'Our family are now doing Christmas gifts with an eco-twist, but I'm not sure about it.'

For many years my husband’s big extended family have had an excellent ‘Secret Santa’ Christmas gifting system for the adults in the family.

It means that the budget per pressie can be higher and while each person gets just one gift, it is one quality item that they actually want.

This year for the first time we will also be doing ‘Secret Santa’ gifts for the children as there are now nine nieces and nephews that all of us need to buy for on just one side of the family.

Last year the present buying followed by the unwrapping frenzy, got a little out of control, so it was suggested that for 2018 we not only buy less, but we also go plastic free – buying only second hand or experiential gifts for both adults and kids alike.

In theory I think this is a wonderful idea. I see trolleys being pushed around big stores stacked to the brim with kids’ cheap plastic toys that by mid-February will likely be on the nature strip, broken and ready to go straight into landfill.

Christmas gifts eco plastic free
This year, our Christmas is not going to look like this. Image: Supplied.

I also find the pressure to consume for the sake of consumption all a bit much at Christmas time.

As mum to two boys, I know exactly what happens after all the frantic present opening - the kids end up having more fun with the wrapping paper and the boxes - so I am happy to keep the over-packaged plastic rubbish down to an absolute minimum.

For my youngest son Leo who is not yet two, buying second hand toys online, at garage sales or in op-shops is a great solution. He is young enough to not care what he gets and he has no concept of the value of a gift. The nephew I am buying for is a similar age to Leo and we found a wooden play kitchen for sale online which was in great condition. He will not care that it is not new, and it was satisfying handing over the money to a friendly fellow parent that was not going to line the coffers of big business and as an added bonus, it was already put together!


For the older cousins and the adults, buying second hand or even ethical and experiential gifts, is a lot easier said than done. Finding the time to come up with unique and individual presents is a really noble idea but the reality is, I am time poor yet vouchers always seem like a bit of a cop out, especially for kids.

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Christmases past, I have always enjoyed booking in an evening to go to the local mall and department store to choose quality presents for my in-laws. From a purely selfish perspective, it makes me feel festive listening to all the cheesy Christmas carols while I browse the cosmetics, skin care products or accessories I know they will enjoy.

As someone used to a cold northern hemisphere Christmas thanks to my UK upbringing, the Aussie Christmas of cricket, barbecues and beach is - although appealing - still very unlike my festive childhood memories. A bit of festive shopping after hours with some carols in the background and maybe a mince pie in my belly, can help me to channel some Christmas spirit of my own.

I can’t deny that I also love a quality toy shop and looking through racks of beautiful kids’ clothes. Having two boys who would mostly prefer to remain nude or wear only comfortable tracksuit style shorts and t-shirts, I have found it a treat to buy for my nieces and nephews who appear to enjoy a higher grade of outfit.

This year I am to be saved all of the shopping, stress and queuing and I do feel noble for saving on the waste and excess of it all, BUT I can’t help but feel a tiny bit less Christmassy.

Christmas gifts eco plastic free
I know it's selfish, but I can't help but miss the festive joy. Image: Supplied.

Scrolling through Gumtree or various Facebook groups after a day working on my laptop is neither appealing nor festive, and buying vouchers for day spas and garden centres, (as requested) is certainly easy but where are the Christmas carols and mince pies?

In truth, I still have plenty of other people to buy for, including my own two little tackers so I will no doubt get my festive shopping fill. On the positive side I am trying to embrace the noble festive feels, hoping we have taken some small steps to help our poor planet deal with slightly less plastic toy landfill come February.

How do you do present buying for your extended family? Do you feel overwhelmed by it all or do you love it? Could you go second hand? We’d love your comments below.

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