

Before you head to the Black Friday sales to buy your loved ones some tat that they might never use – check out our guide to gifting this Christmas.

Step 1: Write a list

Is there something you really want, or need, this Christmas? Write a list to share with your family; and ask for one in return. This will help you to make sure you’re spending money on something your loved ones will cherish / use – not a novelty dancing Santa they don’t want!

You could suggest that your family does a Secret Santa this year, so that instead of buying everyone a little something, each of you buys one person a bigger something. Spending more on less means you’ll be able to buy something that will probably be better quality, more ethical, and last longer.

Step 2: Consider the ‘Buyerachy of Needs’

Do you really need to buy all your presents this year?

Maybe someone you know has a spare copy of a book your Nan would love, or someone has some lego their child doesn’t play with anymore. Try and swap unwanted gifts or items with your friends, or consider buying gifts bought second hand? 

Depending on how crafty you’re feeling, could any of your gifts this year be handmade? Imagine how loved your Mum would feel if you made her a new scarf rather than buying her one!

Step 3: If you have to buy, consider where from

The Amazon Black Friday sales can be tempting – but don’t do it! In 2018, Amazon emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere – roughly equal to the annual emissions of Norway. From their impact on the environment, to the way they treat their workers – there are plenty of reasons to avoid Amazon if you can.

Instead, buy from local and independent shops, or even second-hand. Buying local / second-hand may seem tricker now we’re in lockdown but there are lots of online alternatives – see our list below.

If you have to shop on the high street, use the Good on You app to find out which high street brands are the most ethical.

“We have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy”

Emma Watson, Good On You Supporter

Step 4: Think outside the box

If you haven’t received a list – or you’re unsure of what to get someone – consider giving a different type of gift this year. Give to charity, sponsor a goat, gift a subscription (to Netflix, Spotify, Audible etc) or gift a membership to the National Trust or your local theatre. 

It doesn’t need to be an expensive alternative gift – you could just give your loved ones the gift of your time – tell them their gift is a meal cooked by you, or a picnic in the park next summer. A few years ago, our friends at Global Action Plan launched Elfless Acts to help people give the gift of time at Christmas.

Step 5: Be a sustainable wrapper

Although paper is widely recyclable, a lot of wrapping paper and Christmas cards are made with shiny foil and glitter, which can’t be recycled – so they have to go in the bin.

This Christmas, buy reusable gift bags to ‘wrap’ presents in year after year, instead of disposable wrapping paper – or even make your own! If you are buying wrapper paper, make sure it’s recyclable – I personally love using the brown Kraft paper (and I can use it all year round – for birthdays, anniversaries, even wedding gifts!).

If you’re a fan of writing Christmas cards, consider making your own this year – from scratch, or by using the covers of last year’s cards. Want to buy your cards? RSPB sell a range of plastic-free, recyclable Christmas cards (and wrapping paper!).

Our Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Gifting Guide

We’ve pulled together a list of places where we’ll be doing our shopping this Christmas – but we’d love to hear your ideas and add them to our list! Maybe you own an ethical / sustainable brand, have a favourite shop, or a top tip for wrapping presents sustainably. 

Email hello@curious.earth with your recommendations, and we’ll add them in.

Gifts for Everyone

Gifts for fashion lovers

Use the Good on You app to check how ethical high street brands are

Gifts for nature lovers

Sponsor or adopt an animal (Check out WWF, The Wildlife Trusts, Born Free, or Dogs Trust)

Gifts for film / music / theatre / book lovers

  • Membership to a local theatre (when they reopen, they’ll really need our support!)
  • Subscription to Spotify, Netflix etc.
  • Subscription to Audible

Gifts for kids

Gifts for foodies

Ideas for Christmas Day

Note: we will be adding to this list, to make it the best guide for sustainable gifts and eco-friendly gifting

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