Christmas is a wasteful time! So what can you do?

Survey after survey has shown that we spend crazy amounts of money on expensive gifts from big chain stores. Many presents are unwanted to in essence we are just lining the pockets of multinational corporations and millionaires.

Some people opt to not give gifts at all but for many that just doesn’t feel ‘christmassy’. If you do want to buy things, There are a number of options for ‘ethical’ presents. Ethical is a hard to define word so just have a think before you start about what matters to you.

Gifts where the gift is a good deed (no ‘stuff’ involved)

If you aren’t one for physical stuff then the internet is ripe with options where your money can go to a good cause and your recipient isn’t weighed down with more possessions.

  • Oxfam have the well known option to give a family a goat  along with many other ingenious charity gifts.
  • Kiva is a peer lending company, allowing you to loan money to people around to start businesses, go to school or any other manner of things.
  • From Unicef you can give a gift to a syrian child
  • You can adopt an animal with the WWF
  • Donate a christmas dinner to a homeless person with Centrepoint
  • Simply donate to a charity or community organisation of your choice on a friends behalf and give them a nice card to say what you’ve done.

Buy new gifts from a charity

By buying from a charity you are essentially giving money to that charity. Most charities have gift catalogs and a range of both useful and beautiful present ideas

  • I am of course going to focus here on Amnesty International. From T-shirts to, cushions and  candles, there are a multitude of gifts available, many of which are fairtrade and ethically sourced.
  • The Wallace and Gromit charity has a range of gifts, not just wallace and gromit figurines and supports Bristol Children’s hospital.
  • Check the websites of most other charities and they will usually have a gift shop

Buy second hand

By buying second hand goods you are recycling. if you are also buying from a charity shop  such as us you are giving money directly to that charity.

Most high streets have a number of charity shops. If you are heading to Gloucester Rd in Bristol for your christmas shopping you could stop by

Buy Fairtrade or Organic or Local

If you are buying items new then you can still do your bit by having a think about where the gifts are from and where the money is going.fairtrade

  • Fairtrade goods- You can get many fairtrade items nowadays from chocolates to T-shirts. Fairtrade products must meet certain social, economic and environmental standards so they are likely to represent a better deal for the people that produce them.
  • Organic goods– Organic goods must have been produced without certain chemical or fertilizers. Many people feel this makes them more healthy for the consumer (although evidence on this is limited). But organic is not just for health nuts- fertilizers, antibiotics and other chemicals banned in organic practice contribute to soil, water and air pollution as well phenomenon such as antibiotic resistance and Bee reduction. There is also the argument that organic farms in developing countries are likely to have better conditions for workers- For example there are many serious health risks associated with conventional cotton production
  • (Just a note here that some very small companies haven’t got certifications such as fairtrade and organic but may still try and work ethically for example by carefuly selecting their supply chain and taking care who they buy from- check individual company websites for details)
  • Local goods- Despite the massive amount of chain shops around, most streets stil have a great number of small local businesses and if you hunt around you will find local producers and crafts people who make everything from jam to pottery. There are two aspects here – firstly would you prefer Bill Gates to get your money or the friendly lady in the deli down the road? Shopping local supports local business and people.  Secondly if you are buying things made locally you are reducing the travel miles of your gift and so reducing it’s carbon footprint and it’s environmental impact. (If in Bristol, Gloucester Rd is packed full of independent shops)

The aftermath: Recycle and reuse!

  • Wrapping paper can be saved for reuse or if the sellotape is removed can be used to light fires, home composted or put out for council recycling.
  • Waste food can be composted or recycled by the council.
  • All those bottles can all be recycled (or kept to fill with home-brew).
  • Unwanted gifts can be stored away to give to (different) people next year. They can be taken to a charity shop (we rely on your donations!) or given away on freecycle or put on ebay/gumtree/local facebook groups for sale. My area of Bristol has a tradition of putting out unwanted items on on our garden wall on sunny days- anything on a garden wall is free to a good home.
  • Christmas Trees can be collected by the council or sometimes taken to the zoo for animals to play with. Or if you got one with roots, put it in a pot in the garden and use it again next year.

I hope these ides and thoughts are useful. Good luck and Happy Christmas!