Sustainable Ethical Gifts

So for those of us who haven’t yet moved to a gift-free Christmas here’s another article in a series on sustainable ethical gifts. The list includes items made from existing materials, low or package-free items or gadgets to extend the life of stuff. If none of these float your boat there are more option on my article on Sustainable Christmas gifts from last year, which includes suggestions for beauty queens, crafters and hobbiest.

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If however you’re tempted by the idea of a gift-free Christmas, let me wet your whistle on the issue. It’s blissful. There’s no rushing around shops stressing about gifts, there’s no disappointed faces when you fail to get something they like, there’s no stressful wrapping at the 11th hour. You simple save a tonne of money and time, which you can choose to spend on the more important things in life like lunches with old friends or support for environmental charities.

In my experience moving to a gift-free Christmas isn’t an instant change, it’s more of a transition. This is how I made the change;

Step One – Firstly I decided who I would like to continue to buy physical gifts for. For me I settled on my husband and my kids, plus small items for my kids to give to their grandparents, which i pick up in charity shops during the year.

Step Two – Then I suggested giving up reciprocal gift buying to everyone else. Some were delighted so we fast-forwarded straight to the gift-free zone, and for those who were keen to continue the annual gift giving charade we moved onto step three.

Step Three – In the early years I gave homemade food gifts, or experiences to those who wanted to continue to swap gifts but I put a stop to this after finding too many homemade food gifts and expired vouchers languishing at the back of the presses mid-summer. This moved me onto Step Four.

Step Four – Now I make donations to charity in lieu of gifts for everyone except my hubbie and kids, and my godchildren, who I give cash to. I remind people every year that I’m doing this and welcome them to do likewise for me or alternatively, spend the money they would have spent on me on something for themselves. I used to give my kids’ teachers some homebaked goodies, along with a charitable donation made on their behalf, but last year I heard that teachers often bin homemade food for fear of contamination so this year I’m planning on buying some package-free cakes to go with the donation receipt and card. It’s less personal but less wasteful.

So there’s some ideas for how you might start to move towards a gift-free Christmas but for now let’s look at ‘lighter’ physical gifts for your loved ones.

I’ve mentioned Ugears Mechanical Models in my article about sustainable ethical toys but I’m including them again because some of their kits are advanced enough to keep an adult entertained too.

Or if you like the idea of a mechanical toy but not the DIY part consider these stunning music boxes handmade in Denmark from locally sourced sustainably grown timber by Robin Wood.

Socks are a staple gift every Christmas but this year pick a set that are actively helping to clean up our planet like these socks made from organic cotton and recycled plastic sourced from marine waste.

Jewellery is another favourite at this time of year and if you’re in the market for some consider sourcing it from companies create it from existing materials like the stunning necklaces and bracelets made from used bicycle tubes by German company Deus ex Machine. I picked up one of their pieces during my holidays in Madrid this year and am still in love with it. Paguro is another German based company offering products made from recycled bicycle tubes.

Another brand worth noting is the Irish based Beorknottobe that makes crocheted statement necklaces some from recycled yarn.

For something a bit more upmarket Jewellery by Juna (see first photo) is made with reclaimed silver and ethically sourced gemstones. Other jeweller makers using recycled materials can be found on Ethical Market or Etsy.

If timepieces are more your thing these wooden watches from Irish company Wood Life Store are made from sustainable grown trees and stainless steel. The company also plants 2 trees for every product sold.

If beauty gifts are more your bag this solid perfume by Jo Browne comes in bamboo packaging – with an inner core of plastic – and is free of phenoxyethanol, parabens, petrochemicals, SLS (sodium laurel sulfate), artifical colours, lanolin, and GMO ingredients.

Or how about these make-up brushes from Eco Tools or So Eco. They both use recycled aluminium, and bamboo to make their brushes and vegetable ink compostable printed packaging. The bristles used by both companies are plastic and neither recyclable nor compostable so bear that in mind when disposing of them. Eco Tools also donates EUR 0.91 to The Girl Project, up to EUR 90842.18 every time someone shares a message of women’s empowerment on social media using #MyTrueBeauty and tagging @EcoTools. You can buy Eco Tools from Boots chemists nationwide and So Eco are available in TK Max from time to time.

Or for something totally different how about a tool for resharpening wiper blades. Anything that helps to make something last longer is good in my book, and talking about books ……

consider Green Books  for the bookworm in your life, they publish a huge range of titles on the environment, nature and holistic living.


PS – This time in previous years I’ve published a Guide to Rehoming Stuff Online and a Review of Shampoo Bars

Published by Elaine Butler

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

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