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Britons cut spending in search for an ethical Christmas



Unwanted presents, non recyclable wrapping paper, and a mountain of plastic – more Britons than ever are trying to avoid the unethical elements of Christmas this year.

It comes as charities warn of the environmental impact of the big day, with huge amounts of rubbish filling landfills, oceans and rivers.

The Bronsdons from East Lothian are doing their best to have an eco-friendly Christmas, getting presents from swishing parties, where people trade unwanted clothes with each other, and buying plastic-free shaving kits.

The Bronsdons from East Lothian have made an effort to have an ethical Christmas
The Bronsdons from East Lothian have made an effort to have an ethical Christmas

Mum Sarah has also carefully chosen chocolate bars wrapped in foil and paper, not plastic.

They also make their own wrapping paper as a family, stamping Christmas designs onto brown paper.

The ethical market in Britain is now worth £83bn a year, and people are keen to have a more sustainable Christmas.

Connor McKay, from cosmetics brand Lush, said: “In recent years there has been an increase in knowledge and with social media people have more access to companies. They want to know where ingredients come from and what impact does the packaging have on the environment.”

Shoppers at Lush told Sky News they wanted to champion sustainability at Christmas.

One of the presents Sarah is giving was 'swished'
One of the presents Sarah is giving was ‘swished’

Estimates from the Wildlife and Countryside Link show more than 103,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled this Christmas, equivalent to the weight of 215,000 polar bears.

Almost 3,600 tonnes of aluminium foil will end up in landfill, and 106sqkm of wrapping paper will be used. More than one-fifth of this, an area larger than the combined size of London’s Royal Parks, will go to landfill.

Dr Lyndsey Dodds, head of UK Marine Policy, at WWF: “Living a sustainable lifestyle – from the food we eat to the clothes we wear – is a vital step in protecting our wildlife and our environment. People will be shocked to learn about the amount of waste we produce at Christmas and also frustrated that more isn’t being done by the government and businesses to reduce the amount of packaging used.

“The first step is for each of us to say no to single-use plastic and to push the government to make better choices for our world, including the key step of requiring businesses to slash plastic production.”

The family makes their own wrapping paper
The family makes their own wrapping paper

Britons will receive somewhere in the region of 60 to 70 million unwanted Christmas presents this year.

A YouGov survey of 2000 adults revealed more than half of people receive a present they didn’t want at Christmas, with bath products taking the top spot.

The poll revealed a third of people would be happy to have a charitable donation made instead of a gift.

More and more people have decided to reduce the number of presents they buy, with some agreeing not to buy any at all.

More of us want to have a green Christmas this year
More of us want to have a green Christmas this year

An international survey of 23,000 families by Ferratim, a financial service company, found that in the UK a third of people would be spending less money on Christmas this year.

The firm said fears over Brexit was contributing to people’s decision to spend less.

Cutting festive spending was first championed by Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis, who encourages people to agree with wider family and friends to cut down on how many presents are bought.

Harriet Vocking, of Eco-Age, a sustainability and communications consultancy, said: “There is a tendency at Christmas to buy gifts because that is what is expected, but there are many ways to avoid the unwanted gift conundrum.

Tony Juniper, executive director of WWF UK said people receive presents they didn't want or need last year
Tony Juniper, executive director of WWF UK said people receive presents they didn’t want or need last year

“We’re seeing a significant increase in engagement around the topic, from people asking us where they can buy the most sustainable gifts, to contributing amazing ideas and debates for ways to have a meaningful, fun, and sustainable Christmas.”

It’s thought that last year, UK residents threw away 100 million black bin bags of waste.

Tony Juniper, executive director, of WWF (UK) told Sky News: “Lots of the stuff we get for Christmas we know we didn’t want and much of it we really didn’t need.

“Thinking about ways that we can find things that people really want, that are beautiful and going to last – that’s what to look for.”

:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at

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