Sustainable Christmas Gift Guide
Updated: Sep 13
Ah, Christmas! The most wonderful time of the year! However, for many, it is a time spent with family they don’t like, swapping disappointing gifts and wasting food. It’s a mash-up of mindless consumerism, stress, avoidable travel and excess.
It’s a disaster for the planet too, with an extra 30% waste produced and along with an extra 280 kg of CO2e per UK adult. So how do we make this more eco-friendly? Let’s tackle Christmas presents and how to responsibly gift during the holidays.
1. Choose something made from recycled materials
There are so many virgin goods made from raw materials on the planet. If we do choose to buy someone a physical gift then make it one that’s made from recycled materials instead. There are literally thousands of gifts that you could choose from, here are just a few examples:
2. Choose something that will help them be more eco-friendly
It feels good to be green, so if you must give the gift of giving then share the love for eco-friendly stuff. Help others start their sustainable journey by giving them a zero-waste starter kit or the Bible for everything carbon footprint related:
3. Choose Trees
There are some wonderful presents to be bought but I love the gifting of trees. With Ecologi you can choose different packages to give a special someone something unique and very long-lasting.
Buy a present of different amounts of real trees, from 100 up to a whole forest of 100,000 or by gifting “climate action”, which includes tree-planting and carbon offsets via humanitarian and biodiversity protection projects.
4. Choose a gift of services
Most of the time people are really busy and could do with a helping hand. Christmas is even busier and more stressful for many people so offering a service can be a useful, valuable, well thought out eco-alternative to a present. This could be as simple as cooking, cleaning, babysitting, running errands, picking up shopping, helping care for a relative, DIY, gardening, ironing, or whatever the person has complained that they need. You can make a card with a description of the service as a redeemable voucher or even a booklet. If you are creating this for a partner you could also gift a more ‘fruity’ version!
5. Choose a Donation
If you want to give someone a really useful gift then perhaps consider donating to a good cause on their behalf, perhaps even one that is environmentally active. Some examples that I love include:
350.org - An international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.
Environmental Investigation Agency - They research and campaign against environmental crime and abuse.
WildAid - Their mission is to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats.
Possible - They want to see a zero-carbon society, built by and for the people of the UK, and we want to see this fast.
Rewilding Britain - They aim to tackle the climate emergency and extinction crisis, reconnect people with the natural world and to help communities thrive.
6. Choose an experience
Often people love going and doing something, rather than receiving a physical item. Gifting an experience can be more eco-friendly if you choose carefully - make sure it’s local and doesn’t involve a high carbon footprint (e.g. flights!).
Some very green ideas include beekeeping days, making your own smellies, vegan cooking classes, foraging workshops, bike tours e-car racing, glamping escapes and even an offshore wind farm tour! Take a look what's on offer near your recipient here.
If that’s not your recipient’s bag then think about concert tickets, theatre tickets, spa days, outdoor sports or drinks tasting.
7. Choose something homemade
If you are fairly crafty you could make something yourself as an eco-alternative to something processed, plastic and shipped from far far away.
Re-usable Crocheted make-up remover pads, Re-usable Christmas Crackers, Locally sourced chutney, Mince pie fudge, Candles, Bath Bombs, Rice heat pads, candied nuts, truffles….
If you need a tutorial then this site has everything you need to get making!
8. Choose something second-hand
Often we are conditioned into thinking that a gift must be brand new. However, you can find lots of original, vintage and one-of-a-kind items by buying second-hand. This can be something that is found on an online marketplace, at a car boot fair, at an antique shop etc. Think about collectable items, designer brands, or something you know they would appreciate - an original version of their favourite game, a timeless piece of jewellery, an early edition of their favourite book or a classic slice of vinyl.
There are plenty of places to grab a preloved item so check out these sites for inspiration:
Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, eBay, Vinted, Preloved and your local charity shop
9. Choose something edible
Lots of people enjoy receiving food and drinks at Christmas so why not make them super eco-friendly? Choose vegan chocolate, coffee, biscuits, beer, spirits and of course some fruit and nuts!
If you are after eco-friendly foods remember to only gift if they are most likely to be eaten and not thrown away, are grown as local to you as possible, doesn’t come in lots of plastic packaging and is from a fair trade supplier.
Here are some suggestions:
10. Choose something made locally, without plastic or batteries
If we still are thinking of buying something as a gift then make it as eco-friendly as possible. For example, the UK will use 189 million batteries over Christmas which is very damaging to the environment. So question whether a battery-operated gift is ethical.
Look at the materials - is it made out of or wrapped in plastic?
If it’s made of wood is it FSC certified?
Has it been made locally?
Was a lot of energy used to make the product? (e.g. glass, metals)
Does it use a lot of energy
Did it involve mining for gems or minerals?
Can it be rotted down or recycled after use?
and.... The most eco-friendly of them all? Choose to not buy a gift!
Probably the most difficult but if you prepare the person in advance it can be a win-win situation. Not only does it reduce the number of unwanted gifts and general excess consumerism it also reduces stress and saves money.
Let the person know that for environmental reasons this year you have chosen to not give gifts and that you don’t expect a gift in return. The gift of spending time and being present with them is worth more than a present and it will be a special lasting memory, much closer to the true meaning of celebrating Christmas. Enjoy!
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