Sustainable Christmas: How to celebrate and save the planet

by 20 Nov, 2019

Christmas. It’s a word that fills many of us with childish excitement. It’s a special time of year when we can take a break from work and be merry with our loved ones. Times are changing, though, and as ethical consumption is on the rise elsewhere, it seems many of us are looking to have a more sustainable Christmas.

This is not least because, despite it being the most wonderful time of the year, many of us feel stressed going into Christmas and extremely unhealthy once it’s over. Why? It could be the perverse values our society has created. We value wealth and material things above all else. We have made Christmas all about shopping and gorging on mince pies and wine until we puke. Far from sustainable, Christmas has become about spending money that we don’t have to buy gifts people don’t want. We are ruled by our consumer culture.

Astonishingly, research suggests the average Brit will get into £300 worth of debt to fund Christmas gifts each year. However, some 70 million of these gifts happen to be unwanted – more than one gift for every person in the country and filling up landfill sites across the country.

Make a sustainable ‘Give’ List 

And that’s not even the worst of it. In our gift-buying frenzy, we as a nation generate a whopping 400,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste! Every. Single. Year. We use enough wrapping paper to cover all of London’s Royal Parks to buy gifts already wrapped in cardboard and plastic. And those pointless Christmas cards we feel we have to send out to everyone we ever met! Does anyone ever actually write anything meaningful in Christmas cards? It all seems very far away from the sustainable Christmas many of us are looking for.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. It takes one small decision from each of us to start saving the planet, our pockets, and probably our stomachs and livers too. This Christmas, don’t buy yet another plastic toy for your niece that she will forget about in half an hour. To have a sustainable Christmas, get creative.

Alternative gift registry Patchwork has come up with a great idea which lets you do just this. It’s called The Give List. Instead of a wish list for tons of new things, it lets kids and families create a list of things they can fund, make or do to celebrate this joyful time of year. This might include getting all the family to chip in for a trip to Legoland, or teaching your niece to bake her favourite cake. Or perhaps ask friends and family members to do something for people, or the planet.

Pledge a Christmas change

This is what 8 year-old Bo, the daughter of Patchwork’s co-founder, has asked for. This crusading kid has used her Give List to asked her friends and family to buy food she can take to a food bank, avoid products containing palm oil and not eat meat for a month. She has also invited friends and family to come and make a delicious hot chocolate with her using oat milk to ‘help the cows.’

All of the above are gifts of skills and time that will last a lifetime, and will not hurt either your pocket or the environment. A Give List is a great concept that can really help change the way we celebrate without taking away the magic of Christmas. This is because it lets you be as creative as you like, and your kids can get involved too. And, as Bo shows, it seems kids are loving the idea and already coming up with wonderful, compassionate ways to give back to the world.

For grown up presents, why not put the money you would normally spend on novelty gifts into a sustainable investment for friends or family? Luckily, the number of ways you can do this keeps growing.

Invest for a sustainable Christmas

You could consider gifting a loved one the funds to make an investment through a sustainable investing platform like Ethex, which lets you make positive investments from £50. It has a range of projects, from funding local cycling projects to putting solar panels on the roofs of rural homes in Africa. Abundance Investments is also a good choice for those interested in local renewable energy projects and you can invest for as little as £5.

Newer to the sustainable investing block is impact investment app Tickr, which also lets you invest from as little as £5. This lets you choose between three key themes depending on what’s most important to you: climate change, social impact and disruptive technology, or a combination of all three. The app then and invests your money into exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

These are just a few examples. The opportunities to do better with your money are literally endless! So let’s finally change our consumerist habits this Christmas. The future of our planet depends on it. But it is also a chance for us to be the best versions of ourselves and give back to our communities, the environment and the world at large. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

About the author

About the author

Anna Fedorova

Former news editor at Investment Week and a freelance journalist across consumer and b2b media, Anna is a finance industry expert with a passion for making the world a better place.