A first-time mum with a successful career who could afford to splash out at Christmas has instead decided to rent her party outfits, buy secondhand tech and even hire and return her little boy’s presents – all to help save the planet.
Mum of one, Patsy Sandys, 35, an investment director earning a six-figure income, was determined to live more sustainably after she gave birth in August 2020.
Patsy, who lives in Clapham, south west London, with her husband Mark, 43, a fellow investment principle, and their son, Conor, one, decided to transform the most decadent time of year – Christmas – swapping luxurious gifts for making family memories and finding ingenious hacks to avoid buying new items.
“I think wealth can almost get in the way of environmentally conscious decisions, as people think ‘Oh, well I can afford it, so I’ll just buy it’,” she said.
“I think although last year was very hard for some people, it really made us appreciate that Christmas is about more than flashy gifts.”
Before having Conor, Patsy was already mindful of the environment, organising regular clothes swaps with her friends to avoid fast fashion, but once she became a mum she really started to think about the future of the planet.
“I have certainly been conscious of reducing consumption for a number of years,” said Patsy.
“My friendship group has been quite passionate about this and, six years ago, about 10 of us on rotation started using clothes swaps as a way to refresh our wardrobes without going shopping, but also as a chance to socialise with each other.
“But it became more of a focus when I had my son last year – the amount you end up buying for your kids is just ridiculous.”
She added: “It’s more of a focal point, as you think about what we are leaving our children and ensuring that the planet exists for future generations.”
Patsy has worked hard to make small changes to decrease her parenting carbon footprint.
“We’ve created a circular economy between my friends with children,” she said. “There were around 10 of us and we all live around London.”
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She added: “We swap things as we need them – items such as cribs, clothes, everything really. By reusing, we’re cutting costs and it’s nice to share your baby stuff with your friends – plus this creates a lot less waste.
“When Conor moved onto cow’s milk in August 2021, I started getting glass milk bottles delivered to our doorstep by green vehicles, so it doesn’t have a big carbon footprint.”
Tech is another area where Patsy has begun to make eco-friendly savings, by buying secondhand since 2019.
She said: “I buy refurbished technology. So, I got an iPad from Back Market, where secondhand technology is refurbished, for £250 when it would have cost £500 or £600 brand new.
“I liked it so much I even got my mum, Sue, 68, a refurbished iPad too, so she could FaceTime us.
“It’s a huge saving and you really wouldn’t know the difference at all, in terms of speed, look and feel.”
If you're here, keeping it circular is on your mind and we love that 💗
Here is an idea to wrap your renewed devices for the holidays: Recyclable Wrapping Papers
— Back Market (@backmarket) November 5, 2021
In 2019, Patsy also discovered online platforms like Hurr, where people can rent clothes.
“I first rented a dress for a night out,” she said.
“It’s really common in my friendship group to rent clothes. It’s seen as cool.”
She added: “I now rent clothes for events about once every few months – especially for a big business meeting or even a party coming up.
“I rented a sparkly black sequinned long skirt that I loved from Hurr for four days for £55 for a festive party last year,” she said.
“When I’d finished with it, I posted it back.”
Clothes swap with friends – By swapping clothes with friends, you will always be updating your festive wardrobe without breaking the bank or ruining the planet.
Buy secondhand tech – Great for the kids or grandparents, buying refurbished technology from credible sites like Back Market lowers your carbon footprint and saves money.
Buy experiences – We do not always need loads of things for Christmas. Memories mean more, so splash out on experiences like restaurant or hotel vouchers.
No need to wrap – Wrapping paper can be non-recyclable, but your presents do not need to always be wrapped.
Send presents back – To avoid waste with your children’s presents, use rental websites that let you return gifts once the kids are bored of them.
She added: “I got a bit attached to it, which is always the danger with renting clothes. But I would never have worn it again and it would have just sat in my wardrobe.”
Patsy still buys her shoes and everyday clothes new – but renting for special occasions means she reduces waste, as well as saving around £800 a year.
Thanks to her sustainable hacks, she is never at a loss as to what presented to give her loved ones and even rents Conor’s Christmas toys, then returning them just months later.
“I’ve never been a huge buyer of Christmas gifts, as I value making memories more,” she said.
“Now, for toys, I use a website called Whirli, where you subscribe and rent toys from a big library.
“Last year – when Conor was four months – I hired a little seat for him to help him sit up and a little drum kit that played music and wrapped them up.”
She added: “He loved them. The drum kit was his favourite. He also loved a plastic bouncy ball we got him.”
A few months later, in February 2020, Patsy popped Conor’s Christmas presents in a box and returned them by post.
She said: “Conor didn’t notice they were gone at all.”
She added: “Plus, it meant he had five new toys to enjoy when I rented more, meaning he gets more choice, as I swap them throughout the year.”
Patsy also takes an eco-approach when choosing gifts for other people’s children.
She said: “I give my friends Whirli vouchers for their kids for Christmas, too, because they can then choose what they want and it’s more sustainable than buying new.”
— Back Market (@backmarket) November 25, 2021
She added: “There is a temptation when you have a new child to just buy them everything, but as you educate yourself, I think you realise new is not always best.”
Rather than buying things, Patsy prefers to get experiences as gifts for her friends and family.
She said: “I’m mindful of waste. I don’t think it’s worth just buying something for the sake of it.”
She added: “I want to make memories instead – as they are more important.
“We gift each other experiences like vouchers for restaurants or hotels.”
But Patsy does not think parents should put too much pressure on themselves to change everything at once this Christmas, as that can be overwhelming.
“I think everything is about reduction,” she said.
“Small changes can make a big difference. Once you start, it can feel quite overwhelming, because there is waste everywhere, but you don’t have to be perfect.
“You can make simple steps over Christmas, like reducing the amount of wrapping paper. That’s a really easy one and you’d really cut back on waste.”
Around 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is thrown away at Christmas, weighing more than 3.3million Emperor penguins.
Around 88 square km of wrapping paper is likely to be used in the UK this year, enough to cover either Brighton or Swansea.
She added: “Food-wise as well, just buy what you need. I think just having a more low-key Christmas in general can make a big difference.”
In some ways, Patsy enjoyed last year’s simpler festive season.
She said: “Last Christmas was hard, because we were in lockdown, but it was actually kind of lovely as well.”
She added: “Being together in a small family unit and not doing all the big extravagant things makes you realise what’s important.
“We just went for a walk last year and it was really nice.
This year, Patsy is planning a bigger celebration with Mark’s family in Dublin, Ireland, who love the festive season.
She said: “I’m from New Zealand originally and moved to London in 2012.
“It’s sunny over Christmas in Wellington, so it’s more about having a barbecue and it’s not really a huge thing.
“But Mark is Irish and his family are much more into Christmas, which is absolutely lovely.”
Still, a larger celebration does not mean she needs to compromise when it comes to cutting back on waste.
She said: “I think there’s been a strong attitude shift in the last year in terms of being sustainable.
“I think people are more open to secondhand presents and creating less waste.”
“It’s an exciting time and I just can’t wait to celebrate this Christmas as waste free as possible.”
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