If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had several frustrating Christmas gift-shopping experiences, wherein you’ve realised how seemingly impossible it is to buy things that are both environmentally-friendly and affordable. However, there are a few loopholes for giving ethical pressies minus the steep price-tag – you just have to get a little creative.
Rule number one: avoid mass-manufactured products wherever possible. Surprisingly, they’re not always cheaper, especially when it comes to reusable goodies. The ‘vegan tax‘ applies to products just as much as it does food, so chances are you’ll be forking out heavily for keep cups, lunch boxes and beeswax wraps if you always go store bought.
If you’re not quite DIY-savvy enough to make a reusable Christmas gift yourself, outsource to a local business. There are plenty of independent retailers flogging handmade wares on Etsy, Instagram and Facebook Marketplace, often at fairly reasonable prices. You’ll can also save by cutting out the middleman and shopping at local markets.
For the foodies in your life that take their cooking seriously, get reusable food storage bags. You can get silicone ones fairly cheap, but if you’re willing to up the budget slightly, try The Swag’s fair-trade cotton fridge bags. After all, they pay for themselves – one carrot saved from mould is one less you have to buy later.
Food waste is a significant contributor to global warming, and in Australia, 5 million tonnes of food is sent to landfill each year. Save money and planet Earth? Sign me the heck up!
There’s even a perfect, all-natural gift for the loneliest members of your family – houseplants! Gifts don’t get more affordable or environmentally-friendly than these tiny, green, oxygen-producing machines. Whether it’s for your newly single BFF or the weird aunt you only ever see at Christmas, a succulent or herb-growing kit is the perfect way to fill the void. Make sure they’re the responsible type though – you’re not really supposed to buy pets for Christmas, right?
Ethical gifts don’t get any cheaper than when they’re bought second-hand. Note: that doesn’t necessarily mean used. Resale sites like Gumtree abound in new-in-box potential pressies that have gone unwanted and unloved by their current owners. People who are desperate to offload are easy to haggle with, and you can sometimes save 50% or more if you’re persistent.
Some used items can still make great presents too, especially if the recipient is into nifty trinkets and antiques. Books are a fantastic Christmas gift, since loads of people make ‘reading more’ a new year’s resolution. Three pre-loved ones for the price of a shiny new copy sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Or, if you want to take the kindness theme very literally, you could go for a classic, hands-off Christmas gift: a charity donation on behalf of the recipient. This is particularly useful for people who already have a very clear passion for a social or environmental issue.
Oxfam Unwrapped lets you buy farm animals, amenities and educational items for families in poverty (you can even buy someone a goat!) If the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is your pal’s peeve, you could buy them a bracelet from 4ocean and haul a pound of plastic from the ocean in the process.
Last, but not least, some packaging advice. Gift bags and wrapping paper cost a small fortune, only to be turfed out in the yellow bin a few days after Christmas (if you’re lucky). Substitute the wasteful for the useful by delivering your gift in a reusable shopping bag. For a bit of spare change, you can get a basic tote with a cute design, but if you want to give all your gifts in the green bags lying around the house, by all means go for it!