Support Sustainable this Christmas

Konjac Sponge

Obviously the most sustainable gift would be one that doesn’t create any waste at all, like your time. Strangely this gift doesn’t always go down well with people, next in line might be the gift of experience. I’ve tried experience gifts over the years and they’ve been met with mixed feelings. Some have been tremendously well received while others have dwindled on the shelf of the unloved. The fall back option for many is often a voucher but with virtually all companies adopting un-recyclable voucher cards I now avoid them like the plague. Thankfully the days of obligatory gift giving are behind me and my family donate to charity in lieu of gifts for everyone but the kids. If you’re still in the market for physical gifts then you can still make your purchase more planet positive by buying it from a sustainable business. Here are some suggestions;

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I’m not a fan of giving non-greenies eco-products that require them to change their ways. It’s wasteful because, lets face it, chances are they’re not going to use them. I also think it can come across as a bit preachy.  That’s not to say we can’t buy them a more sustainable version of something that we know they’d use.

I’ve only recently heard about Konjac sponges (see top photo), which are made from the fibre of the Konjac potato or Konnyaku, a perennial plant native to Asia. Sponges from the Konjac Sponge Company are said to be free from chemicals, colouring, additives and irritants and 100% biodegradable. Apparently there are copy-cat makers but this company’s sponges are made by hand in the volcanic hills of Jeju Island in South Korea. The brand carries the Leaping Bunny and Vegan Society symbols, and they state that all our sponges are tested for authenticity and purity. They are available to buy from a lot of stores including Nourish.

Benecos Nail Polish

Non toxic nail polish is another good buy for those that love painted piggies. Down to Earth sell a range of non-toxic cruelty-free vegan nail polish from Benecos at a very reasonable €9. Or have it online for approximately €8.50. It is free of toluene, formaldehyde, camphor, phthalates and colophony.

Voya Skincare

Or maybe introduce your beauty obsessed friend or relative to a new moisturiser that’s both good for their health and the planets. You’ll be spoilt for choice if you check out my compendium of natural and organic skincare in Ireland.

If you can swing a way to give a plastic-free voucher then I’d suggest supporting ethical beauty salons like, Skinful Affairs, Dublin 2 who offer treatments with products using natural ingredients, vegetarian (vast majority vegan), cruelty-free and made with high content of organic ingredients. Of if you’re on the South side of Dublin city Virginia Claire in Dublin 6W uses natural and organic cruelty-free products in their treatments. And in Limerick you have The Beauty Pod, who provide treatments with 100% natural & organic skin care.

Canvas Satchel from the Atlantic Equipment Project

The Fashionist – Your image conscious buddy might appreciate the beautiful bags handmade in Sligo by The Atlantic Equipment Project. The company uses heavy duty canvas, and waxed cotton made in Scotland, all fittings are made from solid cast brass and labels are cut from vintage leather by a Dublin supplier.

If not then how about a voucher from an Ethical Clothing Company? For Ethical Men’s Clothing Brands check out my Father’s Day post, and click here for Ethical undies and Ethical Nightwear

Eco Yoga Mat

The Fitness Fiend – January is generally the time we try and get fit so why not help a loved one on their way with some clothing from an Ethical Active / Yoga wear brand? Or perhaps they’d appreciate a chemical free yoga mat.


The Music Lover – If your husband is anything like mine he’ll go through about 4 pairs of headphones a year so it’s always a good bet to have a new pair in the Christmas Stocking. The website Eco Warrier Princess has written up a very helpful guide on eco-friendly earphones should you be in the same boat! As has the Green Star Project and their review of ethical sustainable headphones includes a review of the sound quality. Irish blogger The Girl in the Ocean has also done a review of Smile Jamaica Headphones.

Wool from Knit with Attitude

The Knitter – what could beat some ethically sourced yarn from Knit with Attitude? For more information on ethical yarn check out my article on Sustainable Ethical Yarn.


The Gardener – your green fingered relative might get a kick out of using a old paperback to grow some mushrooms with a Mushroom Book Recycling Kit.

Loofah Plant

Or perhaps they’d appreciate more of challenge, like growing a Loofah plant!

Timber Birdhouse

Or a gift that helps bring more wildlife into their garden. After all wildlife is great for managing pests! Just make sure that any bird boxes or insect hotels are made with FSC certified timber and approved by the RSPB (or similar), otherwise you could be putting wildlife off


The Foodie – In Ireland we’re blessed with an endless supply of ethical sustainable food products but rather than buying a ready made product get a friend on their way to making their own. Blueberry bushes are ideal presents for anyone who loves the fruit and wants to save themselves a fortune. It grows very well in pots, is easy to look after and give lovely autumn colour. Also home-grown berries are way more nutritious and ethical than imported berries, which are often flown by air and picked by child labour.

Swoop Bags

New Parents – Now this present might be a bit too utilitarian for some parent but i love a useful present so thought it warranted inclusion. Original Swoop bags are made from 100% cotton canvas, while the Super Swoop Bags and Mini Swoop Bags are made from durable, tough, water-resistant fabric that is guaranteed for life. Just pull the cord when you’re finished playing and hey presto toys instantly tidied way.

Kids – One of the hardest areas to avoid plastic in is toys! In my experience kids older than 3 are completely underwhelmed by most wooden toys, which is a pity cause i think they look fabulous. I’m not a fan of recycled plastic toys because i don’t believe that those that manufacture them can guarantee that the plastic they use isn’t contaminated with dangerous chemicals. Maybe this is wrong of me, but i am a cautious individual. For great alternatives to toys check out this 100 non-toy gifts for kids by the blog Raising Kids.


PS – For other Christmas ideas search ‘christmas’ at the bottom of this webpage and don’t forget to like my new Living Lightly in Ireland Facebook Page or follow me on Instagram 

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

10 thoughts on “Support Sustainable this Christmas

  1. I have a wooden toy obsession. Me and some friends saw a big hill of toys down an alley someone had thrown away. We went and got them gave them a wash. Now I have ugly plastic toys in my house. I have decided to donate them cus I hate them. My friend gave me an invitation to my fave cakeshop as a present. Its the best gift ive ever had 😊


    1. An invitation to a cake shop. What a great idea! Hard to lose on that one. I also love wooden toys and have kept the ones I bought for my kids, but now they’re 10 and 8 wooden toys just don’t pass mustard. Trying to push experience pressies now. Slow progress!


      1. Ive never thought of it like that. Most toys for older kids arent wooden. I just bought a plastic thing fir my 7 year olds birthday. I said this will be the last but come to think of it i will have to think hard if an alternitive.


  2. You mentioned blueberry bushes (which I find a pain to grow because our soil needs a LOT of acidification – and peat is the easiest option which of course isn’t sustainable and I don’t have a ready source of pine needles). Why not other gardening products and seeds? There are so many great Irish purveyors of organic plants, seeds,and garden products. Some of my favorites include Seedaholics, Quickcrop, and Brown Envelope (I also like West Cork Garlic for, well, garlic but too late to plant for Christmas). Memberships to places like SeedSavers also don’t bring “stuff” into the house.


  3. Good point about compost. I’ve found peat free compost before but not ericacous, which is what blueberry’s need. I’ll do some research and update. Gardening tools and seeds are a great idea. Planning a blog post on good brands for spring. Will be cogging your ideas then 😉


  4. I loved the mushroom growing kit using an old paperback and on their website found a kit using used coffee grains, of course I left it too late to order for Christmas and so, searching for an Irish equivalent, I found this website: which is a social entrepreneurship enterprise selling a kit to grow oyster mushrooms with used coffee grains. Great for saving on air miles!


  5. If you have to buy another pair of (sustainable) headphones for your husband, I’d recommend LSTN. I shortlisted 5 pairs of headphones to consider (overlapping with the selection in the link you provided) but unfortunately many of the guides to eco-friendly headphones don’t consider quality (because the writer hasn’t actually tried them!). A list of environmental and social benefits is useful but of course it’s also hugely important that they function well and last a long time! I first tried House of Marley but unfortunately they didn’t work out (details in link). I then tried a pair of LSTN and was much happier with them.


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