Compassion at Christmas – how we can all buy better

Christmas is round the corner and we are all feeling the pinch. The cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine are all impacting our daily lives. Consumerism is an inevitable part of the yuletide season but how can we spend better to help our wallets and also to help the environment? 

With COP27 talks recently hitting the headlines we are all painfully aware of the dangerous pace of global warming and the damage it is wreaking on the environment – from unexpected heatwaves to catastrophic flooding.

Consumerism at Christmas comes at a high price and the cost to the environment is alarming. According to

  • The carbon impact of Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day account for 5.5 percent of the UK’s total annual carbon footprint
  • It is estimated that turkey cooking generates 14,056 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in the UK
  • Cooking the UKs Xmas sprouts alone would uses enough energy to power a house for three years
  • The Christmas feasts have the same carbon footprint as a single car travelling around the world 6,000 times
  • Rotting Christmas trees give off 100,000 tons of toxic gases. This is because the trees decompose and produce methane gas, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide
  • In the Christmas spirit, UK citizens cut down 8 million trees for Christmas trees each year, contributing largely to deforestation.

So how can we gift sustainably without damaging the environment?

Here is ACTAsia’s guide to joining the compassionate Christmas revolution.  

Feast sustainably

Consider the carbon footprint of your festive food and consider making some positive swaps for plant-based alternatives. ACTAsia launched a new initiative called Plant Forward this year with the aim of increasing the understanding of plant-based eating and explaining why plants are a vital part of a sustainable future. Read how Plant Forward is making the impossible happen for a more compassionate future. 

Shop locally

Join the #shoplocal movement. Not only will you be supporting local businesses that are much in need of your Christmas cash but you will also be helping to the reduce carbon footprint. Locally sourced products travel less meaning less carbon dioxide emissions. The Small Business Saturday initiative takes place on 3rd December in the UK and promotes local business. Similar local shopping initiatives also take place in USA, Australia and across Europe. 

Check the packaging

Try to reduce plastic consumption with over wrapped goods. This applies to gifts as well as everyday items such as fruit and vegetables. Eschew the plastic packaging and buy items loose – or even better go to a local market with your own shopping bag and support stall holders.

Think sustainable

As tempting as it is to buy cheap festive goodies think sustainably and buy products that have been responsibly sourced. Look out for Fairtrade & Cruelty Free logos. Also keep your eyes peeled for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. This covers a wide range of products, from wooden furniture to paper and toilet rolls.

Luxury Christmas Item?

If you have a special person on your shopping list and are considering a luxury item, be sure to avoid fur. Whether it is a simple fur trim or a full-blown coat, fur is not only unethical but fur farming is also is responsible for considerable environmental damage. 

Gift with a personal touch

Upcycle a piece of furniture or homeware item to give it a personal touch. Making something for someone is the ultimate gift as it demonstrates time, effort and a real personal touch. Or think about hunting down unique pre-loved items from charity shops. 

Gift joy to others

The pandemic has made many people more aware of wider social issues and the needs of charities in their local communities and further afield. 

ACTAsia’s Giving Tuesday appeal this year has for called for donations to help provide ‘Caring for Life’ training to 100 teachers in China. The appeal hopes to empower teachers to inspire and engage hundreds of children to be kind to each other, to animals and help them take responsibility for the natural world. The money will enable teachers to reach hundreds of children to teach them about compassion and respect towards animals, the environment and each other.

£15 = A gift of £15 could provide Caring for Life lessons for one child, teaching empathy and nurturing them to respect all living creatures on our planet.

£40 = A gift of £40 could provide all the dynamic Caring for Life teaching resources, including lesson plans, online and digital support, videos and interactive support.

£75 = A gift of £75 could recruit and train a teacher to give inspirational Caring for Life lessons, to produce well-rounded, responsible and happy children.

Consider the real Christmas message

Christmas – or any other national or religious holiday – is about spending precious time with loved ones, reconnecting and appreciating the simple things in life. We don’t need to turn into crazed consumers to have a fabulous festive time.

Christmas compassion from an ACTAsia supporter

ACTAsia was thrilled to receive this note accompanied by a donation. If we all buy less and give more, then that is surely the true meaning of compassion at Christmas. 

My family decided to give less presents for Christmas to each other, but we want to donate more to people in need. We were looking for a good and trustworthy cause for some time now. Last week I heard Pei Su present ACTAsia at an online event hosted by Wellington International School in Shanghai. 

We thought the approach of ACTAsia is really great, because it addresses a fundamental issue, to create understanding, respect and love for people, nature and our planet among the young generation in Asia. The story you shared is another excellent example.