Dear Father Christmas, Please can we have more Sustainable Presents?

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The holiday season is a difficult time for even the most environmentally conscious among us. This Christmas, Millie Cross gives us four ways to make our gifting more sustainable.

According to House Beautiful (2018), the UK alone produces 300,000 tonnes of cardboard packing every Christmas. This is enough to cover the entirety of London’s landmark Big Ben 260,000 times. Every year products bought as gifts are returned to stores around the country. In 2017, Forbes reported that 5 billion pounds’ worth of retail returns were ending up in landfill as opposed to being resold. Are second hand Christmas presents and home-made presents acceptable? Are they really necessary? These statistics would definitely suggest they are! However, there seems to be a stigma around these sorts of presents, why?

Last Christmas I decided to look in charity shops and make my own Christmas presents. At the time I wasn’t necessarily doing this because of the planet but actually because my bank account was incredibly small. However, when you start to think about the statistics above and with the environment being such a topical issue, you can’t help but think of the planet. My family and friends were moved more by the presents they received last year than those previously purchased from high-street chains. Below are ways you can be more sustainable this Christmas. 

Charity Shops: are great places to find gifts for people. It’s amazing what people give to charity; jumpers, books, kitchenware…you name it they are all there. Charity shops sift through their donations to ensure that the quality of their products is high enough to be sold to customers. Headingley is home to so many great charity shops; Oxfam, Sue Ryder, British Heart Foundation and Mind. Finding gifts in charity shops allows you to give lovely gifts to friends and family as well as donating money to charity to help those who need it most. 

Re-gifting: this often fills one with a sense of guilt. However, re-gifting does not mean you are ungrateful it simply means that the present you received may be more suited to somebody else than yourself. We’ve all been given something where we have thought “this doesn’t suit me?”- why not gift it to someone who would suit it?! Re-gifting directly reduces the frightening number of gifts which end up in landfill each year. 

Make your own: get creative and make your own presents! Creating your own presents through artwork or photo collages can mean so much more than buying something from a high-street shop. Home-made cakes and truffles can make such lovely Christmas presents.

Buy experiences: Often experiences can make nicer presents then purchasing actual products. Wreath making, afternoon tea, make-up classes, spa days…the list of fun is endless! While some experiences do leave an environmental footprint, this alternative helps avoid the possibility of wasted gifts ending up in landfill.

Trying at least one of these sustainable gift ideas will help to limit the amount of waste and landfill produced this Christmas. Whether your gifts are second-hand, re-gifted, or homemade, show Santa that putting slightly more thoughtful offerings under the tree can be even more exciting.

© Chris Yates/Oxfam