A Sustainable Christmas

Posted by Michael Finucane on

Christmas …Shop Smart!

Let’s be honest: Christmas shopping for presents, food, drink and clothes puts a huge strain on everyone. The average household in Ireland this year will spend almost €2,700 on gifts alone and the total market is worth around €4.65 billion … which is hugely positive in terms of jobs sustained and taxes collected … but it is also a lot of unnecessary packaging waste, transport and manufacturing pollution, not to mention stress!

And what we want as a society seems to be changing. I’m looking at lots of posts on Social Media from friends and family asking each other to consider what wrapping paper is recyclable, if their tree is from a sustainable forest, whether crackers full of plastic toys that are immediately binned is necessary. And this is not humourless posturing… these are small, but important changes that will make a difference to our environment and equally important, how we feel about ourselves.
The first step to sustainability is ‘Reuse’ and in Ireland we switched onto this a long time ago. We have history of thinking outside of the box and have actually been putting our money into this for years … long before it became fashionable or VSCO friendly to be seen doing it!


Myself and my best mate started GameStop in 1994, from the back of a bookstore in Middle Abbey Street. Both GameStop and that bookstore had at its core the ethos of ‘Reuse’ and realising the value of what you already had through a trade in model. Now based in Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Chapters is the largest independent bookstore in Ireland, with an outstanding range of secondhand books, CDs and DVDs and almost 40 years later it is still flourishing!


Kev and I are long gone from GameStop, but we have both taken the ethos of our first store with us – though in very different guises!

Designer Exchange is based in 35 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2 and online at designerexchange.ie. It specialises in high end, pre-owned, designer handbags and accessories. Trade in and lay-away options are available. This is such a simple idea, but beautifully executed.

Designer handbags and accessories are the opposite of fast fashion with all its attendant environmental concerns about rampant consumerism and instant waste. They are made by skilled craftspeople, with the intention that they will last literally lifetimes AND they retain their value! The savings are phenomenal, especially against limited edition items on the open market, where certain Hermés Birkin or Chanel bags can be auctioned for literally hundreds of thousands!


I think Designer Exchange is probably the only place in Ireland that you can actually still buy a Birkin – they don’t operate a waiting list for this iconic bag in Brown Thomas and internationally it can be as long as 6 years, with an entry level bag starting at €8,000 – pop into Exchequer Street and they have 3 of the lovely ladies on offer from €5,500 to €9,500 … considerably below the top price paid at auction of €333,156!

Thankfully for my wallet, my wife isn’t into bags … but as my 18 year old daughter is, I’m very grateful for their sub €149.99 range of entry level bags, scarves, sunglasses and jewellery … Santa will definitely be stopping there before December 24th!

And me? What did I do that reinforces my commitment to re-use, reduce, recycle? I started Smartspot, an online retail operation, found at www.smartspot.ie - concentrating on extending the life of phones and technology, making it more affordable for all of us … my wife might not be into handbags but she likes her phone … as does my son and 3 daughters! If we were all to have new, high-end, iPhones, you would be looking at over €6,000 that is completely unaffordable and quite a ridiculous expense for the majority of families.


Used Phones and Technology have a longer life-span than we currently exploit and as build quality has become more sophisticated and robust they are considerably cheaper and that the cost benefit to consumer needs to be re-enforced. With Smartspot I wanted to get back to fundamentals again – finding ways for the most people possible, to get their hands on the products that excited them at the best price possible.”


Charity shops also have benefits - they are great places to go looking for affordable, one-of-a-kind homewares, pottery and glass oddities, but on a bigger scale … did you know that Oxfam is the biggest seller of second-hand books, CDs and DVDs in Europe? These gifts are not only cost-effective, but they’re also sustainable alternatives to buying new and allow you to demonstrate thoughtful understanding of an other’s tastes and interests.


When it comes to shopping online for pre-owned gifts, the possibilities are nearly endless! They are updated frequently, have an eclectic range and are also just good for giving you some inspiration!


Where to shop:



Photo by Caley Dimmock on Unsplash

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