Case Study: EcoSanta, Ecologisers’ concept-based ten year project

27th February 2020

Case Study: EcoSanta, Ecologisers' concept-based ten year project

EcoSanta Christmas Card

In this case study, Ann of Ecologisers discusses their EcoSanta concept, a zany creative means of engaging children on waste prevention. They collaborate with artists, campaigners, and local businesses on a range of activities centred on reorienting children’s perception of Santa towards environmental ends.  


We are Ecologisers, the Young People’s International Anti-litter and Environmental Charity SC048663. Ecologisers’ ten-year mission is to promote, publicise and popularise EcoSanta. This re-branding of Santa Claus turns a commercial icon into an environmental champion.  This case study is of its early development.

As a teacher, I am a strong believer in Sir Ken Robinson’s creative approach to learning, as he lays out in the most watched online TED talk. If projects are led by creativity it results in a totally different working strategy, one very open-ended.

When Ecologisers started, our ‘mission-statement’ was to change the image of litter-picking in the minds of young people from a ‘yuk’ to a ‘wanna-do’ by any means that came to heart and mind.

EcoSanta did not figure in this until we were three years into our anti-litter campaign.  The idea came to mind when I saw my husband, at Christmas time, in a red balaclava, drag a huge piece of netting along the beach.  A wacky piece of logic said Santa’s sack is empty 364 days a year.  Doing some comparisons – mythologically you understand – between the number of presents delivered to western children in this magical sack, and the amount of rubbish in the world’s oceans, I reckoned EcoSanta was easily up to the mega clean-up job.  The mantra became:  Once his sack is empty, EcoSanta is asking children, worldwide, to help him fill it with rubbish the rest of the year as a Gift to the Earth.

Initially we ran a Children’s Humorously Captioned Photography Competition through schools in the Outer Hebrides.  This competition was supported by 20 local businesses who provided prizes for the winning children.  We went into schools dressed as Junk Jesters to forward the anti-litter message. Children were asked to submit a photo of themselves with a piece of litter, humorously captioned.  This is still running today, through the #EcoSanta hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.  We followed the school-visits by giving three anti-litter video conferences in successive years to student-teachers at our local university campus.

It wasn’t until I attended a one-day intensive course on branding that the huge possibilities of the EcoSanta concept fully dawned. This led to the EcoSanta High Value Profile that forms the rationale and is the inspiration for our current EcoSanta-branded mini-projects. This is not a bigging-up so much as a real-world visionary possibility, given sufficient collective willpower to drive grassroots initiatives. And the right economic, social and global climate to do so.


The EcoSanta High Value Profile

  1. It’s in tune with the culture of children’s environmental awareness.
  2. It imparts a ‘working with’ Santa idea in young minds.  Co-operation rather than ‘gie-me, gie-me’.
  3. Mythologically, Santa Claus is the greatest gift-giver.  For him to head up a giving, helping attitude is formative as a way-to-be in the world.
  4. There’s no copyright on ideas.  Any EcoSanta development is multi-interpretive, unique to anyone who chooses to embrace this more relevant, robust, real and long-lasting public image.
  5. The Santa-experience happens at a time of year when people’s hearts are open, so is more likely to take fire.
  6. Santa should not be confined to the ‘Christmas bubble’ but given a year-long background identity as a hero-figure instrumental in helping young people and the planet.
  7. The human heart naturally warms to anyone who steps ‘outside role’ in the cause of greater good and intrinsic worth.
  8. Flexibility of interpretation offers a huge range of potential applications.
  9. EcoSanta offers a huge update in the identity of Santa Claus.  A contemporary modernisation giving EcoSanta a significant role in re-shaping the culture.
  10. This innovative Santa Claus-EcoSanta morph is ‘in-character’.  There’s a whole history of Santa’s identity changing and evolving.

Currently Ecologisers are running all their projects based on the EcoSanta concept. This is a business-based strategy we are adapting for our purposes as an anti-litter charity. We feel it creates a win-win situation for Santa’s future and for the planet’s future health, where Santa Claus becomes a far more meaningful player for both children and adults, both in the Christmas mythology and year-round background relevance.


Ecologisers’ EcoSanta mini-projects

1 The EcoSanta Anti-litter Posters

We had two EcoSanta Anti-litter Posters made by different Asian artists through FIVERR. The EcoSanta Anti-litter Posters have been re-purposed several times. This is a way to economise and maximise when resources are limited.

Our head librarian took one look at the first EcoSanta Anti-litter Poster and said:  ‘You must have that made into Christmas cards!’  Though in hindsight it’s obvious, I hadn’t thought of doing that.  This illustrates the importance of other people’s input into a project at the point when over-identification narrows the vision.  It’s not strictly feedback, more accurately fresh ideas.

2 EcoSanta Earth’s Christmas card. 

The front and back cover images are taken from the two EcoSanta Anti-litter Posters.  200 Christmas cards were sent out in 2019. Coca-Cola in America returned the EcoSanta Christmas card we sent – a first!

The EcoSanta Christmas card is a ‘calling card’.  It tells people about Ecologisers, EcoSanta, and gives them ideas of how they can use the EcoSanta concept themselves.

3 EcoSanta’s Kind Kids Calendar 2021.

This to feature winners of the Children’s Humorously Captioned Photography Competitions.  A child and/or pet, with a piece of litter, humorously captioned. This includes a year-old baby, with a piece of litter. This calendar’s production was delayed due to Brexit.

4 EcoSanta’s Earth’s Christmas Album (All Year EcoCarols)

A CD of 17 tracks.  Eco-lyrics to famous out-of-copyright Christmas carols. There were 8 main contributors – 2 American choirs, 2 youth choirs, 2 children’s choirs, 1 university choir, 1 church choir – as well as 3 excellent female vocalists.  This is our one commercial product and my personal self-funded project.

5 How Santa became EcoSanta.

A young children’s beautifully illustrated picture book.  The artwork was done by an India-based freelancer through FIVERR.


The following are Ecologisers’ 2020 EcoSanta projects.

6 An EcoSanta-themed Short Story Competition

This has been advertised through colleges, universities, and the Canadian magazine ‘Green Teacher‘ with £100 prize and a closing date of September 30th.  We have previously judged Writing competitions.

7 A Design An EcoSanta Outfit Competition

This is similarly advertised, with a closing date of May 30th.  We are already in contact with makers and producers of Christmas gear, although the timescales suggest this will be for Christmas 2021.

8 #EcoSanta

#EcoSanta is to encourage youngsters to post photos of themselves with a piece of litter, humorously captioned, to continue the EcoSanta Kind Kids Calendar into future years.

9  EcoSanta’s Favourite EcoSongs.

This album includes Crown Earth First to the tune of God Save the Queen which Prince Charles has seen and approved.  Networking with Extinction Rebellion is fruitful, as they are well-organised, law-aware, and rapidly expanding their activities base.

10 EcoSanta Pantomime

The online magazine, Green Teacher, in Canada, published an article on Helping EcoSanta in February 2020.  This 3,000-word article contains details of the Design an EcoSanta Outfit Competition, the EcoSanta-themed short story competition and how to create an EcoSanta Pantomime.  Green Teacher’s circulation is 15,000 and is a great ‘target-market’ for Ecologisers.  In lieu of payment, we were given free advertising of our competitions in forthcoming issues.


Ecologisers’ Overall strategy

Ecologisers’ overall strategy is to build on what we have already achieved, or even just-‘seeded’ mini-projects that aren’t yet growing. To anyone wanting to use the EcoSanta concept, the three key things are:

  • Passion for environmental attitude change,
  • A readiness to use and expand personal skill sets,
  • That sense of the possible, sourced in fun, we all remember from our own childhood Christmases.

The field we are working in is cultural change, and the EcoSanta concept presents young children with a congruent view of the world as we all address ecological crisis.

At Ecologisers, we regard ourselves as a seed organisation, in the sense of seeding the idea into the culture. If any particular mini project takes fire, we prioritise that.  As usual, it is a numbers game.  In the sense, its success depends entirely on whether Santa Claus morphs into EcoSanta as the Christmas reality for a significant number of people so that the idea reaches a tipping point.  Meanwhile, those who choose to champion EcoSanta in their own way can have a lot of fun.  And fun is energising!

Funding remains a major problem for us, as it is for many charities.  Our charity boxes, distributed locally in shops, bring us a small amount regularly and this is much appreciated. Two new trustees joining Ecologisers in 2020 will help our social media profile. A dedicated children’s EcoSanta website is in preparation.


Images provided by Ecologisers

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