Self / 22.11.2019

How to crack conscious gifting this Christmas

By Charlotte Haigh MacNeil
Worried about waste, overspending and general excess? Follow our tips for buying more meaningful gifts this festive season
Image: iStock

These days, we’re all trying to be more conscious about what we’re buying and throwing away ­– but Christmas gifts can still present a conundrum. Figures show that on average, each Christmas we get through 300,000 tonnes of card packaging alone. ‘These days, disposable income is generally higher, things are cheaper and people are more willing to get into debt,’ says ethical business coach Jen Gale. A survey by the Money Advice Trust found that one in three Britons borrow money for Christmas gifts.

‘There are some signs that things are starting to change,’ says Tim Hunt of Ethical Consumer. The Fairtrade Foundation reports 25% of us now actively choose fair trade when we shop, and the latest Ethical Consumers Market Report found the ethical goods and services market grew 8.5% in 2015 – the market is now worth almost double the tobacco market in the UK. The way we shop is dovetailing with the soaring popularity of the Scandi lifestyle concepts of hygge – warmth, cosiness and comfort – and lagom – not too little, not too much – which reflect our yearning for a simpler, more meaningful way of life. ‘Having a more conscious Christmas means putting more time and thought into the festive season rather than just throwing money at it – and that can increase everyone’s anticipation and enjoyment,’ says Gale. ‘The golden rule is planning in advance – you can’t leave everything to the last minute if you’re doing Christmas this way.’

Give presents with presence

Buy experience gifts, not just things. Research from San Francisco State University has found that experiences make people happier than possessions. Some alternative gift ideas could include:

  • A voucher for a massage or reflexology.
  • Membership of an organisation such as the National Trust or the RSPB. You’ll be supporting the charity’s work while also encouraging your loved ones to get out and about.
  • A workshop for something creative such as drumming, painting or dancing, or something eco-practical like upcycling furniture.
  • A ‘night in’ package. Buy a couple you love some popping corn, a bottle of organic wine and an e-voucher for a movie.

Go ethical

‘When you buy fast fashion, you risk supporting companies that pay workers unfair wages and also pollute the environment,’ says Gale. There are some great ethical alternatives: we love People Tree for on-trend clothes in organic, fair-trade fabrics; Shanti Sundays for ethically produced yoga and relaxation wear; and Mirabelle for fair trade, handmade jewellery.

Choose second-hand stocking fillers

‘Start keeping an eye out a few weeks before Christmas, as there’s a certain amount of luck involved – but finding the right thing can be so rewarding,’ says Gale. Ebay can also be a great source, and you can unearth some fantastic finds in second-hand book shops.

Go for green beauty

Most women love a luxurious body lotion or facial skincare product. Avoid the chemical nasties in mainstream brands and pick natural, organic ranges based on essential oils and plant ingredients.

Shun novelty presents

‘Buying cheap, jokey Christmas gifts for the office Secret Santa is such a waste,’ believes Gale. Why not suggest that instead of buying things, you and your colleagues make each other unique gifts instead? It could be a Spotify playlist, a cake or a jar of chutney. Or you could have a regifting tombola, where everybody brings in their unwanted presents and then puts them into a lucky dip.

Rethink wrapping and cards


Reuse old wrapping paper or newspaper, and try to get your family to agree that you won’t send cards this year. Donate the money you would have spent on wrapping and cards to charity instead.

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How to crack conscious gifting this Christmas
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How to crack conscious gifting this Christmas
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Worried about overspending and excess this Christmas? We've put together some buying tips for gifting your loved ones meaningful, conscious gifts.
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Healthy magazine
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