A Guide To Sustainable Christmas Shopping

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Before you do, read this.

Sustainable living influencer and Stay Wild Swim co-founder Natalie Glaze, tells us what to consider when shopping for conscious gifts.

1.Are you gifting smart?

Before you start to panic-buy Christmas presents, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do they actually need this item?
  • Is this item going to enhance their life in some way?
  • Could I give a non-material gift, such as a voucher for a special experience day?

You should also consider whether you could find a similar item in a charity shop or second hand. It is important to cherish what is already in existence rather than always seeking something new

2.What is it made from?

Finding truly sustainable materials can be a bit of a minefield. But, there are some great planet-friendly ones out there. Try and avoid plastic where you can, unless you are able to find products using recycled plastics or bioplastics (made from cornstarch). Other options for an eco-friendly present include products that are made from recycled ocean plastic, organic cotton, upcycled materials, Tencel and ECONYL.

If you want to gift food items, look for products with locally-sourced ingredients (ideally organic). Avoiding products containing palm oil and artificial additives is another way to make a food more of an eco-friendly Christmas gift.

For beauty products, you can use the app Think Dirty. You simply scan the barcode of the product and it will provide you information on the product, including its ingredients. The app also suggests ‘cleaner’ alternatives, a simple way to gift more sustainably

3.How was it created?

Once you have considered what the product is made from, it is also important to look into how the product was made. Products which have been handmade or created using a simple manufacturing process will require less energy. This results in less CO2 being emitted during the process, especially when compared to multi-stage intensive factory production.

4.Who are you buying from?

When buying Christmas gifts, consider who you are buying from. It’s best to go for independent, sustainable brands who are committed to the cause, rather than high-street companies who are mass-producing their products.

5.Where was the product made or grown?

Transporting a product, whether that is via air, road or sea, will contribute to its carbon footprint. It is best to consider whether you can get products that are locally made. Not only is this good for the environment, it will also benefit the local economy.

6.Who made the product?

When shopping in a sustainable and ethical way, it is always important to consider who actually made the product you are buying. Look for the Fairtrade certification to be sure that the producers and creators were paid a fair price. For fashion brands, it is also possible to use the app Good on You, which gives an overall brand rating, as well as a break down of its labour, environment and animal ratings and information on why the brand has received those ratings

7.Will the product last?

If the item is single-use or looks like it will have a short life span, this is a big blow to its sustainable credentials. It’s better to spend a little more on an item that will remain in good condition for years to come.

8.Is it recyclable?

Consider whether the item may end up in landfill, or whether the materials are all recyclable. For more information on what materials are recyclable, see the following website https://www.recyclenow.com

9.Where do the product’s profits end up?

Supporting local producers, independent brands or social enterprises is a great way to maximise the positive impact of your purchase. You can choose a product made by a company where the profits are used to support a worthwhile cause, or a product made by a local company which will help boost the local economy.

10.Where are you shopping?

Where possible, you want to cut out as many middle-men as possible to ensure your money goes directly to the producer. That ties in with the above as the more profit the producer gets, the bigger positive impact your purchase can have. If you shop online, go straight to the producer’s website, rather than shopping on Amazon.

11. What certifications does the company have?

Looking out for official certifications and awards is one of the easiest ways to gain confidence in the item you are buying. Any badges should be listed on the company website or the product itself. The following guide can help with what certifications you should be looking for: http://www.ecolabelindex.com/ecolabels/?st=country,gb

You should also look out for companies employing carbon offsetting schemes to minimise their environmental impact. For example, many companies like Buyagift are partnered with Cool Earth to offset four times the amount of carbon produced by their day to day operations and their experiences.

12.How will you wrap the gift?

Choose items with minimal packaging, and make sure that any packaging is recyclable. When you are in store, could you ask the shop assistant not to wrap the gift? In some shops, such as Lush, there is the option to have items wrapped in fabric. This can be reused in numerous ways, such as scarves, hair ties, or even tied into bags. When it comes to wrapping the presents yourself, could you use a reusable gift bag that the recipient could re-gift, or even old newspaper? Remember, sellotape and other sticky tapes are made from plastic. So, consider using a plastic-free version such as paper tape or ribbons that can be reused

Natalie has written this piece as part of Buyagift’s Sustainable Christmas Campaign