Shopping for Christmas presents can be stressful – and with the cost-of-living crisis, many people may find it particularly challenging this year.
Christmas can also take a toll on the environment. Surveys suggest that, in the UK, an extra 100 million bags of rubbish get sent to landfill each Christmas – this includes around 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging.
But there are ways to reduce your carbon footprint at Christmas without spoiling the festivities – and the good news is that making small changes can save money too. Here are a few ideas.
Avoid unwanted gifts
Every Christmas an estimated 21 million people receive at least one unwanted gift – at an average cost of £42 per present. And, unfortunately, many of these gifts end up in landfill.
To make sure your hard-earned cash isn’t wasted, check with recipients to see what would be particularly welcome this year. Consumables such as food, drink and toiletries are often well received – especially for loved ones that are having to cut down on small luxuries.
And if you receive an unwanted gift, don’t bin it! Instead try selling it, save it to regift, or donate it to your local charity shop.
Christmas is the perfect time to support local businesses. Shopping locally cuts your Christmas carbon footprint by avoiding long car journeys and reducing congestion in big cities – and can save money on petrol and parking charges.
Our Peakland towns and villages are home to many wonderful shops and festive markets. Buying from local tradespeople helps boost the local economy, and is especially important for rural communities – small businesses are really feeling the pinch this year. And locally produced food and crafts have a much lower impact on the environment than mass-produced presents. The transport needed to get them from the producer into our homes is minimal, and they often have less packaging too.
Give homemade gifts
Homemade gifts are a thoughtful way to show friends and family how much you care. And making your own foodie gifts such as chutney, chocolates, or gingerbread can be an affordable alternative to buying shop-bought products.
Keen crafters can use their skills to produce lovely gifts, from crocheted and knitted hats, scarves, bags and toys to homemade candles or bath bombs.
Or collect winter foliage to create wreaths and displays from holly, ivy and other greenery. Real foliage decorations are much better environmentally than their plastic counterparts, and can be composted after December. And by bringing fresh greenery into your home you are continuing a Christmas tradition that is hundreds of years old.
Give the gift of time
Looking for an eco-friendly gift with zero packaging, zero waste, and that is completely free (or almost)? Try offering a valued service for friends and family that you know they will really appreciate. And if you have a special skill or talent, such as cooking, car mechanics or photography, even better!
Ideas include an evening’s babysitting, an hour’s weeding, tackling the ironing basket, cooking a delicious meal, or offering to take care of the family pet while your loved ones are away on holiday.
Before shelling out on expensive wrapping paper, take a look around your house. You’ll probably find lots of suitable wrapping materials – many of which might otherwise be thrown out.
Old road maps make great wrapping paper. You could find a page with a loved-one’s favourite holiday destination, or use old Ordnance Survey maps for a friend who loves walking.
Magazines are another option. How about some wildflower seed packets wrapped in the pages of a gardening magazine? Or baking ingredients wrapped in a page from a cookery magazine?
Even newspaper can look festive if finished with a flamboyant, fabric bow (which can then be saved and reused), or simple string and a sprig of greenery.
Cloth wrappings are good too, as they can be reused again and again. Make a simple square wrap from offcuts of pretty fabric by hemming the edges. Or use a new tea towel or scarf to make the wrapping part of the gift!
If you can, try supporting charities this festive season. Unfortunately, during a cost-of-living crisis, charitable giving is often the first thing to go when families are struggling to pay the bills.
Charities still need help though – and third sector organisations that work to support the most vulnerable members of society face a particularly hard challenge, as demand for their help increases.
Meanwhile, the nature and climate crises mean that environmental organisations are working harder than ever to help boost biodiversity and work to combat climate change.
One excellent way to support charities in the run-up to Christmas is to buy cards, wrapping paper and gifts from them. Most charities have an online shop, or you can visit charity shops in person. Oxfam, for example, has a fantastic range of ethical, Fairtrade gifts in store, from chocolate and jam to socks and soft toys.
You can also look in charity shops for second hand gifts. As well as being a more affordable option, buying second-hand gifts is better for the environment too. This is particularly true when it comes to toys, as new toys are often packaged in excessive amounts of plastic.
Save the Children helps children in poverty in the UK and across the world. The charity’s online shop has lots of affordable gifts, including sustainable scented candles and soaps as well as Christmas cards and wrapping paper.
Conservation charity RSPB works to protect habitats, save species and help end the nature and climate emergencies. Its online shop is packed with gift ideas for all budgets – and is an especially good source of ideas for gardeners and nature-lovers.
Or take a look at Trees for Life – a rewilding charity working to restore habitats across the Scottish Highlands (www.treesforlife.org.uk/our-shop). Trees for Life’s ‘Scotland’s Wild Forest’ calendar features stunning photographs of Scottish landscapes and wildlife – providing a unique annual celebration of the richness and diversity of the Caledonian Forest. It also includes interesting facts about pinewood plants and animals. Proceeds from sales will support the charity’s activities – including growing native tree species in its Dundreggan estate nursery, planting trees, and offering opportunities for people to reconnect with nature.