If sustainability is your passion, Christmas can be a minefield.
While your relatives squeal and cheer over piles of presents, images of plastic islands floating in the ocean and whales bloated with ingested plastic could flood your brain. So how can you gently urge every one of your friends and relatives to go easy on the gift-buying without coming across as a ranting grinch who's ruining the spirit of Christmas?
Focus on family
One of the best ways to shift Christmas away from excessive gift-buying is to remind everyone about the importance of quality time with family.
"Whether you are coming from a religious perspective or not, Christmas is meant to be about spending time with the ones you love – that is where the joy should be coming from, not from stuff," Lisa Heinze, University of Sydney sustainable fashion academic, tells SBS.
"I would say something like, 'When I get all of my presents this year, I will be making sure they're environmentally friendly and not contributing to landfill'."
Lead by example
Rather than lecturing people about how sinful their gift purchases are, clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack suggests showing them the way.
"I would say something like, 'When I get all of my presents this year, I will be making sure they're environmentally friendly and not contributing to landfill'," she says.
"It's not saying 'You need to get this for me', it's showing them what you're doing and communicating your values so that they will hopefully take the hint." Even if your relatives don't switch their behaviours immediately, making your strategy known now could lay the groundwork for a more sustainable 2017 Christmas.
Be grateful in the moment
Snapping at people for buying your children too many gifts will only send Christmas sour.
McCormack suggests accepting that they have good intentions and having a chat at a later date. "We need to appreciate that they have a good heart and are doing it because they think it's the right thing and it gives them pleasure," McCormack says.
Chat to your children
If your kids are feeling ripped off that their Santa sack isn't brimming like their neighbour's, Heinze suggests explaining that it's more important to have one thing that you really love than 100 things that will mostly not be used. "Remind them that Christmas is about spending time together and when you do get a gift, it's because someone has really thought about getting something they know you want and will love.”
"We need to appreciate that they have a good heart and are doing it because they think it's the right thing and it gives them pleasure."
Green ground rules for gift giving
- Avoid plastic where possible. "It's unusual to find plastic toys that have a recycling symbol on the bottom and many will end up in landfill," Heinze says. "Wooden toys are a much better option – it's a renewable resource and is biodegradable when they are done."
- Shop second-hand. A recent Gumtree study found that 76 per cent of surveyed shoppers are not deterred by gifts being second-hand. "So often toys are played with for such a short period of time and are discarded when they are perfectly fine quality," Heinze points out. "It is about getting over the stigma and knowing it's a quality product."
- Buy quality clothing. It might be tempting to buy big at fast fashion outlets but Heinze says those threads almost always end up in landfill. "A lot of them are designed for less than 10 wears, so start getting holes quickly and the thread comes out, and they can't be sold at the op shop. You can only recycle fabrics that are 100 percent of one fibre, like cotton or polyester, but a lot of fashion labels use a blend of fabrics, which cannot be recycled at this point." She suggests using the Good On You app to find ethical fashion labels.
- Give experiences. Try pointing out to your relatives that what your children would really love for Christmas would be a special day out. "You can turn it into a beautiful sentiment, saying, 'My kids would really love to spend time with you – maybe take them to a game or to the zoo or on a hike."
There's no time for regrets
If you've already done your Christmas present buying, don't have regrets. "Acknowledge that you have learnt something this year you can apply next year," Heinze says. "You came at this from a point of love and consideration, so don't beat yourself up or feel bad about the gift. But maybe for the next birthday or holiday that roles around, think differently."