Giving green, your guide to lower-impact gifts for a sustainable Christmas

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victorian-santa-claus-house-snow-holly-christmas-cardBy Penelope Salmon

Your presents don’t have to cost the Earth 

A few million people in Britain are still paying off debts from last Christmas but it doesn’t have to be this way.  We’re constantly inundated with adverts for toys, Christmas outfits, party ideas, films, stocking fillers and food but don’t let yourselves be suckered in!   Instead, think of ways to focus on a few carefully chosen gifts that really evoke the spirit of Christmas without costing a fortune.


This Christmas keep the focus on celebrating the Giving rather than the Receiving and all of those other little things that help us remember what the Christmas Spirit is all about such as Love, Gratitude, Family and Community, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all.

Now is the perfect time to come together as a family and care for the planet as well as those who are worse off than ourselves.  Think of the homeless in our own towns and cities, the children in hospitals over Christmas and of course the Syrian refugees uprooted, away from their homes, cold and suffering in a foreign land.

As a family, you could get together by filling shoeboxes of outgrown toys to give to the refugee children or those in hospitals and orphanages.  Go through your cupboards and look for unused gloves, woolly hats, coats, sleeping bags or tools to send to Calais.   Find out from your local group what items are needed and when the next van is taking donations to the refugees there.   It’s just wonderful to come together and bond as a family and for your children to feel they’re making a difference.

Toys and Gifts

Buy fewer toys this Christmas.  Children don’t need many toys and most toys are thrown to one side after the first couple of hours.  Avoid plastic toys as they don’t last long and plastic is one of the most destructive environmental factors as it just doesn’t break down.  With plastic when you throw it away, there is no away!

A great fun idea is to visit the Christmas fairs in your area and buy quality homemade and bespoke gifts, which help all sorts of local artists, jewellers, candle makers and clothes designers.   You can find lovely individual gifts for everyone and spend a lot less whilst supporting those in your local community at the same time.  Also avoid the big supermarkets and mainstream High Street shops by visiting your local gift and artisan shops, bringing life back to your High Streets.   You can also find wonderful gifts in charity shops where many new items such as knitted gloves, hats and books are often in stock as well as pre-loved.

Biscuits, sweets and jams can also make wonderful Christmas presents and gingerbread men are popular at this time of year and can be baked and hung on the tree.  Of course, don’t forget satsumas and nuts in stockings, the most traditional gifts of all!

Avoid on-line shopping at companies like Amazon but shop instead at companies such as Nigel’s Eco Store or Ethical Superstore. You can find great ethical men’s clothing at Brothers We Stand.  You can also visit some of the on line shops at environmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth or Sea Shepherd. You could also consider giving an EcoHustler Water Canteen or the Gift of Resurgence.

Some other ideas 

  • How about setting up a Secret Santa?  This is always fun and works well if there are lots of children or if you are just a smaller number of adults.
  • If your friends and family want to buy gifts for you or your children then you could ask for donations towards some of the bigger gifts that they might want such as a bicycle or computer game.   This way no-one is disappointed.
  • Avoid toys with batteries or use rechargeable batteries.
  • If you receive gifts that you don’t want, remember that you can pass them on to charity shops or someone else that would like and use them.
  • And remember to take your own bags!

Happy Christmas!!

christmas forage