'Shoes are a big old polluter' – Irish actress Aisling Bea on how to shop ethically for Christmas

Ireland is currently the top producer of plastic waste in Europe, according to the Sick of Plastic campaign.

We currently produce 61kg of plastic waste per person every year – enough to fill 25 baths.  

And in December when the shopping lists are long and time is short, it might take only a few hours to fill one of those said baths.

Finding Joy actress and comedian Aisling Bea has been sharing some light-hearted planet-saving tips for shoppers on her Instagram page over the last month.

Since the end of November, Bea, who advocates for charity shops, cheaper make-up brands, or just buying less, has been pointing shoppers to brands that are more kind to the planet.

“You don’t have to buy all these things if you can’t afford them, or be perfect or walk around guilty all the time,” she explains, “but sometimes choosing the good guys or deciding not to give money to the bad guys is a way of promoting kindness in this seeming time of cruelty or just knowing what alternative brands are out there if and when you do have the cash to buy something,” she wrote.

The Kildare woman proclaimed her “hate” for Black Friday in November, and said it was “designed to trick us, create waste”.

“90pc of things are cheaper after [Black Friday] so nobody is winning,” she claimed.

But Bea’s advice to anyone who doesn’t buy from a socially conscious brand, is to use the product “to death” so there’s no waste.

“The biggest thing is wherever you buy from, use it to death!”

Here are nine of her tips on how to shop consciously:

1.Wrapping paper:

A number of presents


“I didn’t know that most wrapping paper is not recyclable…. The materials that go into making some mean it’s not always accepted for recycling. It is often dyed, laminated or contains non-paper additives, like gold and silver coloured shapes, glitter or plastics, which can’t be recycled.”

Brown wrapping paper and string, or wrapping gifts in leftover fabric, newspaper or magazine are better alternatives, she says.

According to My Waste Ireland, shiny wrapping paper isn’t recyclable. For any non-shiny paper, if it passes the scrunch test, it can be recycled.

2.Oxfam’s online shop does returns like any regular online retailer

“I buy so much stuff from charity shops,” Bea said. “There seems to be some sort of snobbery sometimes around… Let’s use the clothes that are already in existence and help out charities and your pocket.”

3.Kalamargam is a label based in India which works with craft communities there

“They may take a little longer to arrive,” Bea explained “They work at a sustainable slow, conscious pace are they also are plastic free and only use natural fibres. They’re prices are so competitive but also the bags are hardy… I use mine every day and it fits my laptop & trinkets in it. Love them.”

4.Soaps and Body Lotions

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“I’m trying to use soap instead of body washes and lotions too to reduce plastic and so many have lovely natural things in them,” Bea says.

5.“Shoes are a big old polluter”

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Bea said: “If you do buy shoes from wherever you like wear the hell out of them and go to your cobbler when the heels go and get them reheeled for a few quid. I love my cobbler and he fixes my soles and soul for me. Or look out for things like where they are made too.”

6.Reusable takeaway coffee cups

Bea says: “Why not try getting one you like from a smaller retailer or company… [they] could do with the support”.

7.Winter jackets

“My on-set keep warm jacket is a Patagonia and they make sure the people who make their clothes are paid fairly along with a load of other great stuff and initiatives. They’re a business but they put their money where their mouth is in terms of caring and responsibility. If you’re investing in a good jacket for the cold or hikes with your various lovers, buy them instead… They also do lifetime repairs on their stuff.”

8. Bags

“The biggest thing is wherever you buy from, use it to death!”

Small makers on Etsy, charity shops, and eco sustainable brands like Forester Products, which sells bags made of vegan leather, are ones to look out for, according to Bea.


Last September, Bea wore Burts Bees makeup to the GQ awards.

“They’ve made their lipsticks non-weighted so you can recycle the packaging – hard to do normally,” Bea wrote.

She added: “There’s also a great chapter in Erin Gibson‘s book on make-up companies exploiting women and what ones are great and high fiving. She uses Elate Cosmetics – one of the few with eco packaging!”

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