Normally, we the hour difference between France and England, we record evening programmes to watch later in the week. However, last Sunday I really wanted to watch the final episode of Downton Abbey so Simon and I settled watched it live .... you know, without being able to fast forward through the adverts. Well, I can tell you, that came as a bit of a shock. You see in France, Christmas does not really get going until December yet here we were, on November 8th, with every single advert Christmas themed. And not just Christmas themed but big, long, expensively made adverts yelling loudly at us that we'd only have a great Christmas if we spent all our money in their stores and on their products. One even insisted that our meal would be ruined unless we spent out on a new cooker. Well, this got me thinking.
Don't get me wrong, if people want to spend loads of money for their friends and family at Christmas that's fine and we need people to spend money to help the economy. What worries me is the fact that ALL these adverts, without fail, were from the large companies that dominate our high streets and internet at the expense of local, independent and ethical producers. After all, a local shop is not going to be able to spend £1m on an advert and a further £6m in advertising slots, is it as I read one chain-store has done? It's pretty obvious these big, often multinational retailers are pushing to get us to spend our hard earned cash with them but there is another way - a way that ultimately should help the economy even more and that is far more sustainable. So, before you head off up The High Street or online to one of the big retailers whose slick advert you saw on the TV, think about spending your money in places that cannot afford massive advertising budgets in prime time TV but that can help get the economy moving...
So here are 21 ideas to help you spread out where you spend your money this Christmas which is that bit more sustainable.*
Food and Drink
Do not automatically head to the local hypermarket this Christmas when there are so many other places you can get your groceries:
- Local butchers, delis etc. where you'll get great tasting food from people who really care about selling you the best.
- Farmers' Markets and farm shops sell a wealth of fabulous goodies that you won't find in the big stores just waiting to make your meals this Christmas so much more interesting.
- Online small producers - why not buy some-one a whole lamb for the freezer or an organic veg box for a year? Rosewood Farm grassfed beef and lamb would love to supply your Christmas dinner this year.
Everyone loves opening a present so here are some ideas that can help steer you away from the big shops:
- Support local independent shops
- Buy from small Etsy stores
- Buy from self employed crafters who sell their crafts and wares via social media.
- Support local bookshops - a recent radio programme said these were down to 1000 in the UK, the lowest number since records began, yet slowly new ones are opening and doing well. You might spend a bit more in a local shop but you won't have the hassle of waiting in for deliveries that don't come or lost items or returns and anyway, time spent browsing in a bookshop is, in my opinion, never time wasted!
- See if you friends are making anything and buy from them
- Buy from charity shops - many also sell new goods if you are not happy with second hand.
- Plants - the gift that keeps on growing. Search out your local nursery and you'll get the best plants for your locality
- Support local artists by buying their artwork
- Make presents yourself - home-made preserves, cakes, sweets, fruit vodkas for those handy in the kitchen or what-ever you are good at turning your hand to. Just don't forget to support local businesses when buying your supplies!
- Above all support ethical, fair trade and organic suppliers where possible.
Oh and don't forget the wrapping paper - look for recycled paper or use brown paper and decorate it yourself. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for natural embellishments you can add to your wrapped presents which makes the gift even more special.
Non gift presents
Not all presents have to be something tangible in a wrapped box. How about these ideas?
- Give a service such as vouchers for car washing, baby sitting etc
- Lessons - there are just so many things people could learn - riding, ice skating, an instrument etc
- Buy tickets to your local theatre
- Support local restaurants and splash out on a posh meal.
- Sponsor a child, a dolphin, a herd of goats .. . whatever grabs your fancy
- Give a Kiva loan
- Give a charity donation
- Book a holiday with an independent home owner .... I know a nice family owned gite in Normandy ;)
*A final thought
As with so many things the answer to sorting out world economic problems is not as simple as just not buying anything from the big suppliers, however unsustainable they might be. I mentioned earlier about spreading out where you do your shopping because if we all turned our backs on these stores and suppliers we would put an awful lot of people out of work, many who are already at the bottom of the wage pile. Not just shop workers but also suppliers, transporters and everyone else involved getting your present under your tree. However, if little by little, we support the small producers we will start to make a difference. They will do well and will have more money in their pocket to spend with other such producers. New independent shops will open, providing secure jobs for local people. You can be part of this change, so this Christmas this is my festive message:
Enjoy the big adverts but don't not forget that there are plenty of other great places you can spend your money and in doing so you will be helping your local economy and local people.