How to Have an Ethical Christmas Without the Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”  And sometimes Christmas can also be the most stressful.  When you’re feeling up against it, the additional challenge of trying to ensure the goods you’re buying or the services you’re using are as ethical as possible can be just too much.  Then you feel guilty for spending your hard earned cash on something that really doesn’t sit well with your conscience.

The team at Ethical Consumer have come up with some great ideas about how you can have a more sustainable Christmas, and because we know that time and, or, money isn’t always available, they’ve also come up with some great alternatives to help you have the most ethical Christmas possible without getting too stressed.

how to have an ethical christmas

Going Plastic-Free

Top of everyone’s Christmas list this year is to be plastic-free.  A sneaky way plastic enters the Christmas eco-system is in the form of wrapping paper. Anything with glitter on can’t be recycled, and many papers are actually lined with a thin film of plastic.

A great alternative is to use old fabric to wrap up gifts; or incorporate the wrapping as part of the gift using scarves, facecloths, tea towels and handkerchiefs to wrap smaller items.

That’s probably not going to work if you’re wrapping a large children’s toy though, so if you’re buying wrapping paper opt for a recycled roll – you can find 100% recycled wrapping paper online from Re-Wrapped.

A trip to the supermarket can become laden with plastic as everything from fruit and veg, to the turkey and Christmas pudding, come in some form of plastic packaging.  The easiest way to go plastic free is to shop local, and independent, taking your own containers and bags with you, and where necessary getting your purchases wrapped in paper, not plastic.  Just
don’t throw away your older plastic containers in favour of buying new ones.

And remember to try and use an ethical alternative to cling film and foil, from tiffin tins to beeswax cloths.

Buy Less Stuff

ethical christmas ideas

A great way to help ‘cut the stuff’ and the stress of trawling round shops could be to gift an adventure rather than an actual thing.  Theatre tickets, workshops ranging from terrarium making to pattern cutting, or membership to organisations like the Woodland Trust are just a few ideas.

For some people though, particularly children, there is a real joy in seeing them open a physical present.  If you’re lucky enough to have a high street with independent stores nearby then try and support them, but if you’re not, then there’s no need to feel guilty about online shopping.

Several studies have shown that this form of shopping is no more environmentally damaging than visiting a bricks and mortar store, and in many instances, better – you just need to steer clear of Amazon, with its tax avoidance strategies, poor environmental and worker’s rights record.

As part of our Amazon alternatives series, there’s a full rundown of the most ethical online shops there.  In short, a good all-rounder is Ethical Shop, with presents for all ages, Acala for health and beauty products from a brand committed to zero waste, and the Viva! online shop for vegan-friendly gifts including soy-candles, wine club membership, chocolate, and clothing. 

Books are a classic Christmas gift too, and with Amazon dominating the market, it’s worth checking out the specialist guide to the most ethical booksellers.  World of Books is a great option, and free delivery helps.

There’s always a last minute panic purchase – a forgotten present or a party gift required.  That’s why knowing the top 5 most ethical high street stores can be a life-saver and a stress-free option when you just don’t have time for anything else:

  • Lush for creative and sweet smelling gifts from an ethical business committed to the real Living Wage, the Fair Tax Mark, and cruelty-free ingredients.
  • The Co-op Group is owned by an active membership, not shareholders, and with a clear action plan on climate change and waste, handily they offer everything from food to
  • Marks & Spencer* are a cornerstone of the British high street, and Plan A demonstrates their commitments to sustainability.  They’re also listed in the palm oil free guide, with the majority of their gift boxes of chocolates from truffles to Neapolitans clear of the problematic ingredient.
  • WHSmith score highly in the environmental reporting and supply chain management categories, making them the best high street bookseller by far and available across the UK.
  • John Lewis’* partnership company structure makes them more progressive than their counterparts.  From garden products to perfume it’s a one-stop shop that’s readily available in most cities.

Here’s to a stress free merry Christmas that doesn’t cost the earth!


AD | 6 Ways You Can Help the Environment & Save Money

save money and help the environment

save money and help the environment

*  Sponsored post

Sometimes budgets don’t always stretch to shopping ethically all of the time or buying organic food all of the time.  Thankfully, there are lots of easy ways to help the environment that will save you money.  Here are six for starters:

1.  Turn the brightness down on your television

My first tip is a nice easy one that could help you to save around £96 a year just by pressing a few buttons.  Yup, to save a heap of money and energy all you have to do is turn down the brightness on your television, particularly if you have recently bought a new television.

When TV sets are packaged for sale or display, they are set at much higher levels of brightness and contrast than really necessary.  Manufacturers do this bit of trickery so the screens look all bright and jazzy in illuminated shop displays, but actually, the settings are too bright for most living rooms so turning down the brightness will optimise your viewing experience and save money.

2.  Catch Unused Water

I have a combi boiler which I think is the bee’s knees.  My daughter recently had to write a sentence at school with the word boiler in it and wrote: “My mummy loves the boiler”, and it’s true, mummy loves the boiler very very much.

It’s not 100% true love though.  The one thing I don’t love about my combi boiler is that when I want hot water I have to run the tap for a little while to allow the water to heat up.  Rather than wasting this precious resource down the drain, it’s a good idea to catch this water to use for making tea, watering plants and any other water-based needs.  It’s a much better use of fresh clean water that would otherwise go down the drain, and a good way of saving money if you have a water meter.

3.  Try to get out of the habit of charging appliances overnight

As well as being a fire risk, and a drain on battery life, charging appliances, such as phones, tablets, laptops and electric toothbrushes overnight could be costing you a pretty penny.  Admittedly, I am trying to get out of the bad habit of charging my phone overnight, so I’d be happy to form a support group for those of you also struggling with this affliction!

4.  Use What You Have

eco friendly alternative to cling wrap

I’m a huge fan of getting creative and using what I have rather than spending money unnecessarily.  For example, instead of cling film, I use plates on top of bowls, saucepan lids on top of bowls or upturned plates on top of plates to keep my food fresh in the fridge.  Instead of Tupperware or fancy storage systems, I try and use glass jars.  Before buying something, especially something disposable or single use, I try to ask myself could I use something that I already have, and nine times out of ten I could just use something I already own.

5.  Ditch the Tumble Dryer where possible

brabantia clothes horse

I live in Scotland, I have two kids, and I use reusable nappies, so I know only too well that sometimes the weather doesn’t always play ball, and you just have to reach for the tumble dryer to avoid a mountain of dirty laundry.  It happens.

Where I can though, I always aim to hang my washing up outside to dry.  Whatever you use to dry your clothes on: be it a piece of washing line strung up between two trees, a rotary dryer or a clothes horse  – ditching the tumble dryer costs nothing, saves a ton of energy, and nothing beats the smell of freshly dried on the line laundry.

Our cottage isn’t blessed with acres of land – instead, we have a tiny concrete yard, which means drying space is at a premium.  A rotary dryer would take up too much precious playing space, and a line laden with laundry takes up the whole garden.  To maximise playing space for my girls,  I have a Brabantia clothes horse which I use to dry my laundry on.

Offering 23 metres of flexible drying space, I pop it up in a sunny corner of the yard, and it holds one whole load of washing (and a little bit more) in one compact 1 metre squared footprint.  Even when fully laden, it’s incredibly sturdy.

Thanks to its adjustable racks you can even dry delicates, like wool, or dry longer items, like trousers, easily.

brabantia clothes dryer

On wet days I bring it inside – as it has such a small footprint, it doesn’t feel as cumbersome as some drying racks.  Once the laundry is dry it folds flat for easy storage until the next load – which, let’s face it, is never far away.

Of course, use what you already have to dry your laundry, but if you happen to be in the market for something new either now or in the future then do bear in mind that Brabantia have teamed up with WeForest, and so for every rotary dryer or drying rack sold they will plant a tree in Africa’s Great Green Wall.  The Great Green Wall is an African-led project which aims to grow an 8,000 km forest across the entire width of Africa.  Its goal is to provide food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region on the frontline of climate change, so it’s a great cause to support in the name of dry laundry.

6.  Learn How to Store Food Correctly

how to store spring onions

Minimising food waste is one of the best ways to save money and help the environment. One of the best ways you can help to minimise food waste is to learn to store food correctly to ensure produce lasts for as long as it possibly can.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Store vegetables like spring onions, celery, and asparagus in a glass of water on your windowsill to keep them fresh for a couple of weeks.
  • Store potatoes in a cool dark cupboard or drawer.
  • Keep mushrooms in a paper bag in the fridge.

Do also share your best tips in the comments!