Celebrating a warm, fair and green holiday season with social enterprises

15th December 2021 | News

As Christmas approaches, toy manufacturers and stores repeatedly warned about possible shortages and longer delivery times. Soaring shipping and raw materials costs disrupted the supply chain, inducing uncertainty, price rises and reduced choice in the run-up to Christmas.

Aware of this situation, many people are turning to second-hand toys suppliers, which operate resilient local value chains amid global supply disruptions.

However, there are many reasons to switch to used goods at Christmas, whatever the state of the supply chain. For instance, second-hand gifts are an affordable option for people with lower incomes that may otherwise not be able to give presents to their close ones.

From an environmental point of view, millions of unwanted Christmas gifts end up discarded and in landfills. Some estimations point to around 2,250,000 tonnes of returned goods likely to end up in landfill every year. During this festive season, social enterprises active in the re-use sector help take the financial pressure off household budgets, reduce waste and create local jobs for people struggling to find one. Social enterprises help achieve this by:

  • Offering second-hand toys at affordable prices. Solidança organised a special toy sales day, in which second-hand toys could be bought at a low price. Similarly, Emmaüs Defi launched a campaign to collect used toys for Christmas, reaching over 2 tonnes of toys collected. The solidarity online shop Label Emmaüs with over 6,500 second-hand toys in stock in November 2021 provides an affordable and local alternative to families in uncertain times. Finally, 7 French social enterprises created Rejouons Solidaire, a network focused on diverting toys from landfill through re-use.
  • Promoting solidary and sustainable consumption. A Buy Social Christmas Gift Guide was curated to help citizens find presents with a social purpose in Scotland. To foster donations, Volkshilfe Wien proposes a “reverse” advent calendar. Instead of taking something out of an advent calendar every day, something is put into a box to donate it. Finally, the Irish Charity Shops Association launched the “Re-Imagine Christmas” campaign encouraging a greener festive season by re-using rather than buying new.
  • Donating second-hand products to individuals in vulnerable situations. In Belgium, De Kringwinkel members launched several initiatives to make Christmas more inclusive. These initiatives included giving free Christmas gifts to 1,000 children, donating 100 packages with Christmas decorations to those in need, and distributing blankets, mats, and backpacks to homeless people. Caritas Österreich offered the opportunity to buy a Christmas package for children in Caritas facilities such as mother-and-child centres or learning and social counselling centres. Similarly, Second Chance Toys collects used toys in New York, diverting them from landfills by donating them to children in need. New York Cares invites individuals to donate coats at drop-off locations with the aim to distribute them to vulnerable individuals during winter.
  • Organising Christmas (online) markets. Les Petits Riens organised a Christmas market featuring local and sustainable artists and entrepreneurs, including upcycled textile jewellery, Les Petits Riens’ upcycling creations, sculptures made with scrap metal, and other zero-waste initiatives. In Austria, Christmas markets could not take place due to the lockdown, so Caritas Wien opened a virtual Christmas market in which it is possible to help vulnerable people with one click, including gift crayons for children, Christmas dinners or full shopping baskets.
    • Launching other solidarity campaigns. Camara Education was selected for the Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s largest match funding campaign. This charity invites companies to donate ICT equipment they no longer need in order to be refurbished and re-used in Africa. The campaign aimed to provide ICT training to 600 teachers and offer maintenance and support to 120 schools, ensuring that students benefit from the donated computers. In Austria, Volkshilfe Oberösterreich organised a campaign in which individuals could send Christmas letters to seniors and people with disabilities, thereby fighting loneliness among people in care facilities. Finally, Uuskasustuskeskus organised several solidarity activities in Estonia, including supporting an animal shelter, the mental health of the elderly, the young people and the homeless people.


    Picture Credit © Ben White, Unsplash