The Quiet Garden, Notting Hill © Jo Malone

Conscientious Christmas

1st December 2017

As gift-shopping steps up to a more determined level, Lisa Botwright looks into the kinder side of the High Street…

It’s the time of giving… of mooching around brightly lit shops, with Fairytale in New York playing in the background, deliberating over finding that perfect gift for that special someone… Or, if you’re anything like me, trying to fit present-shopping around three different school fairs, clocking-in overtime so that I can get everything organised at work before taking time off, arranging drinks with old friends (‘we must get together before Christmas, darling’) and squeezing in a cheeky manicure in time for the office party. Shopping is less of a heartfelt show of love and more of a deranged trolley dash.

Then there’s the hangover – not from the prosecco, but from the heaps of stuff that you end up with. It’s not just the lack of time that’s difficult at Christmas, it’s the thought that all this excess is somehow a little… unethical. How many gifts do you find languishing dustily in a cupboard months later? How much extra rubbish do we chuck away – only to end up in landfill or in the global dumping ground that’s now our oceans?

But there are alternatives out there. Take the plastics issue: LUSH have launched a Go Naked campaign and 80% of their seasonal range is packaging-free – even their hair conditioner and shower gel. They do it by replacing the water within their products with ingredients that remain solid at room temperature, like Fair Trade cocoa butter.

If Black Friday appals you, try popping #ShopEthicalInstead into your social media feed. You’ll find a community of people and businesses trying to counter the over-commercialism of Christmas. And the good news is that you can shop in this way without a whiff of piousness or self-denial. Quite the opposite. There’s a dazzling choice of gorgeous and indulgent beauty products, from brands keen to ‘give back’ in some way.

Through sales of their Iris and Lady Moore charity candle, perfumers Jo Malone support people living with mental health issues. They’re investing in projects to cultivate therapeutic city-centre gardens that offer a safe haven for rehabilitation and the chance to train as a landscape gardener. Green People are keen to invest in nature too: they pass the profits from their Modern Botanicals range on to Plantlife, a British conservation charity that works to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi.

On a global level, some beauty companies are fighting against the industry-wide reliance on palm oil. Preyanka Clark Prakash, founder of a multi award-winning range of palm oil-free natural goodies explains: “We founded Bloomtown in 2016 after spending two years in Indonesia and witnessing first-hand the devastation caused by palm oil cultivation: the loss of virgin forest that is home to endangered orangutans, tigers and so much of the world’s biodiversity.” New York-based cosmetics company Chantecaille champions a different charity each year and this time it’s the Rainforest Alliance’s turn. The gorgeous rich shades of their ‘Save the Forest Eye Palette’ are inspired by the natural beauty of Virunga National Park in the Congo and Rwanda, home to the last remaining mountain gorillas.

And on a more traditional level, it seems perfectly fitting to celebrate Christmas by supporting the modern-day babies of Bethlehem. SoapNskin have pledged 50% of the proceeds of their sublime duo gift sets to Children’s Relief Bethlehem and the incredible work of the Caritas Children’s Hospital.

No one’s suggesting that an eyeshadow or a body cream can save the planet; but, as Tim Hunt, Co-Editor of Ethical Consumer magazine tells me, “The way things we buy are manufactured and designed can have a massive impact on our environment. By making informed choices we can limit the harm that we do or perhaps even encourage more sustainable forms of living.”

Further info:
The Jo Malone Iris & Lady Moore Charity Candle costs £46 and is available from
SoapNskin have pledged 50% of the proceeds of their duo gift sets to Children’s Relief Bethlehem:
Chantecaille Save the Forest Eye Palette is £76 and available from

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