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To those who celebrate, Christmas is a chance to come together and spend time with loved ones. It’s also a time to indulge in food, relaxation and, of course, presents. Globally, families are set to spend 84% of monthly income on Christmas gifts this year. For many of these families, the manic lead up to Christmas involves last minute or rushed present-buying. Shopping for a long list of people with lack of spare time sometimes leads us to buying gifts that didn’t have much thought put into them. Consequently, this has led to monumental waste levels, with £700 million being spent on unwanted presents each Christmas in the UK alone. Wasted gifts are only a small part of a monumental issue surrounding Christmas. Nevertheless, even making small changes can help take steps towards a more sustainable future of Christmases to come.
Buying Christmas presents for loved ones can be an exciting time, especially if you actually have time to do it. But many people feel the last minute stress, with only 44% of Brits completing their Christmas shopping by December 19th last year. Last minute shopping can send you into a panic, picking up the first thing you see on the shelf whilst convincing yourself “that’ll do”. It’s the lack of time we have that causes hasty purchases, not to mention Black Friday sending consumers into a panicking frenzy the previous month. Utilising time could be a vital way to tackle Christmas shopping sustainably and avoid wasting gifts.
Christmas is one of the only times we collectively relax. In the fast-paced environment we live in, constantly speeding up, it’s a rare opportunity to press pause. Buying presents beforehand, whilst managing work and home life, is a balance that never gets easier to strike. But, in order to avoid buying last minute gifts “just because”, allocating more time to shop for meaningful presents is a solution. Purchasing Christmas gifts isn’t exclusive to that time of the year, you can buy all year round and save it for the special day. Plus, buying gifts that aren’t “limited edition” for the festive season gives more freedom with how it is used, reducing the risk of waste.
That being said, we are all “time-poor”, meaning that a lot of consumers have no choice but to opt for the last minute dash. If you’d like to give someone a meaningful gift but you don’t have the time to look, then simply spending time with them is a special alternative. The gift of time is increasingly more valuable, WGSN even regards it as a currency for the next coming years. WGSN also highlights impending consumer shifts for wellbeing, prioritising “other-care” over “self-care”. Cooking a meal together, going for a walk or just grabbing a coffee are simple ways to have some quality time with someone. As the amount of free time we have shrinks, spending this precious currency on someone you care about is as valuable as any gift. For some, even priceless.
It may be hard to picture Christmas without wrapped presents under a tree, but giving someone an experience is just as special. Tickets to exhibitions, a spa trip or even treating them to a dining experience means that the gift can extend past Christmas time and can be something to look forward to. Buying an experience is a suitable alternative to a product, as it reduces consumption, packaging and waste of materials. Emphasising the importance of time, these experiences often encourage connection and can contribute to better mental wellbeing.
Awkwardness, guilt and rejection are all feelings that are often associated with regifting. Whether it was your present, or someone else’s you passed on, it can make for an uncomfortable situation. This stigma surrounding regifting has resulted in many unwanted gifts being wasted, sitting at home or being discarded. Around 23 million unwanted gifts are destined for landfill just in the UK, which equates to a concerning 1 in 5 presents.
Although considered a faux pas, regifting is an opportunity to give an unused present a new home. It’s a great sustainable alternative: promoting longevity of a product, reducing consumption and preventing waste. After all, as the saying goes: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. So, the next time you receive a gift that you think someone else would benefit from, pass it on! Similarly, if you find out your present has been regifted to someone else, shake off the feeling of rejection and embrace this sustainable approach.
+ Highlight Image: © Mel Poole via Unsplash