Christmas rules

Action: Write a set of family rules about Christmas present buying

Today’s tip will help you keep control of buying, waste, budgets and your “Christmas footprint”

Every year at Christmas, many families (especially in wealthy western nations) will “overdo” Christmas. We buy too many presents for children, we buy gifts for people we feel obliged to buy for, we spend too much, and we buy lots of things that are unsustainable, or even simply unwanted.

Christmas card

We should all cooperate to try and reduce this.

This can start in our own families … our suggested action for you this week is to sit down with your family and agree in advance what you will and will not buy for Christmas presents.

Make a simple list of rules and get everyone to agree to stick to them.


Here are a few examples of the sort of family rules you might agree. You don’t have to use all of them and you might think of others. The important thing is that you try and reduce unnecessary waste and unnecessary buying at Christmas. It’s a fine balance, because we all love to give and receive gifts, but in these times of better understanding of the impact of consumerism on our environment, we all need to take a step back and think about what the real priorities should be.

Try discussing these ideas and see what members of your family think:

  • presents will only be wrapped in recyclable paper, no glossy plastic or foil
  • we will limit our budget to spend on each other to (an agreed amount)
  • we will not buy plastic toys for our children
  • we will not buy battery powered items unless we can use rechargeable batteries
  • anything we buy will be repairable
  • we will not buy anything that comes with excessive packaging
  • any food or drink gifts we buy will be ethically certified, eg by FairTrade
  • we will limit the number of gifts we buy each other to (an agreed number)
  • any clothing we buy will be made from sustainable materials, no plastics or recycled plastics

You get the idea … and you can use many of the actions featured on this site for further inspiration.

Why should we do this?

We should be reining in Christmas consumerism (starting with our own families) for a whole load of reasons:

  • it contributes massively to consumer waste, including landfill
  • unnecessary consumption increases our personal carbon footprints
  • carbon emissions are impacting directly on global warming
  • Christmas is increasingly plastic, and our consumption of plastic needs to be curtailed

In addition to the environmental benefits, keeping control at Christmas will also:

  • reduce expenditure
  • reduce stress associated with Christmas shopping and present buying
  • re-educate our children as to what Christmas should really be about
  • mean that people receive thoughtful presents they really enjoy

Take action

Arrange a “family meeting” and agree some protocols for Christmas present buying before the mad rush to buy Christmas plastic tat in the last few days. Be more thoughtful in your giving, and everyone will be happier, as well as helping to reduce your family’s impact on our environment.

Merry Christmas!

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