January 15, 2024

The DNA of a Green Christmas

In our first article covering “Green Christmas, 2023”, we talked about what prevented shoppers from having as ‘green’ a Christmas as they might have liked.  In this article, we’ll share what issues were top of mind for them, and what actions they DID take in their quest to be more planet friendly during their festive preparations.

What they told us indisputably supports the idea that, on the whole, shoppers think about and take action on the things they hear a lot about, that they best understand, and that are easiest for them to do from a financial, behavioural and psycho-emotional point of view: further proof of the influence that brands and retailers (alongside media and government) can have on shopper behaviour, and a call to action to ensure that this ability to influence continues to be put to good use in the future.

So, for example, when it comes to what shoppers were thinking about – issues around packaging materials/excess were most likely to be top of mind than the less well understood concepts such as carbon footprints/carbon neutrality.

Now, thinking doesn’t necessarily translate into acting.  Much has been written about the intent/action gap when it comes to sustainable shopping, and we saw its impact in this research too.  Take packaging as an example:  

56% of our shoppers told us they had given thought to recyclable packaging, and 51% said the same for excess packaging. But… just 12% told us that they had been unwavering in their determination to only buy goods with limited or recyclable packaging.  Of course, decisions are never one dimensional and it’s clear that trade offs were frequently being made between choosing ‘green’ vs. other factors such as convenience, cost, brand or product appeal, and ease of access/find.

But for now, let’s put the ‘intent’ piece to one side and explore what people actually did to make their Christmas shopping baskets more planet friendly.  (Please note: the stats below are based on what those people who ‘took action’ told us)

Choosing local

This was top of the list of sustainable behaviours - mentioned by 28% of these shoppers.  It is driven by multiple motivations, including:

·        supportinglocal, small independent businesses

·        reducingshoppers’ own carbon emissions through limited travel

·        looking for food products with lower food miles (including local produce bought from national chains)

·        limiting long distance / international shipping

As such, the trend towards choosing local offers a number of routes that brands and retailers could consider leveraging in future planning.

Choosing the “good guys”

15% spoke specifically of choosing ethical / eco-friendly products and brands, whilst 14% said they had tried to favour particular retailers based on their credentials and observable practices.

Individual shoppers had a clear perspective on who or what the ‘good guys’ were when it came to individual products or brands.  Varying across categories, people talked of fair trade or organic foods, cruelty freeand vegan cosmetics, plastic free/wooden toys, reusable advent calendars, and even bamboo coral amongst a whole host of other things.

On the contrary, choosing ‘good guy’ retailers could be a little more challenging for some shoppers. Of course, it’s much harder for (large) retail businesses to be demonstrably single minded on sustainability right across the piste.  Consequently, although many shoppers had clear rationales for (de)selecting specific retailers - it was evident that many did so based on scant, murky criteria, and consensus was far from obvious:  

So, there remains a clear opportunity for retailers to win big on sustainability by being ruthlessly single minded, honest and transparent in what they say and what they do…making it a ‘no brainer’ rather than ‘guesswork’ when it comes to shoppers’ decisions regarding where to spend their ‘sustainable cash’.

Keeping a keen eye on packaging

1 in 5 (20%) of these shoppers actively favoured products with limited / recyclable packaging (and no plastic!)

Furthermore, 15% made sure they weren’t adding tothe packaging problem by ensuring they used recyclable gift wrap, limited their use of wrap altogether… with some having carefully kept last years’ for re-use!

Choosing pre-loved

Just over 1in 10 (11%) of our pro-active shoppers spontaneously said they chose this route for at least some of their gifts, rising to 21% when we prompted.  No longer does buying pre-loved come with a stigma: as the circular economy gains traction it is becoming both an environmentally friendly, and a savvy choice for many shoppers. Indeed, younger shoppers were more likely to choose this route (27% of 18 – 24 year olds), with Vinted coming up regularly amongst this cohort as a destination for high quality, or BNWT clothing gifts.  For physical retailing, options from charity shops, to Primark to Selfridges and more means there are plenty of easy opportunities for shoppers to buy pre-loved on the high street these days, and established brands and retailers who are not yet involved should be considering the opportunities presented by this trend.

Beyond these core behaviours, several other less ‘popular’ tactics were mentioned ranging from rejecting Christmas cards, to making their own gifts, avoiding plastic goods, adopting more meat/dairy alternatives, and wider considerations around animal welfare in general.  


The sheer variety of tactics adopted by shoppers shines a light on just how many different ways there are for brands and retailers to engage with their current and prospective customers .  The opportunity will now be to educate and nudge more shoppers to take more action(s) in future years and to help them do so with limited cost/pain.  Of course, for the many who claimed little or no interest in shopping sustainably at Christmas (33%), improving ability has to be matched with building motivation too.

And as mentioned previously, for retailers in particular, there is a clear opportunity to win big on sustainability by being ruthlessly single minded, honest and transparent in what they say and what they do… making it a ‘no brainer’ rather than ‘guesswork’ when it comes to shoppers’ decisions as regards where to spend their ‘sustainable cash’… and of course, this isn’t “just for Christmas”.



·  The data was gathered from a nationally representative sample of >1,000 adults accessed via Yonder Data Solutions’ panel.  

·  The interview included a mix of pre-coded questions as well as an AI powered conversational element.

·  Fieldwork was conducted as close as possible to Christmas so we could capture what really happened vs. what people thought might happen / or had intended to happen: 20/21stDecember, 2023

Go back