You see your pile of Christmas presents under the tree and rub your hands with glee at the anticipation of what is inside that shiny, festive wrapping paper.
However, while you may be vaguely delighted to receive your annual soap-on-a-rope from Auntie Edna and a bottle of bubble bath from your second cousin twice removed, you could be in the minority.
A new study has shown that 60 million unwanted Christmas presents are bought each year, costing a whopping £380m.
A recent YouGov poll revealed that more than half of the 2,000 people (57 per cent) who took part admitted they receive at least one unwanted gift per Christmas, with the main culprit being bath products.
You see, not everyone appreciates a soap-on-a-rope.
And if that isn’t bad enough, it’s all too common to watch over-indulged children rip open present after present. Some may be duplicates of what they already have, some won’t be age appropriate, some take up too much room and many, no doubt, will be made from plastic and eventually end up in landfill.
UK charity Send a Cow is urging consumers to limit their excessive Christmas gift buying and purchase life-changing virtual gifts instead.
Paul Stuart, CEO at the Bath-based charity, told Acre: “Buying a Send a Cow virtual gift for a loved one has a double impact and goes far beyond your typical gift of socks or smellies which often end up in the bin.
“The person receiving the gift feels good knowing that a donation has been made with them in mind and a struggling family in Africa receives vital support to help them transform their lives. It’s a gift which feels good and does good; what could be better than that?’’
So, this year, it’s time to rethink how you shop at Christmas. Make this the year that you shop more consciously. Consumers are frantically clicking online to order mass-produced presents, to save them a trip into town, resulting in some people ending up in debt because they simply cannot afford to buy the gifts.
This really doesn’t make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year, it’s more likely to bring doom and gloom – and damage to the environment.
But all is not lost. There are other options, however, and Acre has taken a look at what you can buy, without harming our planet or your conscience. We’re dreaming of a green Christmas, we hope you are too.
Instead of sending a friend a pair of novelty slippers, why not send a cow instead? Or perhaps a goat or even a beehive. This kind of virtual gift means you will be supporting a family in Africa to work their way out of poverty.
For £8 you could buy a real, live chicken to help a family in dire need. The eggs can be sold throughout the community and eventually the protein-rich meat will nourish the family. The money you donate for the virtual gift will be used where the need is the greatest.
Families will be taught how to build the best chicken coops to enable happy chicken to be kept safe from predators, so they can continue to lay eggs and the gift of a chicken is given to families in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda and Uganda. They will then pass their knowledge down the line and therefore your donation provides a sustainable future for years to come.
The person you buy the virtual gift for will receive a gift pack (or e-card if you prefer) informing them of the generous gift. Isn’t that a nicer feeling than buying someone a pair of naff Christmas socks?
A beehive (£33) will provide a family with nutrients and enable them to make money from selling the honey, which could help buy medicine and school fees. Or you could spend £33 on an item of clothing or aftershave. Which the recipient might not wear. It’s a no-brainer.
This UK retailer sells an abundance of upcycled and eco-friendly products which could make a perfect gift for your loved one this Christmas. The giftware company, in Warwick, is rapidly becoming the leader in home and garden products which is music to the eco-conscious buyer’s ears.
All Protect the Planet’s products are either:
– Made in the UK
– Made of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood
– Energy saving
– Ethically made
– Protecting our wildlife
The only thing you really have to concern yourself with is which present you will choose from the vast array. From green office supplies (fancy a bamboo iPad stand or a notepad made from a circuit board, anyone?) to a bread board made from recycled coffee cups, it’s no easy task.
It’s a great solution when you are buying for the person who has everything. We bet they haven’t already got a belt made out of recycled tyres, an H20 powered can-shaped clock which literally runs on water or an enamel colander light pendant. They have? Really? Well, we don’t believe you.
Here you can buy plastic-free silk dental floss if you’re looking for a greener stocking filler or a bamboo tumbler for the bathroom.
From two-tier stainless steel lunchboxes and straws for those who are enjoying a plastic-free lifestyle, to paper potter devices which enable green-fingered sorts to make their own environmentally-friendly seedling pots, this company has all things covered.
You could opt for a recycled brass heart necklace for your loved one or perhaps a bee-friendly tea towel. Made from organic cotton, it features beautiful illustrations of some of the most popular flowers that bees love for honey-making and 75p from every sale is donated to Friends of the Earth.
The company, based in Gateshead, aims to find eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items from food to cosmetics. It offers fairly-traded goods to help support farmers and small businesses in developing countries to avoid exploitation and guarantees fair prices at every stage of the supply chain.
Ethical Superstore also focuses on what’s going on closer to home, by giving UK-based brands the opportunity to sell British-made products and therefore reduce carbon emissions.
This ethical company is brimming with Christmas present ideas which fall into the following categories: Natural, organic, British, Fairtrade, recycled and sustainable.
The aim of this is to help consumers make an informed choice about purchases, which is perfect when you are considering environmentally-friendly festive gifts for your loved ones.
Based in Wiltshire, its founder has more than 14 years’ experience working for one of the UK’s biggest retailers. These days, however, the focus is on buying products from small suppliers with the aim of ensuring people, animals and the environment are not exploited.
There are many different planet-loving gift ideas to whet your appetite, from sterling silver earrings that are hand made in Cornwall (and feature discarded wooden skateboard decks in the design), to fair trade candles which are handcrafted by the Dalit people of India.
The candles come with details of the Fairtrade nature of the product and the purchase will help provide vital support for the Dalit people and street children of this community.
Whether you happen to be looking for coasters (and this company sells beautifully designed ones made from tyres discarded in America), a wallet made from upcycled fire hoses or a necklace made from recycled PET plastic, this is a company you need to know about.
The mother and daughter team is made up of Lynn Ball and her daughter Jessica, who is also currently working for Global Landscape Forum in Bonn. They launched Yours Sustainably in 2011 and carefully source products from around the world.
Lynn told Acre: “We firmly believe that sustainable products can be beautiful, desirable and functional, and that shopping for ethical, environmentally sensitive goods shouldn’t involve compromising style or desirability.”
With diverse gift options galore, how about buying a new credit card holder for the man who has everything, but a card holder made from cork, rather than leather.
Cork, which is the fully sustainable bark of the cork oak tree, is removed every nine years and the cork can be removed without damaging the trunk.
The eco-friendly gift is PETA approved and completely vegan.
Or for those nature lovers in your life, you could buy an upcycled fat ball bird feeder, made from ten recycled yoghurt pots. Use up your unwanted bird-friendly food at the same time to eliminate waste, perfect for those who always cook too much rice! Designed with drainage holes and a handy spike, this kit also contains all the ingredients you need plus a recipe for tasty fat ball cakes. Little feathered friends will love visiting a garden with one (or two) or these hanging up.
Lucy, the founder, named her business after the first and last letters in her children’s names (Will and Rose) and is passionate about selling products that won’t harm the planet.
From beeswax sandwich wraps to bamboo toothbrushes, Lucy has it all covered. As far as festive gifts go, the London-based company has lots on offer for the discerning consumer.
With the aim to make it easier to go eco, Lucy said: “My journey with The Wise House has introduced me to many talented British and overseas designers; many of whom are small business owners designing and making products themselves using traditional techniques.
“It has also led to the discovery of ethical products and products that are helping us to reduce waste, an issue that has grown to become a passion and at the heart of everything The Wise House stands for.”
Focusing on gifts and homeware, that are plastic free and more sustainable, you’d definitely find something here when looking for a festive gift that isn’t mass produced.
Whether you opt for a Wise organic sweatshirt which supports marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage in their quest to fight marine pollution, or an Eco Geek Starter Set, is up to you.
The latter allows you to choose items with your recipient in mind to create the set, which aims to kickstart a greener outlook, for those who want to cut down on plastic and help end pollution.
Choose from a variety of options including natural deodorant, bamboo wipes (a much more eco-friendly option than polluting wet wipes), washable cotton makeup remover pads and an organic skincare kit.
The all-important part, once you’ve sourced your guilt-free sustainable Christmas gifts, is to wrap them up in something that won’t damage the environment. There’s little point buying green presents and then using something inappropriate for the environment to wrap them in, is there?
Re-wrapped is an ethical company specialising in designing and producing wrapping paper and other products made purely from post-consumer waste, with designs printed with vegetable ink.
The London-based firm was founded in 2011 after the founders were searching for good quality recycled wrapping paper and discovered the task too difficult.
In addition to beautifully designed wrapping paper, Re-wrapped also sells gift tags, notebooks and cards, with five per cent of all Re-wrapped’s profits being donated to charity.
(Oh, and by the way, if you do decide to send a cow, don’t fret, no one is expecting you to wrap it).