Christmas is a time of gift-giving but what are you going to give to your loved ones? It is easy to find gifts that are trendy and beautifully presented but … you may want a present that they will like longer than just a season, is not junk and is made in places and under conditions that you can feel good about.
10 Ideas for Sustainable Christmas Presents
1. Give one good quality, durable gift.
Think about buying fewer, higher-quality presents that will last longer. Buy for life, not for trends.
2. Gift an experience or service rather than a ‘thing’.
A dinner, a movie, a high tea, a hair cut voucher. Or encourage your loved one to explore our beautiful environment by giving them a boat trip, a dive, or a whale or dolphin watching trip. Take them on one of the nine Great Walks. It does not need to be a massive expense either: what about a local experience, such as a boat trip to Quail Island, the ferry to Diamond Harbour, a picnic, or a camping trip to a DoC campground? Gifting a course can be wonderful too; think surfing/paddle boarding lessons, a pottery course, a defensive driving course, a chocolate making course. Or what about offering a service (performed by either you or a third party)? To clean their windows, dig their garden, service their car or fix that gate.
3. Give a sustainable/green/ethical/fair trade present.
Here are some websites/stores/ideas to help you in the right direction:
- Cool gifts with a conscience: Humanity, Etico
- Sitka sells amazing natural-fibre clothing, re-usable drink bottles and gift a portion of their profits to charity
- Sustainable clothing or bags. These are some NZ based businesses: We’ar Clothing, Liminal Apparel, Chalky Digits, Kowtow, Cactus (durable outdoor clothing and bags), or Simply Jute. If you do want to buy from mainstream shops, do check out which ones treat their workers and the environment well – for an overview see here.
- Buy books from Good Books: all profit goes to Oxfam and they offer free shipping!
- Jewellery made from sustainable sources: e.g. Stone Arrow
- Trade Aid shop
- Cruelty Free shop: www.thecrueltyfreeshop.co.nz/
- Coffee-related gifts (fair trade of course): e.g. Kokako or Addington Coffee Company
- Give seeds, a plant or a tree: Seedlings and pot plants are a great present that will endure. Choose organic seeds or native plants that will encourage native birds and insects.
- If you are into gimmicky presents choose something like a solar powered USB charger.
4. Gift a useful, practical present
Everyone has received (and given) useless, whimsical presents – and they end up being thrown out. Useful, practical presents are much more sustainable. Think about items like food (supermarkets also offer vouchers), clothes or tools. Or what about a beautiful kitchen knife that lasts a lifetime or durable camping gear? If you choose a less expensive practical item, this can still be very exciting, especially if it is a bit more ‘luxurious’ than the receiver normally allows themselves to buy (think personal care products, ‘special’ foods). Other practical ideas:
- Notebooks made from paper ‘waste’, NZ start-up Misprint
- Eco store products and gift packs
- Steel straws: These are normally made from 60 percent recycled material, are durable, can be fully recycled and won’t get eaten by fish.
- Energy alternatives: Think about solar panels, solar hot water or a retrofit water heater. See for example: www.energyalternatives.co.nz.
- Reusable everyday items: Coffee cups, water bottles, or a reusable lunch bag for an adult or your child.
5. Choose a locally-made present
Buying locally made products (art, music, furniture, clothes, crafts, or foods such as jam, chutney, cheese) helps the local economy but also reduces the impact on the environment because the product did not have to travel far. Rather than supporting faceless multi-national corporations, you support local people, people you may know.
6. Give a second-hand present
An obvious one. Perhaps not the quickest or easiest option, but definitely personal and unique. A vintage dress, old craft tools (available at many of the local markets and much liked by many a handy man or woman), a teapot, a second-hand book, a bike. Look in at your local opp shop, check out the garage sales, or use a website like Trade Me.
7. Give a home-made present
A personal touch often means the world. Make jam or preserves. Bake biscuits or cakes. Craft a wooden breadboard or carve a spoon. Give an artwork or knit a scarf. Infuse some oils to make essential oils. Record an audio book. Make jewellery. As Sam Judd at New Zealand Herald suggests: “If you are stuck for a concept, check out the Green Ideas magazine website, or simply search ‘upcycling’ on Google Images, Youtube or Pinterest for more project plans than you would ever need.”
8. Gift a donation
A wonderful option for those who have everything or don’t want anything else, is to donate to a worthy charity or initiative on their behalf. Some ideas:
- Oxfam have a “buy a goat” campaign, which has delivered services to many people in need: https://www.oxfamunwrapped.org.nz/gifts/goat.
This also speaks to the imagination of children.
- Million Metres helps raise money to get large scale tree planting happening along our waterways
- All kinds of causes, start ups and other initiatives: https://givealittle.co.nz/
- Crowdfunding initiatives: eg, https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/
Loved this suggestion from Sam Judd at New Zealand Herald: Buying, renting or building a beehive for a Christmas present is a gift that keeps on giving. “Aside from the fact that bees will produce delicious honey, they also add an estimated $5.1 billion to our economy through ecosystem services by pollinating crops so that we can eat fresh produce for our Christmas dinner. Beehive solutions is one of several excellent providers and there are even rental hives available as a cost-effective solution. You would be surprised how easy it is to have bees, even on small property. One of my colleagues lives in a tiny, urban flat and produces amazing Pohutakawa Honey out of his little back yard, which I have in my coffee right now. Delicious.”
10. Think about the wrapping
That huge pile of wrapping paper and packaging at the end of Christmas is really no good. Try to buy gifts with less packaging and instead of wrapping gifts in new wrapping paper, why not use reused or reusable wrapping materials: a piece of cloth, newspaper with hemp string, or old wrapping paper. For the last few rounds of birthdays and Christmas, for instance, we have used the same gift bags to gift our gifts in (rather than new ones, and instead of wrapping each gift in paper).
Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! Be kind, enjoy each other and be safe. More from us in 2017.