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Struggling to Shop Sustainably this Christmas? You're Not Alone.

Chloe discusses her experience with trying to shop with sustainability in mind this festive season.

We all know that Christmas is the season of giving. But with all that giving seems to come a lot of receiving, and shopping, and wrapping, and unboxing, and packaging, and shipping. In other words, a lot of CO2 emissions.

According to a survey conducted by Tesco, over one third of people want to be more sustainable. However, with 30% more rubbish being produced over the festive season, it seems like many of us find it hard to strike a balance between conscious shopping and Christmas.

I’m definitely one of those people. As I mentioned in my Instagram post back in November, I often find it too easy to succumb to fast fashion deals and, during Christmas, I definitely get wrapped up in the joy of buying gifts. When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to receive lots of gifts on Christmas Day. For many years, I thought buying my loved ones as much as I could was the best way to celebrate Christmas - probably because of that positive association from my childhood. Now that I’m an adult, I realise how wasteful and ultimately harmful to the planet this mindset can be.

This year, I’ve tried to do things differently and shop as consciously as possible over the Christmas period - but I still had some slip ups. Adult life is busy and - as the 25th of December gets closer and closer - conveniences like Amazon Prime and Boots 3 for 2 gift deals begin to look all the more tempting.

I turned to a few of my friends to see how they felt about navigating sustainable shopping over the holidays and found out (unsurprisingly) that I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

Take my friend Lydia, for example. She’s probably one of the most eco-friendly girls I know. She’s always offering to car share, buys reusable beauty and cleaning products (like this WILD deodorant), and shops for local produce where she can. Despite this, she finds it difficult to shop sustainably for Christmas. For her, opting for eco-friendly gifts doesn’t really work if the person she’s buying for doesn’t share her appreciation for sustainable products.

I think this sentiment is particularly true if you’re shopping for someone who’s asked for a specific present. If my brother asked for the latest Adidas trainers and I showed up with a second hand pair from Depop, I’m not sure the appreciation for sustainability would be 100% there either.

Speaking to Lily, I found that we take a similar approach to eco-friendly shopping. Like me, she tries to purchase sustainably when she can but admits it isn’t always her main focus. In her day to day life, Lily makes conscious choices like meal prepping to reduce the amount of food waste she creates, as well as avoiding fast fashion where possible.

Like Lydia, Lily also told me she finds it harder to shop sustainably when buying presents. To combat the unsustainable nature of present buying, Lily actually bought experience vouchers for her family and friends this year. If you haven’t heard of these vouchers before, you essentially pre-pay for an experience such as a massage or cookery class. Lily’s idea is something I hadn’t thought of but, looking into it, I discovered that it’s a sustainable alternative recommended by the World Wildlife Fund - so it’s a practice to keep in mind for next year.

I also spoke to Bonnie, who discussed the cost of sustainable shopping - something echoed by everyone I talked to. I think being able to shop 100% sustainably requires a lot of time, organization, and ultimately, it’s usually more expensive. When it comes to Christmas, this struggle likely multiplies due to the time pressure we all feel when it comes to “getting ready” for the big day. I mean, Amazon has splashed a “LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS DEALS” banner on their website for at least a month now - how’s that for pressure?

And that’s where I’ve tripped up this year. It feels like I’ve barely blinked and we’re already six days away from Christmas. I hoped to set aside some time to make some gifts, scour some second hand stores, and research a few ethical brands to buy from. In the end, life got busy and it never ended up happening.

Despite this, going into the festive season with sustainability on the brain has helped me make more conscious choices here and there. Last year, we made a lot (and I mean a lot) of food waste by over shopping. This year, I’ve stuck to a much smaller list for our Christmas Dinner. Moreover, I did manage to buy a good chunk of my gifts at independent online and local stores. Next year, I hope to improve on my practices and, more importantly, start prepping earlier!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with buying a few silly gifts or extra add-ons at Christmas. It’s really hard to not get carried away when it comes to spoiling our nearest and dearest. The important point, here, is to incorporate conscious choices into our Christmas shopping when and where we can. A great piece of advice I uncovered researching for this post is by Emily Torres. The basic message? Slow down.

She writes:

The good news is that there are a few tried-and-true ways to save money when shopping sustainably—the first and most important strategy being to slow it all down. Instead of adding half a dozen new pieces to your wardrobe each season, add one or two thoughtful garments and spend a little more on each one (you’ll still save money!)

This way of thinking is great because not only can we apply this to our day to day lives, but the practice works when it comes to gift giving too. Buying someone one quality piece that will last is a much more conscious Christmas choice than buying a handful of unsustainable (yet cheap) gifts that would work out at a similar price, anyway!

If you haven’t shopped sustainably for Christmas this year, please don’t feel guilty, that’s not the point of this blog post. Instead, I suggest taking a moment to read a few articles from my recommended reading list. Maybe next Christmas, we can both be more sustainable together.

Please let me know if you have any eco-friendly tips and tricks I can keep in mind for next year's Christmas shopping list!

Have a merry and safe holiday X

Recommended Reading:


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