A conscious guide to Christmas
Words by Megan Landreth-Smith
My approach to shopping now seems so far removed from 12-year-old-me sat cross legged in front of an Argos catalogue circling the Barbie Dream House and electronic diary. Back then, it had never crossed my mind about the production of those toys, all I cared about was that they turned up to my house on Christmas morning. I didn’t consider where or how they were made, let alone the hands that made them or if there was a cost to the environment.
It’s been a journey getting to a place where I really care what gets brought into our home. It’s taken hours of research and many learnings but for the most part money saved and a house full of clothes, toys and homewares that hold stories that are not just our own. But just because I have come to love another way of shopping, one that values people and the planet, doesn’t mean that everyone around me has those values too (the case for my daughter when she’s coveting the singing and dancing Frozen doll that her friend has at nursery!).
To help you this Christmas, here are a few ways to navigate gift buying more responsibly and a few thoughts on how to shift buying habits altogether.
Get second hand savvy
I've almost always been able to find what I need second hand: yes bras, yes shoes, yes balloons! Why not try finding what your kids may be asking for on a second hand platform first. Now is a great time to start looking (shopping more responsibly I find takes a little longer), and you may need a few pointers if you’re new to it all. As somewhere to start, you can set alerts on the different platforms you are using so if something specific you’re looking for comes up you'll be notified - this helps to cut down endless searching and scrolling! If you’re looking for something that is expensive and are hoping for a bargain, why not try using fatfingers.com to see if someone has misspelled it while listing, meaning it’s less likely to end in a bidding war. Try sites like @reboxed if you’re looking for barely used second hand devices. If you can’t find what you need at first, try doing a shout out on a local FB group or ask for specific items when going to a charity shop, or…just wait a little. I started shopping second hand on eBay at the age of 14 and have learnt a lot - it may feel daunting to start with but it’s totally worth it, and soon enough you'll catch the bug! For more on this take a look here: 5 tips to shopping second hand
You can also get savvy when buying new. While 80% of what we buy as a family is second hand, 20% is new, and I use that as an opportunity to vote with our money; investing in companies that I know pay their workers a fair wage and are taking into account how their production has an impact on the environment. Look for words like ‘fair-trade, OEKO-TEX certified, ECO-CERT, GOTS certified’. These terms don’t mean everything, but they are a start. Also try to dig deeper than words like ‘natural’ and ‘eco’, as this can often be a marketing ploy.
Have hard conversations
For those trying to live more consciously, Christmas can be a tricky one as while we can control what we personally bring into our home, ultimately we don’t have control on the gifts others want to give. If you want to see a change with what people are giving, it usually requires some sort of brave conversation, a boundary set or a sharing of your own values which can be VERY hard. As a family we create gift lists (you can do this on Amazon but the products don’t need to be from Amazon). This means we can specify something we need or the kids have asked for, and you could also ask family to stick to homemade or second hand gifts or suggest having money instead.
Hard conversations will most probably need to happen with our kids too. There will be times we need to say no to something they request for whatever reason. One of the phrases we use often in our home is: ‘In OUR family we….’ A phrase that suggests that each and every family have different rules, beliefs and practices but this is how we choose to do things under our roof. This helps when kids start questioning why friends are getting more gifts or the latest tech on demand. Buying more responsibly doesn’t mean our kids have to miss out, but knowing why you make the decisions and boundaries you do as a family is so important as is bringing your kids on that journey too!