An Armchair Activist’s guide to Christmas

Paper bauble

Christmas is a time for fun. But it’s also a time of massive, and often thoughtless, consumption. So what can you do to reduce your negative impact on the environment, fight for a more sustainable society and make sure your money goes on goods that give producers a fair wage?

Tap into ethical and local retail

It’s getting easier and easier to find products that are mindful of people and planet. Websites such as Ethical Superstore, This Because and Run Native gather together products that are environmentally friendly and/or fairly traded. Meanwhile, if keeping indy retailers on the high street or supporting your local economy matters to you (here’s why it should), check out My High Street, the ‘independent retail emporium’, or simply make an effort to pick indy stores over chain stores when you’re out and about.

Buy an experience – not a consumer item

This was an idea suggested to me by Tamara DiMattini, the founder of Buy Nothing New Month, when I interviewed her for The Armchair Activist’s Handbook: why not buy an experience rather than a physical product? Most of us would probably admit that we have enough things anyway, and how many times have you bought an ‘it’ll do’ item for someone just for the sake of having something to give? There are some things that are genuinely useful, of course, but even so, all the stuff really starts to build up after a while. So why not think a bit differently? Could you buy tickets for a play, a comedian, a band, a spa session, an outdoor activity such as climbing, or a lesson (knitting, cooking, photography or language learning, for example)?

Source your food from local producers

Keep UK farmers in business, preserve valuable skills, keep variety on the high streets, cut back on unneccessary imports and make sure that local producers and retailers get a decent cut of the profits by buying food locally this Christmas. Use websites like Big Barn (which also has a Turkey Producers List), Find a Butcher and Local Foods to track down the best option for you.

Get creative

As well as a time of great consumption, Christmas is a time of great waste. But if you have a little time to get creative, it’s worth thinking of ways to reuse and recycle materials you’ve already got (and save money in the process). The most obvious idea would be to save and reuse wrapping paper (as long as it’s not too tatty). But a more unusual idea is to create home-made baubles for your Christmas tree, as suggested by The Guardian here. I made some this year out of old magazines and they look beautiful.