Creating an ethical Santa sack

I dislike Christmas shopping so much I do it all year round. If I see something someone on my present list will like I buy it straight away. We should also try to reduce our footprint on the planet. This requires some planning and an early start.

Let’s assume we have $500 to spend this Christmas and we have to buy presents for our partner, kids and extended family. To lessen the footprint we decide to buy from environmentally and socially responsible suppliers. Ethical shopping – who ever said it wasn’t possible!

I’m so confident we’re going to nail this I’m starting off by donating 20% of the budget to charity. First present is $100 to World Hunger Fund. We could be quietly noble and stay anonymous, but why not pin the tax receipt to the Christmas tree with a note the gift was from all the family?

Next is your partner. This is tough because partners can be high maintenance and they usually expect three gifts. How about you spend $30 on flower seeds and bulbs and find a neighbour who will let you plant them at their place to maintain the critical element of surprise. Christmas morning – three bunches of freshly picked flowers. Personally I prefer carnations, but not the pink ones as they’re way too girly.

That’s just one present; you can’t pretend it’s three. Next you spend $60 on something like a leadlight lantern which runs on candle power and looks stunning at night. If there’s nothing left in the budget for a third gift for your partner you’ll have to put a homemade voucher inside a card offering a candlelit dinner, massage and extras of their choosing. You might have to dress up as a pirate or a nurse, but remember this is for an ethical cause. If you haven’t learnt Swedish massage and how to cook, just Google the free videos.

Next go online at

.au and purchase the Above Average Flatulence Gift Pack from Auscarbon for $20. To offset carbon emissions Auscarbon invests in forestry and energy efficiency schemes. I suggest you don’t give this present to your mother-in-law, but it might work for an annoying eight-year-old.

Next make up two Christmas hampers containing organic and Fairtrade goods (start at Organic cotton shopping bag ($12), organic coffee from East Timor ($10), organic cocoa ($10), organic green tea ($7), Red Dragon ginger beer ($10), chocolate ($8), lemon myrtle soap and oil products ($18). All up for both – $150.

Next stop is where you buy a Fairtrade football ($40) and an organic cotton nightshirt ($40). Finally to World Vision (

.au) to order clean drinking water for someone who needs it ($60) and that’s $500 spent.

One of the difficulties with ethical shopping is there are so many themes we can follow. We can buy at local markets and support small family businesses within our own communities. We can buy green (, low carbon (, Fairtrade (, cruelty free (, certified organic, Australia made, biodynamic… the list goes on!

But best of all, buy less!

Geoff Lamberton is a senior lecturer in ethics and sustainability at Southern Cross University.

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