Editor Annabel Mulliner shares some inspiration on how we can gift more sustainably this Christmas season, starting with some alternatives to buying new on the high street.
Picture this: a chaotic pile of itchy glittery socks, shower minis that will probably give you a rash, amongst other gifts, surrounded by a moat of shredded wrapping paper that’s ready for the bin. This is a scene many of us will have faced every December.
The average Brit spends £476 on Christmas; forget the ghost of Christmas past – we’re dealing with the beast of overconsumption. How many gifts have you received that you neither needed nor wanted? How many have you given yourself, for the sake of giving? For myself, the answer would be too many to count.
The question is – what does gifting sustainably even mean? The most sustainable thing to do, after all, is to buy less – or to buy nothing at all. But the prospect of zero presents under the tree is hard to swallow even for the more eco-conscious of us, and a near impossible sell to our extended families.
But like all the purchases we make year round, we can buy more consciously. We can buy less, or choose presents that our loved ones really need. One idea that’s been circulating to help cut down the pile of presents is the rule of three: something they want, something they need, and something to read. There’s really no need for a huge Primark haul – by slimming down what we buy, we can focus on putting more thought into what we’re getting. If you’re buying new, it’s important to look at where the gift is coming from – where was it made, and by whom? What materials were used?
It feels great to give gifts to those we love at Christmas, but doing so mindfully can not only help to save the planet, but can help us also give gifts which will really be cherished.
Handmade with Love
Over the next few weeks, the WILD team will be putting together a series of handmade gift how-to guides, in a bid to help our readers give mindfully this Christmas, and also to have a bit of fun! To kick us off, I’ve put together some suggestions of alternative gifts to buy – in case crafts aren’t your thing. In our first guide this week, Deputy Lifestyle Editor Lizzi Philokyprou shares with us how to make homemade candles.
The Gift of Time
My usual go-to alternative to a physical gift would be to give an ‘experience’, but this year that’s a lot more difficult, with COVID restrictions shutting down many entertainment venues and limiting our close contact with those outside of our households.
But if you don’t mind looking ahead a few months, or carefully planning around local restrictions, planning a day out can never go amiss. What have you and your family been wanting to do together for ages but have never gotten around to? How about a trip to your favourite lunch place, aquarium or museum? A day out to a local beauty spot?
If you’re limited to your own house, there are plenty of other experiences you can make. Gifting a puzzle or another project to do together could make for a cosy and festive day at home. My sister and dad used to spend Christmas morning starting on a new Lego model every year; if your families had similar traditions, why not revive them? Some of these items can be bought second hand, too.
Alternatively, making a charitable donation on the recipient’s behalf is a great way to give back to your local community, or the planet, this festive season. Animal sponsorship often comes with some added extras. For example, via Adopt a Dolphin, you can choose which dolphin you adopt and receive extra info about them; with WWF, you have the option to receive info and updates about the work your donation is aiding, and a cute plushie. This is a great way to get younger family members interested in animals and the wider environment.
To save on paper, you could donate the amount you would usually spend on Christmas cards to your chosen charity. Many cards are non-recyclable, producing a huge amount of waste for a product which we only keep around the house for a couple of weeks.
Why buy new, when there are so many items out there with plenty of life left in them? Sometimes the best gifts are pre-loved. With second-hand clothing sites like Depop and eBay, you could snag your loved one a perfect (and affordable) vintage piece, or a high street item for a fraction of the price.
For bookworms, why not purchase these second hand too? Sites like World of Books or AbeBooks often sell copies which are in near-new condition, and you can sleep soundly knowing you’ve saved an awful lot of paper.
About the Author: Annabel Mulliner is the Managing Editor of WILD Magazine, and is in her third year of studying English Literature at the University of York.