The Christmas tree will not be the greenest item in the lounge rooms of many households this year.
Increasing numbers of people are opting out of the commercial excesses of Christmas in favour of more charitable means of gift-giving.
My friend Lucy is one of those who has redefined the family Christmas.
It started a couple of years back when she really shelled out on her younger brother by buying a certificate for him to send a giant sea turtle to rehabilitation.
The creature in question didn’t have a drug problem, but far more seriously is in grave danger of extinction.
“Basically, I made a contribution on my brother’s behalf to a program trying to save the giant turtles off Indonesia through the World Wild Life Fund,” she reveals.
Lucy’s gift to her older brother was to offset one and a half tonnes of greenhouse gases, which equates to the average carbon emission for every Australian in one month including transport and home.
Her nieces and nephews all received certificates thanking them for buying school supplies for children in Bangladesh, providing safe water for communities in India, and fuel-efficient stoves in Tanzania.
On top of their usual expenditure Australians will lay out an extra $1079 each between December 1 and January 6, 2015 according to the CommBank festive forecast.
Victorians, per person, will spend $401 on Christmas gifts, $306 on Christmas holidays, $164 on Boxing Day sales, $118 entertaining friends and family and $75 on extra food and drink.
But while people are spending more year on year, there is encouraging evidence to show more thought is going into gift-giving.
That envelope under the tree could just be a receipt for a mosquito net to protect a toddler in Africa, where one child dies every second, or closer to home sponsorship of a Seeing Eye Dog Australia puppy.
With more than a week still to go Oxfam is already reporting a 20 per cent increase in purchases from its Unwrapped range this year on 2013 sales figures.
More than one million Unwrapped gifts have been purchased in Australia since the program began in 2005, raising more than $40 million for Oxfam’s life-saving development projects.
This year’s most popular Christmas gifts include a chicken for families in South Africa, clean water for families in Papua New Guinea, seeds for families in Sri Lanka, a goat for a family in Mozambique and support for a program to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders women.
World Vision also reports strong sales this year with a 25 per cent increase in gifts to benefit indigenous Australians.
This year for the first time two gifts of learning materials for indigenous Australian children have muscled their way into the top 10 items purchased from the World Vision catalogue.
With almost 70 per cent of people identifying rampant commercialisation as one of their top gripes about Christmas in a survey by McCrindle Research, it seems more of us are starting to put our money where our mouth is.
“Most people I know are really aware of the contradiction of their values on a daily basis and what happens at Christmas time, “ Lucy says.
“It’s a time to remember the majority of the world actually lives in need whereas we live in a society where the majority of us live in want.”