Ethical Shopper: 12 days 12 ways: Countdown to Christmas


Twelve Wasteless wrappings


Eleven Trees-a-lighting


Ten Fairtrade Fellas


Nine Gifts-a-gleaming


Eight Brands-worth-buying


Seven Fish-a-filpping


Six Gifts of Nothing


Five Local Beers


Four Calling Cows


Three Happy Hens


Two Supermarket Giants


... and a nice rest after a big feed

Twelve Wasteless wrappings

Towards Zero waste

There's a huge amount of waste that comes with the traditions of Christmas and the holiday season. Some would say the whole event is a waste of time. But you can take some easy steps to reduce making it in the first place.


Australia produces more than 3.4 million tonnes of packaging every year — that’s about 165kg per person — and only 48 per cent is recycled.


In June 2016, French parliament implemented a new law which all disposable plastic dishware banned from sale in French stores by 2020.
  • Don’t forget to take your reusable shopping bag when you're Christmas shopping.
  • Buy in bulk to minimise packaging waste.
  • Doing a picnic in the park? Bring your own washable plates and cutlery. It takes a small amount of effort but or use biodegradable plant-based items, available from Going Green Solutions

Wrapping presents

Why not try these alternatives:

  • Furoshiki is the long-time Japanese practice of wrapping gifts in cloths. This requires no cutting, only wrapping and knotting. See how to here and more here . (Think outside the box — See pic of gift wrapped in red recycled shirt - groovy!).
  • Recycled Paper – Fun wrappings can be made from old paper maps, Sunday comic pages, sheet music or tissue sewing patterns. Feeling especially artistic? Decorate paper bags, or artist paper that you already have on hand. Color, paint, stamp, sticker, etc.
  • Reusable Bags – If you don’t want to go the wrapping route, there’s still time in this holiday season to buy (or perhaps even make) reusable bags.

When receiving gifts, make sure you use paper again if possible, or recycle it.
See wrap stats infographic

Some other resources

    Daring greatly. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

What will be your 'arena' in the upcoming year?
Eleven Trees-a-lighting

Decorating lightly

By rethinking some traditions, you and your family can lighten your eco-footprint this Christmas.



  • Don’t go for disposable – keep them to last for years to come.
  • Tinsel and trinkets - make your own .Try edible decorations of dried fruit or popcorn on a string. Popular with the kids.
  • Decorations with an ethical edge.
  • Go recycled. Get some inspiration here and here.


For Australia, electricity is a major source of environmental impact. This is because about 86% of it comes from fossil fuels.

  • Turn off lights when not being viewed.
  • Look for products using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs - they last 10 times longer and dramatically reduce power use.
  • Check out these ideas for eco alternatives (Don't burn down your house!)


There are lots of options to the plastic tree (made from PVC - toxic when recycled) or non-native pine which is grow in grown in dense monoculture plantations that require high inputs of chemicals and water.
  • Try a potted plant, maybe a local native. See
  • The Australian Black Pine (right) is drought tolerant, looks good all year round, doesn’t mind life in a pot, and make a great Christmas tree.
  • Buy a Christmas tree and support Oxfam Australia
  • Awesome ideas for upcycled tree alternatives. Great ones here

    Where are you going, what are you becoming?. “My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.” ― Marcel Proust

Ten Fairtrade Fellas

Cocoa kids

Buying slave-free certified chocolate this Christmas means knowing that the farmers who produced the ingredients are getting a good deal, and children aren't being exploited. You can feel good in the knowledge that the goodness goes on even after the wrapper is empty.


About 70 per cent of the cocoa beans used to make the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa. Many cocoa farms in this area use child labour. The Ivory Coast has an estimated 300,000 children working in dangerous conditions; more than half are under 14 years old. The work includes spraying pesticides, using machetes and carrying heavy loads.

    Rekindling creativity.

“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.” ― Fred Rogers

Children are naturally creative. Think of all the ways a child can take an ordinary object and turn it into something extraordinary. Like how a tattered t-shirt can become a magical cape that makes you fly, how a sandcastle turns into a mystical land full of castles with dragons and princesses, or how an imaginary friend stirs up adventures to pursue. As adults, we're less likely to give ourselves the space to play with new concepts, having had years of exposure to the “usual” or “accepted” approach.

So how do we maintain the creative spirit as we grow up and open our minds to more imagination and creativity? Here's 3 ideas to try over this summer.

1. Be Curious. View the world with wonder and excitement.
2. Think Outside the Box. Embrace a New Perspective. Let Your Imagination Run Wild.
3. Have Fun. Remember to smile and laugh. Be liberated from your own expectations.
Nine Gifts-a-gleaming


What makes an ideal Christmas gift? Something the recipient likes? Something you like? Something that is useful? Something that is meaningful? Something that isn't disposable? Something that doesn't exploit workers in its manufacture? The perfect gift is likely a combination of all these things.


Toys and China

Three-quarters of the world’s toys are made in China. Working conditions have been improving, but serious labour violations continue. Toy workers often work for more than 80 hours a week — well above China’s legal limit.

Choose Australian made toys, available at websites such as,, Choose ‘China-free’ toys from companies such as Playmobil and Lego who manufacture most of their products in Europe. Check the company track-record for toy manufacturers and avoid those with significant criticisms.

Fairtrade - fair wages, no exploitation.

  • Etiko Fairtrade T-shirts "Love Revolutions " "Wear no Evil".
  • Jinta Fairtrade Sports balls
  • 3fish ethical clothing
  • Cocolo Fairtrade Chocolate

See more and buy direct at Only Just fair-trade online shop, or Tribes and Nations.
If you're choosing clothing as a gift, see Oxfam's Naught & Nice Christmas list showing which Australian retailers have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord and which have not. For more on clothing see our Shop Ethical! Clothing Edition.

Some people are weighed down with stuff. Others don’t have the essential stuff they need. Buy a goat for your mum.

Check out these other great resources

    The greatest gift. We live in a world clamouring for our attention. Screens shout at us at every opportunity. Never has the temptation to move onto the next thing, or has the fear of missing out, been stronger.

The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, your attention, your concern. So when we sit down with someone and give them our attention, show interest in them, we are giving them something both rare and valuable. Honouring their uniqueness and acknowledging our interdependence.

What is one way you can put this into practice for a friend or stranger today?
Eight Brands-worth-buying


Avoid companies with a negative track record this Christmas. Avoid multinationals. Use the Guide to find a best buy. You might be looking for soft drinks for example. By choosing Bickford’s over Deep Spring you’re supporting an Australian owned company with a positive track record. See Soft Drinks comparison page.


Every time we buy something, the money we spend endorses a company and its activities, whether we are aware of it or not. Companies need our money to stay in business — money talks, and your dollar literally is your vote.

Out of the top 100 brands of all food sold in Australian supermarkets, just 16 are Australian owned, and these are owned by just nine companies.

Here's our list of recommended PLANET-FRIENDLY GIFT IDEAS for products that are earth-friendly.

    Present and alive. We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. - George Bernard Shaw

Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. - Eckhart Tolle

Ask yourself what changes may need to happen by you or in you to be happy, to be wise.
Seven Fish-a-filpping

Sustainable seafood

While Christmas is a popular time of year to eat seafood, not all fish are equal when it comes to impact on our oceans. Over three-quarters of our global fish stocks are either over-exploited or fished right up to their limit. This year, choose sustainable seafood.


Two years ago, Greenpeace successfully campaigned to have Australia’s biggest tuna supplier, John West, commit to 100% FAD-free and pole and line tuna. Since then, every other brand and retailer in their ranking has followed suit and made a similar commitment.

  • Canned Tuna is the biggest selling seafood item in Australia. If you buy tuna, avoid brands using Bigeye and yellowfin species (these are overfished); choose Skipjack (of least concern), or choose Fish4Ever brand which tops the list on Greenpeace's Canned Tuna guide.
  • Avoid the following seafood and fish species. Orange Roughy, Tuna, Blue Grenadier, Atlantic Salmon, Striped Marlin, Toothfish, Swordfish, Hake, Oreodory, Skates and rays, Prawns, Sharks. They’re on Greenpeace’s ‘Red list’.
  • Some species are considered a 'better buy' by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. Four at the top of this Sustainable Seafood Guide list are Whiting, Bream, Flathead and Calamari.

    How you get there. Like most industries that view animals as commodities for human use, industrial tuna fishing uses the most efficient means to catch the greatest numbers, which is commonly purse seine nets with fish aggregation devices (FADs), a method responsible for high levels of bycatch including sharks and other marine life.

We live in a world where is it commonly accepted that the "end justify the means”. In reality however, the journey towards an accomplishment or decision is just as important as the destination itself. What are ways you can more fully enjoy the journey this coming year?
Six Gifts of Nothing


For those keen to de-commercialse Christmas and respond in a meaningful way to the overconsumption thats common, try a Buy Nothing Christmas. There's a great Buy Nothing Catalogue and Buy Nothing Christmas Information Kit, both with lots of ideas.


Here's a few we love:

  • Give a home-made voucher to exchange for your time – cook a meal, do the garden, create a home compost or veggie garden, look after the kids, give a massage.
  • Make something yummy. For all those who can bake.
  • Make something crafty. For all those who can knit, sew, spin, pot.
  • Make your own something incredibly original.

Buy less. If your family is up for it, do a a Kris Kringle — where each person only buys one present each. Choose who you give to via names out of a hat and set a limit for how much you have to spend. See the No Buy Gift Guide from Sasha Milne who spent 12 months buying nothing new. See her story on TEDx.

And along with the theme...

  • The Gift of Nothing. A very cool book. Mooch the cat desperately wants to find a gift for his friend Earl the dog, but Earl already has everything. "What do you give a guy who has everything?" Mooch wonders. The answer, of course, is nothing!
    More at Available at fishpond.
  • Have a movie screening. "What would Jesus Buy?" follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shop-apocalypse. Available for borrowing from our movie library.

Give an experience

  • Movie, theatre, adventure, pamper, gourmet treat. Take your loved one's out. Make it your own customised gift, or do a package

    True Growth. "... the measure of a civilization's growth is not to be found in the conquest of other people or in the possession of land. Rather, true growth is the ability of a society to transfer increasing amounts of energy and attention from the material side of life to the non-material side and thereby to advance its culture, capacity for compassion, sense of community and strength of democracy. We are now being pushed by necessity to discover freshly the meaning of 'true growth' by progressively simplifying the material side of our lives and enriching the non-material side." - Duane Elgin, Voluntary simplicity

Five Local Beers

Supporting the small guys

This Christmas when buying beer, support one of Australia’s 100+ microbreweries. With exception of the family owned Coopers Brewery, all of the large Australian breweries are now owned by either the Foster's Group or Lion. See Beer company comparion page


In 2016 Belgium’s AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, took over its larger rival South Africa-originated SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer. The combined company accounts for 27 percent of beer sales worldwide. Within Australia, AB In Bev owns rights to Corona, Stella Artosis, Beck’s and Budweiser beer. SABMiller acquired Fosters Group Limited, including Carlton United Breweries (CUB), in 2011 and has since controlled the licensing rights to use the brands Victoria Bitter, Carlton, Crown Larger, Pure Blonde and Strongbow Cider.

Australia’s second largest brewer, Lion, has been wholly-owned by Japan’s Kirin since 2009.

    Bigger is not always better. "In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else. Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity, and glamour. " – Wendell Berry, farmer and author

Supporters of the current free-market economy argue that competition among producers ensures efficiency and keeps prices as low as possible. This argument sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice it delivers the kind of race-to-the-bottom economy which sidelines workers and delivers much of the productive economy into the hands of a minority. Cooperation on the other hand refers to a situation in which the participants seek out win-win outcomes from working together.
Four Calling Cows

Fellow creatures

Reducing your meat and dairy consumption this Christmas is one of the most effective things you can do to reduce your environmental impact.


Christmas and vegetarians used not to be a perfect marriage. While everyone else was being offered goose, turkey or capon, the poor non-meat-eaters could be made to feel left out. Nowadays, however, most tastes can be willingly catered for by the cook, especially at Christmas.

    Animals and us. These two quotes are worth reflecting on.

“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.” ― Matthew Scully

“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ― Henry Beston
Three Happy Hens

Roam Free

This Christmas you can make a difference to the way animals are treated. Choose genuine free range eggs for that custard on the pudding, and free range ham, chicken and turkey if you're preparing meat for the main meal. Choose 'accredited free range' where possible.


In March 2016 a new national standard for free-range egg production was introduced with a stocking density of up to 10,000 hens per hectare. This however was criticised by animal welfare advocates who support the CSIRO Model Code of Practice which sets the limit at 1500 hens per hectare. They say the standard is watered-down and industry-driven.

    Compromise & Core values. For hens, scratching in the dirt and having space to roam is very much a core characteristic of who they are. We too have things we hold as central and most important. Often we need to make compromises with others to see oucomes and change. It is important however that we are clear about what parts are negotiable for us and what are our core values. If we compromise these, we lose a sense of self.
Take a moment to write down your 5 most important core values. What areas of your life do you need to be willing to compromise in more? What areas of your life do you need to stand firm in more?
Two Supermarket Giants

Beyond convenience

This Christmas you can support smaller retailers with your spending dollar. For food purchases look to shop at independent supermarkets such as IGA and Foodworks over Coles and Woolworths if possible, or even better, farmers markets, food co-ops, wholefood stores and independent grocers.


Australia has one of the most concentrated grocery markets in the world. Woolworths and Wesfarmers (owner of Coles) together account for over 70 per cent of supermarket sales. This power has lead to mistreatment of suppliers. Both companies have been fined by the ACCC in the last two years for unconscionable conduct.

    Intention. “The quality of your commitments will determine the course of your life.” – Ralph Marston

Living a good life - living a simple life - in a world that is hectic, busy, and hurried - certainly requires intentionality. Take time in this season to re-examine the wider purpose of your life. Identify what you want your life to communicate and contribute. What are the values you hold as most important. Set goals. Goals move us forward. Take practical steps to achieve these. Stay focused.
... and a nice rest after a big feed

Slow Down

Overindulgence is often the hallmark of the day. Many of us are familiar with those “I gotta-lie-down” moments after the Christmas dinner.

Aim for just the right amount. Try to plan your meal appropriately for the number of people eating to avoid the mountains of food waste. Compost the waste. If you haven’t got a system, now may be the time to add one to your wish list.

Slow down. Enjoy your food. The Slow Food Movement began in the 1970s as a response to the rapidly growing and smothering fast food culture. Slow food groups promote the joy of food, and increasing connections between producers and consumers.

    Contentment. "There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less. " – C.K. Chesterton

Can you imagine what your family life would be like if everyone was happy with what they had in the moment? Where no one was wishing for something else? In our consumer driven culture cultivating contentment can be hard at times. Still it is possible. Here are some simple ways to help nurture a culture of contentment in yourself and your family:
  • Practice gratitude. Gratitude encourages us to notice the good things in our life.
  • Make a point of helping others. Sharing talents and time helps develop an appreciation for what you have and for what you can offer.
  • Avoid the comparison game. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life.
Think of ways you can put these into action this Christmas.