Are you taking part in a Secret Santa this Christmas? I am, and I’ve been matched with someone I’ve never met. Working out what on earth to do has surfaced difficult questions around trying to live a sustainable life and how that might be perceived by others.

I could buy a throwaway jokey gift or a consumable like a bottle of wine, but does he even drink alcohol or like jokes? If not, what a waste of raw materials and energy!

I could buy a gift voucher, so he can choose something he’d actually want, but that’s still encouraging consumption and let’s face it, it’s pretty boring.

I could buy something from a charity shop. Even if it’s not his cup of tea, it’s preloved and the money spent on it would go to a good cause.

I could purchase a ‘green’ gift, like package free toiletries – but as I don’t know him, it’s likely to languish on a shelf.

I could donate to an environmental, medical or refugee charity in his name, but I have no idea what cause he would like to support.

Or I could just refuse to take part in the rampant capitalism that is Secret Santa!

The final four options sit uncomfortably close to smug virtue signalling, when I know that most of my colleagues will go for the first choice. But none feel right to me. I want to give a gift, but don’t want to encourage throw away consumerism. I want take part like everyone else, but don’t want to appear like a smug hair-shirt wearer.

People trying to be ‘green’ face these dilemmas every time we decide to buy something, not just at Christmas. Frankly, it’s confusing and exhausting. In an ideal world these decisions would be made for me. The bad choices won’t be available, or too expensive because their true cost will be taken into account. Yes, I know it’s unlikely – but dreaming’s free!


This article was written by Liz Barling and first published in the Keynsham Voice – December 2023