Looking to consume a little more consciously and do Christmas a little more ethically this year? We’ve pulled together our favourite ideas on how to avoid the mindless consumerism that feeds tomorrow’s landfill and have a joyful Christmas this year.

1. Don’t jump on the ethical shopping bandwagon

This might sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. If you’ve already got a box full of Christmas things, don’t throw them away and replace with the latest ethical Christmas alternative. Use what you’ve got first and only once you’ve squeezed the final use from it, then look for a better, greener and more ethical option.

christmas shopping

2. Wrap it good, use repurposed wrapping paper

It takes a whopping 600 Watts of energy and 330 liters of water to produce a single roll of wrapping paper. That’s like vacuuming your house for an hour while drinking 1000 bottles of beer! What’s more, most of it is single use – so it looks good for a day or two, then it’s tossed out forever.

This year look at how you can re-purpose existing material to wrap your gifts. For example, newspapers look great with water colours or stamps, kids artwork and paintings, ribbons made from fabric scraps, natural vines and flowers from the garden. If you must buy wrapping paper, at least avoid sparkly, glittery paper because this can’t be recycled.

And if you’re around Melbourne, get on down to a Wrappaporium. These are Goodsmiths inspired ethical wrapping stations where you can get your gift wrapped in paper salvaged from the pulpers and fabric saved from landfill. Find details and locations here.

homemade christmas paper


3. Shop from a social enterprise

There’s no better time than Christmas to buy a gift that gives twice. Why not buy ethical Christmas gifts from a social enterprise this year? You’ll get your Christmas shopping done while simultaneously doing these amazing things; giving people jobs who might otherwise find it tough (people experiencing homelessness, or with disabilities, or from ethnic minorities), helping the environment (purchases made from recycled or upcycled materials) creating opportunities for people living in poverty, giving kids in developing countries access to education, the list goes on.

We’ve made it easy to find these wonderful businesses doing great things on the Goodsmiths website. There’s bound to be a Goodsmith to meet your needs and inspire you here.


4. Try Christmas DIY & handmade

There are heaps of ways to bring personal and meaningful splashes to your Christmas. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to do a little DIY Christmas, cheat’s tip: Search Pinterest for ‘handmade Christmas’, then set aside an afternoon to ogle all that creativity and find your inspiration.

If you have kids, Christmas is the best time to show off their natural enthusiasm for making and creating. Think tree ornaments, cards, wrap and more. And don’t forget, if you’re not crafty, cooked treats are always welcome. What’s not to like about gifts of biscuits in the jars you’ve been saving all year?

homemade biscuits

5. Go easy on the ‘stuff’ gifts

Set the parameters with family and friends, such as maximum spend. Kris Kringle (aka Secret Santa) is a popular idea and a great way to purchase just one quality gift instead of a whole lotta bits and bobs. And unsurprisingly, there’s an app for it…in fact there’s heaps of them!

Let others know that this year you don’t want more stuff. Instead, you’d like a donation to a cause you care about. Guaranteed to make you feel wonderful.

giving Christmas tree

6. Think about your Christmas tree

Do you buy and reuse a plastic tree or have a little tree chopped down each year? We dug a bit deeper into the pros and cons of these options and concluded that real is more sustainable than fake. Read the reasons why here. Even better, you could jazz up a pot plant each year. Alternately, if you’re in a major city, Oxfam deliver beautiful trees too, with all proceeds going to their life-changing international development programs (they sell out early so get in quick).

Once you’ve got your tree, decorating with homemade decorations looks and feels great – things like popcorn on a string or cinnamon sticks bundled in red repurposed fabric are simple and effective.

handmade christmas decoration

7. Eat ALL the Christmas leftovers

It’s the same each year, it starts on Boxing Day when we rave about how good the leftover ham sandwiches are, then it continues over the next several days until we’ve had so many ham sandwiches, we can’t eat anymore. It’s all part of the annual tradition in our family. Sound familiar?

Each year Australians throw out about a quarter of the food we buy. It’s time to stop buying so much Christmas food! And cut back on the meat (controversial in my family). The environmental impacts of meat eating are massive.

Still, if you find yourself with leftovers from a feast, they don’t need to be wasted. Here’s a list of over 60 recipes to help turn your leftovers into delicious new meals (and a lot more creative than ham sandwiches).

Christmas plate

8. Regift. It’s now socially acceptable

We’ve all been there: the horrid, the weird and the not-funny-but-tried-to-be present you unwrap in front of eagerly watching eyes. You know immediately it’s a thing you won’t use. But don’t forget that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s search ended’.

So don’t throw it in the back of your cupboard. Regift that garden gnome or take those purple salad servers to your local op shop. That t-shirt with the kittens on it might be exactly what someone else has been searching for!

example of ugly present

9. Rent don’t buy

Thanks to the growth in the sharing economy, there’s a huge number of options these days for renting or borrowing instead of buying. Think party dresses, campervans and catering equipment. For dozens of (sometimes surprising) ideas take a look at this list of things you can rent or borrow.

share economy texting

10. Give the gift of empathy

Christmas isn’t all sparkle and love for everyone, it can be the toughest and loneliest time of the year for many. If you’re one of the lucky ones with time and resources to share, consider if there’s anyone in your circle that might find Christmas hard. Do you have an extra seat at your table to share this Christmas lunch? Or go beyond your circle and volunteer your time and or money to help someone you’ve never met.

While we worry about which bin the shiny paper might go in or how to cook bubble and squeak, others have much more pressing needs. Christmas is a great time to remember this and put a little perspective on our own troubles.

the gift of empathy at christmas

Wherever you are and whatever your Christmas traditions bring, we hope it’s a joyful and peaceful time for you and your loved ones. Let us know your top ideas for an ethical and sustainable Christmas this year.

This article first appeared in The Gazette. Sign up here so you don’t miss your monthly dose of good stuff.