A greener, more ethical Christmas: the alternatives

Christmas is a difficult time for those trying to live a greener or more ethical life. Rampant consumerism, the frenzied accumulation of new things and enough wrapping paper to cover the Millenium Dome a few times over doesn’t always sit so comfortably. Natural beauty gifts are a lovely way to spoil someone, support small-scale businesses and to introduce your nearest and dearest to an alternative approach to skincare – you can see my natural beauty Christmas gift guide here. But, given that my homemade gift guide is postponed till January due to spoiler alerts, I thought I’d offer up some slightly more non-traditional Christmas presents.

Ethical gifts get a bad wrap (ha! – couldn’t resist, ‘scuse the pun) but it is possible to get something a bit different without necessarily buying a goat. Not that I have anything against goats, you understand. As environmentally-friendly lawn mowers they’re hard to beat…

Must have gifts from World Vision will allow you to buy a goat but that’s just for starters. You can also buy farming tools, vitamins, education, safe drinking water and, at just £6, a mosquito net – the perfect alternative stocking filler.

Save the children offers another wide range of alternative gifts including toys, art sets and baby kits.

Another good website for things that are a little bit different is Good Gifts. They offer options for both the UK and abroad, so if you fancy a gift based a little closer to home you can pay for singing lessons in a primary school to help disadvantaged kids improve their communication and language skills, or help plant a meadow of spring flowers to support bees and butterflies.

If you want to give something you can wrap up and put under the tree (good luck with getting the goat to stand still for long enough), then you could try fairtrade. Increasing numbers of organisations in the UK offer a route to market for local producers across the globe.

Traidcraft offers a lovely range of gift options. I recommend having a good browse of the site but I thought I’d feature a couple of things that caught my eye:

Fairisle Alpaca mix scarf from Peru (gloves and hat also available) £25

Little Ellie shopper from South Africa - £16

Printed brass bangle from India - £6

Lip balm trio (Orange, Mint and Grapefruit) containing fairtrade ingredients from Palestine, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso, amongst others - £8.55

And presents don’t have to be 100% new to be great. If you’re buying for a fashion lover, try somewhere like TRAIDremade, an offshoot of fashion charity TRAID, where used garments are made into completely new clothing at a workshop in Brighton.

Bag that used to be a jacket?? (£29.50)

Book lover? You could browse Oxfam online for an unusual second hand title with a bit of character. Not everyone likes something used but I rather love holding something with a bit of history imprinted in the pages. Part of the story’s in the book, part is in idea of who read it before you did and why.

Paris Sketch Book 1868, a collection of stories and articles about Paris – £19.99

Images from The Floating World - Japanese Prints, 1978 - £24.99

And if you’re really stuck for a greener option, there’s always regifting. Just make sure you don’t give a present back to the person who gave it to you!

It’s a bit harder to save paper when you’re wrapping for 100. To ease the green guilt, make sure you buy recycled paper and then recycle it in turn. Even better (and greener) is recycled brown paper. Sounds austere, looks surprisingly stylish, especially tied up with string and a sprig of holly from the garden. And if you want inspiration from someone with far greater crafting skills than mine, I strongly recommend that you check out Laura Howard’s Bugs and Fishes for a gorgeous collection of gift-wrap ideas. Now if I can just persuade Laura to pop round and wrap my presents for me…

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