How Ecological Are Your Christmas Gifts This Year?

christmas gifts

A new study by the sustainable and vegan online retailer, Shop Like You Give a Damn, has discovered the extent to which Christmas presents impact the environment and society. Using YouGov and carbon emissions data, this company investigated the environmental impact of the UK’s most popular Christmas gifts, including socks, pyjamas, makeup and toiletries, jewellery, toys, and reusable face masks.

Shop Like You Give a Damn is the largest online retailer for vegan, fair, and sustainable homeware, fashion, and cosmetics. Founded by Stephan, Alex, and Kim in 2018, this site encourages its customers to give a damn about our planet and work this into their own consumerism trends.

“We founded this store because we dream of a world where veganism isn’t the exception, but the rule. A world where animals aren’t used to serve people but can freely be. A world where humans and animals truly live in harmony.”

“Our mission is to make compassion and sustainability the new normal, by making ethical and mindful shopping really easy for you.”

Shop Like You Give a Damn Findings

It is no surprise that fast fashion is a significant contributor to the damaging exploitation of our planet. Fashion production contributes 10% of our overall carbon emissions, more than all maritime shipping and international flights combined. With 85% of all textiles ending up in the landfill every year, it makes you wonder – what is the point?



  • Cotton socks create 0.091kg of CO2-eq
  • Woolen socks create 5.74kg of CO2-eq

Leather Gloves:

  • One pair of leather gloves create 19kg of CO2-eq
  • It takes between 50 and 100 years for leather to break down, releasing harmful and hazardous chemicals in the process

Pyjamas: one cotton PJ set

  • Uses 20,000 litres of water (a UK household of two would take two and a half months to use the equivalent)
  • Creates 1.8kg of CO2-eq

Reusable Face Masks:

  • One reusable cotton face mask creates 60g of CO2-eq


  • Since 1985, there has been a 400% increase in the consumption of beauty products in the UK
  • The decomposition of a moisturizer container takes 1000 years
  • This industry produces 120 billion units of packaging every year


  • Gold pair of earrings (mine origin) creates 31kg of CO2-eq
  • Gold ring (mine origin) creates 107kg of CO2-eq
  • Silver pair of earrings (mine origin) creates 0.34kg of CO2-eq
  • Silver ring (mine origin) creates 0.98kg of CO2-eq


  • Burning a paraffin candle for one hour creates 10kg of CO2-eq

Children’s Toys

  • One standard soft toy creates 0.77kg of CO2-eq
  • One battery-operated soft toy creates 1.34kg of CO2-eq
  • One plastic toy creates 1.79kg of CO2-eq

What can we do?

Increasing our own awareness and avoiding Christmas gifts with a high carbon footprint does have a positive impact on the planet and brings us one step closer to living a more sustainable life. Where many of us fall short, however, is through our choice of wrapping paper. Whilst glittery paper boasting candy canes and reindeer are a blessing on the eye and as festive as it gets, the waste and subsequent disposal of such an item has devastating implications for our planet. It may look beautiful in the days leading up to Christmas but as soon as we rip through the glitter it is but a corpse on the floor, unsightly and inevitably ending up in the landfill.

In the UK, 365 470km of wrapping paper and 40 million rolls of sellotape are used every year. If we take this figure globally, that equals to wrapping the entire globe in wrapping paper nine times over – now that is impressive!

Before you panic that you are singlehandedly destroying the planet with your six rolls of festive wrapping paper, take a look at these three simple ways you can reduce waste and reuse what you already have.

  • Instead of disposing of wrapping paper year in year out, re-use what is old to save the festive sheets from being incinerated in the landfill
  • Wrap gifts in old newspaper or brown paper – this makes it recyclable too
  • Buy recycled wrapping paper or one that can be recycled itself

It is not solely the environmental impact that is the problem, however, but also the social implications. Boohoo is just one of the many retailers who have come under recent scrutiny regarding their treatment of garment workers who contribute to the Christmas rush. In their Leicester warehouse, for example, workers were discovered to only be receiving three or four pound an hour, falling dramatically under our national minimum wage.

Pretty Little Thing is the latest company to come under intense social media scrutiny with their Black Friday Sale items. Selling clothes for as low as four pence apiece severely questions the conditions of these garment workers and whether they are being paid at all. It is large, multicorporate companies such as these which are encouraging smaller and more sustainable companies to finally create a platform for themselves and demand fairer rights and working conditions for those who are striving to ensure our consumer needs are met.

Think carefully when purchasing your Christmas gifts this year but extend that to your wrapping too.

Words by Maddy Raine


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