More Thought, Less Waste Gift Guide 2019 (1)

I’m kicking off this year’s More Thought, Less Waste gift guide on Halloween with some scary statistics:

  • In the UK, over 108 million rolls of wrapping paper (or 227,000 miles worth) are used during the holidays.
  • The nation scoffs down 175 million mince pies. One million mince pie cases are equal to one tonne of aluminium.
  • Over 125,000 tonnes of plastic waste is produced during the festive period.
  • It’s estimated that up to one billion Christmas cards end up in the bin after 25th
  • The amount of waste produced over Christmas is 30% higher than average.

Over the past several years, my household has been working to reduce our “wasteline”: we’ve cut out most single-use plastic from around the house and I would estimate we’ve managed to decrease our overall plastic usage by at least 80%. But we are now approaching the most dangerous time of the year for both waste and waists: the Christmas holidays.

I’m afraid I can’t help if you’re looking for advice on how to avoid scoffing down the mince pies, but if you’re concerned about reducing waste, there are ways to avoid adding to the tsunami of brightly coloured paper, plastic, and other bits and bobs that are about to land on our doorstep.

After all, they say it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift giving, but how much thought has really gone into many of the items that end up under the tree, in a stocking, or given at an office gift exchange? It feels like Christmas has become an excuse for just getting something—anything—that is vaguely appropriate. We have conflated quantity with caring and adopted the attitude that something is better than nothing.

How to combat this while still participating in holiday traditions?

I think much of it boils down snapping out of autopilot when shopping. It’s asking the questions, “How long will this gift last? Is it something the recipient actually needs or wants?” 

It’s looking at the packaging: can it be reused or recycled? It’s even going so far as to think about the disposal: is it the type of item that will break quickly and end up in a landfill before the end of January? Or was it built to last and could have a second life in a charity shop or on Freecycle?

Does the gift even have to be tangible at all? After all, we are living in an increasingly dematerialised world as films, books, and music no longer need to have a physical presence, but can be streamed or downloaded.*

I’ll be sharing suggestions over the next week, so please pop by each day between now and 5th November for ideas about how to avoid unnecessary packaging during the holidays. Some of this list is the same as in past years, but I have updated it with several different companies I’ve come across, as well as added a few new categories. Is your favourite plastic-free product or idea missing (or is there a broken link or two)? Please let me know!

The energy use for the servers that power the internet is not insignificant, but that’s a blog post for a different day!

Read the entire 2019 More Thought, Less Waste gift guide:

  • Part 1: Why it’s so important to cut back on waste, especially at Christmas (in the UK, there’s a 30% increase in rubbish compared to the rest of the year).
  • Part 2: How to plan ahead to avoid waste and where you can shop; let me know if you have any favourites that should be included next year.
  • Part 3: Reduced waste wrapping and green gifts for those who are interested in the environment (or wouldn’t mind a gentle, plastic-free nudge). Don’t forget to give paper and foil the scrunch test! If it stays scrunched it’s paper or foil and can be recycled accordingly; if it bounces back, it’s made with plastic and likely has to go to landfill.
  • Part 4: Whether you’re catering for readers or film buffs, foodies or explorers, there is something for everyone and it doesn’t necessarily require packaging.
  • Part 5: Gift suggestions for around the house and garden (and if you’re into helping bees, make sure to check out the details for safe bee houses—they’re not all created equal).
  • Part 6: Wrapping things up with suggestions ranging from stuff with a story to lessons and experiences. If you think there’s something missing, please drop me a line!


  1. Tracy A.
    October 31, 2019 / 1:15 pm

    Thanks for getting me to think about this early!

    • October 31, 2019 / 1:50 pm

      Early is the secret! It’s very important to avoid CBP (Christmas Buying Panic) if you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious when you shop. Check in throughout the next week for ideas of how to cut back on waste, and thanks for reading.

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