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What Australians really want from Santa this Christmas

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When you are hunting for Christmas presents this year, avoid the most unwanted Christmas gifts. Top of the list are novelty items, voted unpopular by 51% of Australians, followed by candles (40%), then pamper products (40%), pyjamas or slippers (35%) and underwear or socks (32%).

Australians spent around $400 million on unwanted Christmas presents last year, according to ING. This is not only a huge waste of money, it has an enormous environmental cost because unpopular gifts often get thrown out and end up in landfill.

Unwanted gifts make up around 7% of the total $5.8 billion that Australians spend each year on festive season gifts, buying an average of 5.5 gifts, costing around $54 each.

The dark side of Christmas is the waste and the debt it generates with one third of Australians saying Christmas is the most wasteful time of the year. ING found that 31% of Australians say it is hard to avoid single use plastics over the festive season with the biggest waste stemming from excess gift packaging (65%), wrapping paper (61%), single use decorations (56%), food packaging (59%) and leftover food (55%).

raise the bar srub bar
Bronte Hogarth reuses coffee grounds from cafes into scrub bars instead of going to landfill.

Around 40% of Australians agreed poorly considered gifts are a big part of the waste problem, with a quarter (26%) now preferring to direct their friends and family towards gifts they actually want, rather than risk unwanted gifts going to waste. As well, 36% of Australians want to be more mindful of their holiday spending this year.

So what do Australians want for Christmas?

Overwhelmingly Australians want to give a present that helps people or the planet with 57% saying they would like to give green gifts that do good and 23% would prefer a socially conscious or eco friendly present under their own tree, according to ING.

However, despite having the best intentions, 60% of Australians said it could be difficult to find quality, sustainable gifts from small local businesses.

ING has been helping to expand the product range by supporting social entrepreneurs expand their businesses that give back to the community through a Dreamstarter program. Often the products reuse and recycle goods that were destined for landfill such as woollen textiles that Seljak Brand re-spins into blankets or plastic bottles plucked from landfill and the sea that are turned into active wear by Team Timbuktu that estimates 10 bottles make a pair of leggings.

Many social entrepreneurs support the local community too such as Kindly Pillows that provide accommodation to vulnerable women, or Wild Hearts Scarf that supports cancer research or Million Dollar Beard Oil that donates action against melanoma.

One of the social entrepreneurs, Bronte Hogarth, founded her business Raise the Bar with the help of ING's Dreamstarter's program. She reuses coffee grounds from cafes into exfoliant, scrub bars instead of going to landfill.

Australians drink six billion cups of coffee every year and create enormous amounts of coffee waste. Hogarth currently reuses around 100 kilos of grounds.

"Repurposing coffee grounds is a way to help combat waste as well as raise awareness about reusing and repurposing goods," she says.

While people spend a lot on beauty products, using coffee grounds with no nasty unnatural chemicals to cleanse the skin is something that is easy and affordable, says Hogarth.

"They are zero waste plus cruelty and plastic free."

Another product is Crema Joe's reusable coffee pods to cut back on the three million coffee capsules disposed every day. Also there are re-useable bamboo straws from The Other Straw. You can find the list of gifts here.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
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