AS the Christmas stockings are packed away for another year, I can’t help but wonder: what does Greta Thunberg get for Christmas? And in 2020 is the writing on the wall for the humble stocking-filler and the novelty Secret Santa?

The festive period might just be the final frontier when it comes to sustainable living. While more and more of us are adopting ethical shopping practices throughout the year, the pressure to deliver a picture-perfect Christmas morning remains strong. While we might still be thinking about local sourcing, air miles and sustainable production methods, there’s one part of the three Rs that tends to go out of the window. Reusing (or indeed re-gifting) is all very well, as is thinking about whether cards and wrapping paper can be recycled, but reducing brings to mind the penny-pinching of Ebenezer Scrooge.

For all the insistence that Christmas should be about peace, goodwill and togetherness, the gridlocked streets around retail parks across Scotland on Monday suggested that for many of us, it’s still also about stuff. Lots of stuff. Panic-bought stuff. Any old stuff that was still on shelves 48 hours before the big day. Some stuff our loved ones need, some stuff they want, and some stuff that will be heading straight to the charity shop or – worse still – the bin. Does the idea of this shopping frenzy spark collective joy?

READ MORE: Shona Craven: End of the line for Abellio... now we need joined-up thinking

It’s all very well reusing your Bags for Life for the weekly shop, recycling your newspapers and milk cartons and scouring charity shops for pre-loved clothes, but if your attitude is still that nothing but brand new will do for your Christmas gifts then all of your virtuous efforts from January to November will have counted for little.

Technology should be helping to reduce the sheer volume of physical items we own – with digital music replacing CDs, streaming services replacing DVDs, and e-books replacing physical books – but the planet will not benefit if the same volume of stocking space is just filled with different kinds of paper and plastic, and the same number of people are press-ganged into office Secret Santa exchanges that are dreaded as much as they are enjoyed.

The National: Greta Thunberg

A virtual present might be just as appreciated as a gift-wrapped package, but there’s something a bit less personal about gifting, say, a Netflix or Audible subscription. Voracious readers including our First Minister like to mark the end of the year by sharing photographs of the stacks of books they have most enjoyed during the previous 12 months. These images are far more enticing than a simple screenshot of titles from an e-reader.

There is, after all, more to books than just the words – a beautifully designed hardback is an object to treasure, to display, and to tempt the owner into a further reading. And there’s another big benefit to buying a physical book. No, I don’t mean the smell of the freshly opened pages. An actual book can be loaned to a friend, circulated around a book group, donated or sold to a second-hand shop. And while in theory the option to loan e-books exists, in practice many restrictions apply. Ultimately, the book is not ever really yours.

As is so often the case with attempts to be environmentally friendly, our individual efforts are easily thwarted by big businesses trying to push us into buying more rather than less. The publishing industry is particularly sneaky in this regard.

READ MORE: Shona Craven: BBC's Laura Kuenssberg should not be falling for Tory stunts

Take for example Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other. As I write on Boxing Day, Amazon is selling the Kindle version for £9.99 and the hardback book – in all its beautiful, colourful glory – for just £7.50. We might have become used to paying a premium price for, say, clothing we know was not sweatshop-produced or meat that was locally farmed, but what kind of mug pays £2.49 extra for something they will not truly possess? Add in free postage deals and the advent of Amazon Prime, which allows delivery within hours, and the choice seems a no-brainer for all but the most dedicated planet-saver. Ironically, if you fancy reading Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went On Strike To Save The Planet, you can choose between the Kindle version at £4.99 or the paperback at just £4.53.

To understand this bizarre state of affairs would require a detailed history lesson about how publishers have conspired – sometimes illegally – to ensure they are not put out of business by the digital revolution. To an extent they have been successful, as e-books currently account for only 20% of the book market and, as we can see, are still relatively expensive and sometimes even dearer that the printed versions.

Is the buying and selling of books likely to be a focus for action by climate campaigners in 2020? Perhaps not, unless Extinction Rebellion activists team up with workers’ rights groups to glue themselves to Amazon delivery vans.

So while the days of office workers exchanging novelty ties and plastic tat are hopefully a thing of the past, the gifting of thoughtfully selected books – real, physical books of the dead-tree variety – is likely to keep Secret Santas busy for at least a few more years.