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how to have a sustainable christmas - buy handmade

How to shop more sustainably this Christmas

by Folksy

Why buying handmade is good for people and the planet

Christmas is a time of celebration, abundance and giving. It’s when we come together to enjoy ourselves, bond over family traditions, succumb to hours of telly and fight over the last mince pie. But it can also be a time of huge excess and waste. So how can we have a planet-friendly Christmas that’s still full of festive joy? 

We’ve been looking into ways to do just that – from considering what you give and who you buy it from, to reducing the miles of wrapping paper destined for landfill. We’ve compiled our tips into a short series of articles. In this first instalment, we look at why buying handmade can help you have a more sustainable Christmas. 

Featured image: Recycled silver star necklace by The Little Red Hen Jewellery

sustainable christmas gifts - soap dish gift set by Charlotte Hupfield
Ceramic Soap Dish Gift Set by Charlotte Hupfield as a collaboration with a local soap maker, using locally sourced clay and lavender

Why buying handmade is a sustainable, planet-friendly option

1. Buying handmade reduces waste

Handmade products are made in small batches and often made to order, meaning less waste, as they typically use fewer resources to produce than mass production techniques. Makers are also more likely to use locally sourced materials, which again results in a lower carbon footprint. 

Find sustainable Christmas gifts on Folksy >

2. Buying from local makers helps cut your carbon footprint

We all know that food miles are best kept as low as possible, but have you ever thought about how far your other purchases have travelled? By buying gifts from makers in your region, you can reduce your carbon footprint, as your presents won’t have as far to travel (and also won’t run the risk of getting stuck in transit or slapped with a big custom’s duty fee).

You can find makers in your region using the Shop Local feature on Folksy. Shop Local on Folksy >

Visiting a local craft fair can reduce the carbon footprint of your gifts even further, as you can buy lots of presents in one place, direct from the makers – Pedddle is a really useful directory for finding markets close to you. Open Studios are great for this too – check your local listings for planned events in your area.

Tip: Our Folksy Local Online Christmas Markets on 27 & 28 November are a great opportunity to shop from makers close to you. Find your local market here https://folksy.com/christmas-markets

Learn more ways to reduce your carbon footprint over Christmas here >

3. Buying craft supports rural economies and regeneration

Makers play an important role in rural economies, as well as in the regeneration of small towns. Not only do small and micro businesses provide much-needed jobs in both rural and urban areas but, by championing regional craft traditions and aesthetics, they help build local “distinctiveness” and a stronger sense of place, all of which can help draw visitors to an area, and sustain local suppliers.

Makers often contribute directly to local communities by partnering with other local businesses too. For example, potter Charlotte Hupfield collaborated with a local soap maker to make this Ceramic Soap Dish Gift Set. The soap is made using lavender sprigs grown and dried on a local lavender farm, while the clay for the dish is also locally sourced, and has been imprinted with wild flowers foraged from nearby hedgerows. That’s four local businesses supported in just one product.

Makers also help sustain rural economies even when they are not local to them. For example, by choosing to use materials like Harris Tweed – which is made from wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides and then hand woven by the islanders in their own homes – over other imported fabrics, makers like Simone from Roses Workshop are helping to keep that industry alive.

Read more about the relationship between makers and the local economy in the Craft Council’s Making It Local report.

Yarn spun from fibres collected at the end of workshops by weaver Agnis Smallwood to be woven into placemats

4. Buying handmade enables makers to innovate and develop more eco-friendly methods

As a sector, makers have been banging the drum for environmental responsibility for a long time, and research shows that an ever-increasing number of craft businesses are actively working towards becoming more environmental sustainability in a variety of ways, particularly through their choice of materials and production methods.

Many makers are motivated by environmental concerns and, as circular craft champion Katie Treggiden puts it, “worried about putting more stuff into the world”. Katie now runs a masterclass for makers keen to create a circular creative business using waste, while in Scotland a nationwide accreditation scheme called The Green Crafts Initiative has been established to provide Scottish-based makers and craft organisations with the advice, support and the tools they need to become greener.

Yorkshire-based weaver Agnis Smallwood is a just one example of a maker considering her impact on the world. Over the last few years she has been developing a project making placemats from fibres collected at the end of workshops, which are then combed and spun, and the yarn woven into placemats. She then donates £5 from each pair sold to the Trussell Trust, who have food banks all across the country to support those in need of food.

The more that we, as consumers, choose to buy from makers who are environmentally conscious, the more they can develop their eco-friendly practices and innovate further.

5. Buying from makers allows you to understand your impact

Finally, buying handmade items from local and regional makers means you get a really good sense of how your gift was made, by whom and what it was made from. This helps you make confident choices about the things you’re buying and the positive impact you’re having. 

We hope this article is useful. We’d love to hear your tips for a more sustainable Christmas too, and your reasons for buying handmade.

The next articles in this series will look at eco-friendly gifting and how to make your home Christmas-ready in a more sustainable way. 

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