Gift giving and consumption cutting

By Cara Rogers

Christmas gift giving can be difficult: a stressful mix of managing budgets, ‘Will they like this?’ worries, and gift-wrapping nightmares. On top of logistical difficulties, many of us are increasingly thinking about the ethics and sustainability of our gift giving practices. We might be cutting down consumption in our personal lives, but when it comes to buying presents, it’s easy to go overboard in the name of spoiling our loved ones. This Christmas though, I’m trying to be more careful with my gift giving. Of course, zero consumption is impossible, and arguably, completely ethical consumption is also unattainable (that’s a topic for a whole different article), but what we can try to do is to be a little more conscious in our gift giving. 

The first place I look to improve my Christmas shopping game is the small business landscape. Admittedly, a small business doesn’t always equal sustainable, however, as part of a broader project of being more conscious with our purchases, it’s nice to know that our spending is going towards a small business owner, rather than a multinational corporation. With that in mind, here are some of my favourite small businesses at the moment – have a flick through and hopefully you’ll feel a little inspired! 

Sighh Studio – This is an online shop started by Polly Vadasz, who first started selling her artwork when she was sixteen. Now, Sighh Studio sells a wide range of hand-designed stationery products, accessories, and home décor pieces. 

Handcrafts by Courtney – Courtney sells a selection of handmade homeware and accessories, from vases and water bottles to Christmas baubles. These are quality pieces that can be reused (and it doesn’t hurt that they’re super cute!).

@ifrah_doodles – Ifrah creates unique digital portraits which recreate whatever image you give her. The image can be kept as a digital version, or you can use it to print your own version and frame it – something both sentimental and one-of-a-kind.  

Your local cake shop  Cake and baking businesses started by independent bakers are increasingly common.  Just search for your nearest one online (try looking on Instagram!) and secure your loved ones a delicious box of Christmas cupcakes or cookies!

Beyond shopping small, here are some of the other rules I like to keep in mind when I’m Christmas gift buying:

Clothing is a no-go! Clothing preferences are usually so specific and personal, that it can be hard to get this kind of gifting right. Especially as we become increasingly aware of the negative consequences of fast fashion and over-consumption, we want to be sure that if we are buying clothing, we’re buying pieces that will be wardrobe staples, worn time and time again. Buying clothing for someone that they might not even wear is a big risk on multiple fronts, so I personally prefer to stay away from this one.

Will they actually use it? It’s easy to see an item in a shop and rush to buy it for a loved one – maybe it’s vaguely related to something they once expressed an interest in. But the ultimate question to ask ourselves when we’re tempted to impulse buy like this is: will it actually get used? If not, you’re spending money on something which will probably be forgotten and end up in landfill five years later when the gift-receiver is clearing out their house…

Can you make them something instead of buying it? Homemade presents are usually budget friendly and sentimental. My personal favourite is always a mini photobook – print some cute pictures and glue them into a scrapbook with some added captions. This kind of gift shows thought and effort, and, because you can usually make homemade gifts from things you have lying around the house, it’s often less wasteful too. Win-win!

Step away from the bath and body gift sets! Whilst these can be fun Christmas gifts and are minimal effort for the gift-giver, they often go unused (especially if three other people had the same idea as you). So many of us have a drawer at home full of leftover body butters and exfoliating scrubs from Christmases gone by, which we might never get round to using. If you want to go down the bath and body route, why not invest in just one luxury product, rather than a box of six? Go for quality rather than quantity to try and minimise waste.

It’s so easy at Christmas time to go over the top with treating the people we love, but it’s also worth thinking about how sustainable our Christmas habits are. This year, I want to carefully consider each of my purchases to make them conscious and meaningful. This doesn’t mean breaking the bank but involves thinking through what we’re gifting instead of panic buying — better for the planet and for the person receiving the gift!

Featured image: Collage created by Eleanor Antoniou using the products featured in this article. 

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