In the second part of our Gifting Sustainably series, Annabel Mulliner highlights her top 5 ethical and independent businesses you can support this Christmas.
Although it’s much better for the planet to cut down on the number of gifts we buy, it doesn’t mean we must boycott buying new altogether. Some items you just can’t buy second hand, like my two Christmas essentials: chocolate and gin. Considering there are reminders everywhere of the painful hit our economy has taken this year, and the fact that small businesses are struggling, there’s no shame in supporting those local businesses that need our custom more than ever.
Many small businesses have been forced to close their doors in the lead up to Christmas. It’s estimated that small businesses lost up to £69 billion from the pandemic, and 234,000 businesses have stopped trading altogether. It’s about putting your money in the right place – in the pocket of your favourite local jewellers or chocolatiers, rather than Amazon and other online giants. Moreover, it’s important to make sure that what you’re buying will be used and treasured! If you know your sister has worn all her t-shirts into the ground, or that your mum can’t resist a face mask, then you know exactly what to get them.
To help inspire any last-minute Christmas purchases you might be about to make, I’ve compiled some of my favourite independent, ethical businesses, covering several bases from skincare to chocolate. These are just some ideas to get you started; I encourage you to explore the independent businesses on your doorstep – you might just find a new favourite brand.
This London-based, black-owned vegan skincare brand is your one-stop shop for everything from face masks to rose water toner. The company’s emphasis is on zero waste, with many of their products coming in reusable glass or otherwise biodegradable packaging. They also sell products in bulk in order to save on excess packaging, so you can grab a stocking filler that will last all year long. Their products are also free of nasty chemicals and palm oil.
Their face mask bundle includes six samples of their various clay masks, along with a high-quality brush for application. Though the contents are worth £18, the bundle deal is just £12 and comes in plastic-free packaging too. They sent me a bundle to try*, and I’d highly recommend it as it’s a great way to work out which of their masks best suit your skin type and each sample can easily be stretched to two applications, which means the bundle lasts a long time if you’re doing one application a week.
If you’re going to invest in a new t-shirt, make sure it’s not only hard-wearing and made of sustainable materials, but that the company supports its workers and looks to enact positive change with their profits. She Shirts’ profits all go straight back into charities that support and empower women like Women’s Aid and London Black Women’s Project. They are a proudly anti-racist and LGBTQ+ allied company, and first and foremost consider themselves a charitable enterprise. Their shirts are printed in the UK on organic cotton using low-waste printing technology, and they work closely with their suppliers to ensure fair working conditions for their cotton producers.
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without copious amounts of chocolate. But the supermarket variety often comes from a less than savoury background, usually wrapped in a lot of unnecessary and unrecyclable plastic. Choc Affair, on the other hand, is committed to sustainable cocoa farming practises. They work closely with their farmers through their Chocolate Dream program and finance rural cocoa farming communities so that their children can go to school.
Their chocolate is 100% palm oil free, and they use FSC-certified cardboard and paper packaging. Not only that, but I can vouch for the fact that their flavours are seriously delicious. Choc Affair are family-run and their chocolate is handmade locally in small patches in York. For the option of giving an experience, they sell a hot chocolate tasting kit, consisting of five hot chocolates with unique flavours from around the world; or, their chocolate making activity kits for the young at heart.
For many of us, booze is a go-to Christmas present, but when it comes to sustainability, not all brands are equal. All of York Gin’s packaging is plastic-free, and they recycle 100% of their cardboard, glass, and plastic waste from production. On top of this, their distillery is run by 100% renewable energy. If you’re local to York, you can benefit from their local delivery service, which is carried out by an electric vehicle too. If you aren’t local, you can still order from them online. Alternatively, why not find out where your local breweries and distilleries are?
Shared Earth is a treasure trove for unique and ethically sourced gifts, from home decor to earrings, to incense and more. They regularly monitor their business against the 10 principles of Fair Trade set by the World Trade Organisation, and have their own aims as well, such as offering 50% upfront payment to overseas producers. Though many of Shared Earth’s products are produced abroad, this is a deliberate choice, with the aim of supporting artisans in developing countries. Their founder, Jeremy Piercy, established the company to help address the imbalance of wealth he had seen abroad. They are now the largest Fair Trade retailer in the UK.
Where possible, they ship products by sea rather than air and charge a 10% climate crisis levy for all goods imported by air and any goods containing more than 10% plastic. The proceeds from this levy are either put towards planting trees or invested into green energy, amongst other projects. They have two UK stores, one in York and one in Liverpool, as well as an online shop.
*Sponsored: Suneeta London kindly sent me their face mask bundle to try (and it was awesome).
All images, unless otherwise stated, are credited to their respective company.
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.