5 Smarter Ways to Shop this Christmas


For the earth, Christmas is not necessarily the most wonderful time of the year – but you can help!

A huge amount of pollution and environmental damage is created during Christmas, such as Christmas trees (real and artificial) being thrown away after only one use, Christmas jumpers never being worn again, and (one of the biggest polluters) gift giving. According to Commercial Waste, unwanted gifts create around £700,000,000 of extra waste per year!

As students, there’re many simple things which we can do to make Christmas better for the planet, our pockets and each other, while still embracing all the best parts of the festive season. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Embrace Memories Instead of Things

Once you think you’ve found the perfect gift for someone, you can’t always guarantee that the present will be used. Buying e-gift cards, allows someone to spend the money how they want to and so can be a more sustainable option compared to something that could become unused. High Street Vouchers is a good website for e-gift cards and has a range to choose from, from restaurants to clothes shops.

People love making memories and e-gift card experiences can be the perfect thing for this! If you know someone with a passion such as horse riding or travelling, then this could be the perfect present for them that can be found with just a quick google search.

If you and a friend love pizza, why not take them for a meal at an Italian restaurant? Doing something like this instead of giving a physical present could end up being a lot more worth your time and is a lot healthier for the planet.

Make time to catch up with loved ones – original image by Anna Preece

2. Consider Product Sourcing

When buying from big corporations, make sure you consider their sustainability principles (and watch out for greenwash!), as many can be quite bad, focusing largely on profit above people and planet. Shopping with more sustainable brands is a good way to shop this Christmas:

  • Consider purchasing presents second-hand as a simple way of recycling, as well as saving you money at the same time. Charity shops are the perfect places to find little gifts and the money goes to a good cause. Bath Road in Cheltenham is full of great charity shops, and could be the place to start your Christmas shop.
  • Use sites such as Etsy where you can buy directly from small businesses and craftspeople. It’s full of cute homemade gifts and buying these can help support smaller companies.
  • Look for vegan and environmentally friendly companies, such as Lush (a handmade cosmetics company).

Make sure you keep an eye out for greenwash: find out more by listening to ‘Live Smart Investigates… Greenwash’.

Tonnes of wrapping paper from presents is wasted every year (and some even contain microplastics that can’t be recycled), so avoiding wrapping when possible is also a good recommendation. When wrapping presents, try using recycled and recyclable wrapping paper.

Source – Unsplash – @artificalphotography

3. Get Creative

If you enjoy getting crafty, making gifts is a great idea. If you like baking, making anything from cookies to cakes could be a fun activity, save you some money, and be the perfect present for the workplace or housemates. Sometimes the simpler recipes are best, such as this chocolate cake recipe or this chocolate cookie recipe.

If you’re particularly good at a creative skill such as drawing or sewing, why not put this to use for your presents? We all have items lying around which can be reused or upcycled, such as plastic bottles and toilet role tubes; why not get artsy and incorporate these into a gift for someone? If you’re stuck for ideas, use the internet for inspiration, there’re hundreds of ideas out there. Here’s some great ones to get you started:

Source – Unsplash – @kellysikkema

4. Share the Load

At Christmas, there’re so many people to shop for. Suggesting a Secret Santa for your friendship group or workplace is more sustainable than going out and buying a bunch of presents. Going halves with a friend on a present is also a good plan and makes shopping for presents a lot easier.

Throwing a party and asking everyone to bring something to contribute such as food or drinks instead of bringing presents, can also help the environment.

Source – Unsplash – @theretrostoreuk

5. Give Back to the Community

Christmas is all about spreading love, and donating to charity could be a great way to give back to the community. Not everyone can enjoy Christmas like we can, so helping people to have a better Christmas is an amazing gift that you can give someone.

If you know someone who’s lonely this Christmas, such as an elderly neighbour, why not go and say hello. Baking someone like this a homemade cake could make their Christmas really special.

When ordering a gift online, it usually has to travel from afar to arrive at your front door. Support locally, at places such as local farm shops, which are great for supporting local farmers. Farm shops have amazing fresh gifts such as fruit baskets and gingerbread men which are scrumptious!

Source – Unsplash – @Kattyukawa

Hopefully you now have some ideas about how to make more sustainable choices this Christmas. Even doing the smallest things can have such a big impact if more people did them. Christmas is a magical time of year, but not always for the environment, so let’s all play our part and make this festive season better for the planet!

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