MAKE A LIST, CHECK IT TWICE
A great way to avoid over shopping or suffering from CBP (Christmas Buying Panic) is to take advice from old St. Nick himself and write a list of everyone you want to shop for and the types of things they’re interested in. Not sure what they want to find under the tree? Ask! If you want to really stay on top of things, make a note of your budget for each person or decide on a flat rate for everyone.
And this may seem like strange advice at the very beginning of a gift guide but consider not giving gifts at all or cutting back on the number given. Many families have started doing secret Santa exchanges where they draw names from a hat and only get a gift for that one person instead of every uncle, aunt, and cousin.
Before you think I sound like a scrooge, I love to give gifts … just throughout the year when I see something that reminds me of the recipient. These surprise “just because” gifts feel less like an obligation and more like genuine giving.
WHERE TO BUY
While the convenience of Amazon is hard to beat, Christmas shopping is a great opportunity to support smaller businesses and independent sellers while avoiding miles of bubble wrap* and unnecessary packaging.
Christmas Markets and Craft Fairs
Make sure you have your list in hand (or safely saved on your phone) and visit a Christmas market. If you really want to be organised, check out the market’s website in advance to see if they list the vendors. This way you can target exactly what you want and reduce the risk of buying a CBP-induced candle holder for Aunt Gladys. Local craft fairs might also turn up some unexpected gems, and for those in the Chippenham area, the Corsham Creative Market is on tomorrow (Saturday, 2nd November).
For UK readers, the Bath Christmas Market is probably the largest in the southwest, and don’t forget about the Bath Artisan Market in Queen Square, which is a great way to get a head start while avoiding the crowds. Salisbury is also worth considering if you want to go shopping in a wonderfully historic setting. Salisbury is also home to the incredible Fisherton Mill, a place that combines two things I love: beautiful handmade products and delicious cakes. And if you want to venture further afield, then I can also recommend Chester’s Christmas market: far fewer people than Bath but in an equally fascinating history.
In Chippenham, both Cousin Norman’s and Just Because … You Love It! have a variety of locally made and/or quirky gifts. Wherever you are, take a little time to seek out independently-owned businesses so your money can do double duty over the holidays: your recipient gets a great gift and a local business owner gets a boost.
Shopping at charity or thrift shops has a bit of mystery around it: you never know what you might find. However, this is a great opportunity to reuse something and give an item a second (or even third) chance at being useful. It also supports a charity, so win-win!
If you’re planning to help your pals PALL (Plastic A Lot Less), then a local zero waste or refill shop makes a great place to find presents or stocking stuffers. You can find the one nearest you at the appropriately named Zero Waste Near Me. For Chippenham residents, consider checking out these local(ish) businesses:
- The Wild Food Company, Malmesbury
- Packaging Not Included, Marlborough
- Zero Green, Bristol
- Preserve, Bristol
Through suggestions from readers and a bit of sleuthing, I’ve found a number of online businesses doing their best to promote reusable products and plastic-free packaging. Although I have not tried them all (yet), this list is a great place to start for Christmas (and beyond):
- Buy Me Once: An online shop with a number of premium products that are guaranteed to last a lifetime (or at least longer than average).
- Friendly Soap: This shop has come highly recommended by several readers of the blog, and it offers soaps, shampoos, and conditioners in recycled/recyclable packaging that are vegan and cruelty free as well as free from sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, and other not-so-nice chemicals. It is also an ethicalconsumer.org best buy.
- Funky Soap Shop: I get quite a few products through the Funky Soap Shop because I like their refill service, and I’m hoping that more companies begin to follow suit online and off.
- Herbfarmacy: British grown beauty products that are cruelty free, plastic free, and smell divine.
- In Greens: A full-service website that covers everything from plastic-free travel and first aid products to kitchen, bathroom, and beauty products.
- Little B: Family-run company producing a great range of beeswax strips and an ever-growing shop of other plastic-free items.
- The Natural Spa: To quote from their tagline, The Natural Spa specialise in “plastic free and vegan hair care, soaps and other cosmetics.”
- Onya: Carrying an Onya bag with me was one of the first plastic-free swaps I made over a decade ago, and I still love their products: practical, efficient, and practically indestructible.
- Plastic Freedom: Pretty much a one-stop shop for plastic-free products, they also aim to cut back their packaging waste as well.
- Plastics Free: A Cornish company that stocks a wide-range of products for all areas of the house.
- Posy London: Organic and plastic-free deodorant, shampoo, and conditioner bars. The travel-size sets are great for samples and stocking stuffers.
- Tabitha Eve: A Welsh company that produces a number of handmade, plastic-free products for around the house.
- The Eco Shop UK: A little bit of everything to help you (or your gift recipient) start down the path to reducing waste.
- Thoran UK: I heard about this initiative during my visit to Hampstead Norreys: they sell products handmade by survivors of human trafficking. Products with heart are a great way to make sure your money goes further at Christmas and throughout the year.
- Turtley Eco: Another one-stop shop, this one plants a tree for every order placed in the UK.
For US readers:
- 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!
If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to reduce your wasteline throughout the year, check out related posts:
- Reduce Your Wasteline: The Bathroom
- Reduce Your Wasteline: The Wardrobe
- Reduce Your Wasteline: Out and About
- Reduce Your Wasteline: The Kitchen
- Reduce Your Wasteline: Everything Else
- Reduce Your Wasteline: Get Social
- Reduce Your Wasteline: Gift Giving
- Greenwashing and Unintended Consequences
- Meeting in the Middle on Waste Reduction
- How I Lost 20 Pounds in One Year
- Tip of the Iceberg