Wednesday, January 26, 2022

This is how you spend a sustainable and affordable Christmas

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It’s possible to have a great time while being kind to your wallet and the planet, writes Emilie Bellet

The mere thought of making Christmas a little different can inspire a great deal of anxiety. But no worry. We can still enjoy the season we love while showing a little love to our wallets and the planet. Here are a few pointers to think about and I’m sure you’ll enjoy a more affordable, greener Christmas this year.

It’s time to party… but can we enjoy the festive spirit without breaking the bank and harming the environment? According to a 2019 YouGov survey, the average Brit spends up to £1,116 on Christmas – £381.60 of that on gifts alone.

Making someone you care about happy is a wonderful feeling — so it’s no surprise that buying gifts can be borderline addictive for many of us. But if giving causes you to spend more than you can afford, you are likely to feel remorse, which counteracts the positive effects of giving.

While I don’t encourage you to give up gifts altogether, you should consider other ways to show your loved ones that you appreciate them.

This can be anything from arranging an experience like a weekend getaway, cooking a meal, or making a phone call. Your presence and your time are more valuable than material possessions.

December is a busy month. With all the Christmas parties, Secret Santas, and travel plans, it can be easy to put off Christmas gift shopping to the last minute. According to a recent Finder survey, 78.2 per cent of UK adults have indulged in impulsive online purchases, with each person spending an average of £32.69 per store.

To avoid over-spending, make a list of family members and friends whom you will buy gifts for and allocate a set amount to each person. If you are under financial pressure this year, consider talking to loved ones and agreeing not to exchange gifts.

The retail industry can be riddled with unethical supply chains, labor exploitation and polluting factories, as well as waste and carbon emissions. Fortunately, more and more ethical brands are popping up in the market – you can search for inspiration on the Ethical Consumer website (ethicalconsumer.org).

By supporting ethical brands you can be sure that you are not supporting an unfair system.

I bought an artificial Christmas tree years ago because it was a good idea at the time. However, the more I read about it, the more I realize that unless you keep it for more than 12 years, a synthetic tree is not the most environmentally friendly option. Because the production of artificial trees leaves a high carbon footprint.

The most sustainable option seems to be buying a locally grown, real tree, ideally ready to be replanted after the holidays, or renting a tree from a local garden center.

Gifts don’t always have to be brand new. If you have a specific item in mind, try finding a used version in “good condition” on sites like eBay or Vestiaire Collective. Vintage luxury clothing, second-hand books and retro art prints make wonderful and thoughtful gifts without breaking the bank or generating high carbon emissions.

If you’re getting rid of things you no longer need, make sure you follow the guidelines and recycle properly. If you want to donate items to a charity shop, make sure they are in good condition.

According to Oxfam, an estimated 13 million items of clothing end up in the landfill every week. Because a lot of what we donate simply cannot be resold. It’s also important to consider repairing beloved items and listing them on sites like Freecycle that divert usable goods from the landfill.

Christmas is undoubtedly an incredible time of year. But maybe it’s time to reclaim it by being less about “stuff” and more about keeping it simple. Focus on being present with the people you love… enjoy!

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