Cheap costs and neverending availability of stuff to buy at Christmas feels more like a sales and marketing pitch of consumerism than a genuine appreciation of each other. Christmas is traditionally a time for giving and receiving presents, but it comes with an overwhelming sense of obligation and excess.
We can slow down and be kind to ourselves with sustainable gift giving at Christmas by considering either no gifts or simplifying the giving by valuing the following:
At first, going outside the “normal” expectations feels weird. But valuing more meaningful and ultimately more sustainable gifts is highly satisfying when we know we’re treading lighter on the planet and being kinder to ourselves.
Each of the four suggestions includes ideas for different ages or links on where to source ideas locally and online.
Some links in this post are affiliate partnership links which means I may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase.
The Gift of Time
The well-known Christmas character, The Grinch had a massive realisation about gift giving at Christmas – “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
In the book How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr Seuss shares the message of love, togetherness, kindness and the immaterialness of Christmas.
The message in the book rings true as one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly presents for Christmas.
The intangible gifts of kindness, experiences and giving your gift of time are the most sustainable and memorable.
How to Show the Gift of Time
Your gift of time is the present of presence. Here are real examples across the generations – for adults, young children, teenagers & grandparents – that show your gift of time as a shared experience.
The gifter becomes the event planner and host. As the family organiser, this is a much appreciated and thoughtful gift. My friend organised a Hunter Valley day trip – she was the chauffeur, organised morning tea & lunch destinations and the wine cellars to visit. The day was so memorable, and I didn’t have to plan a thing!!
For young children
My primary school-aged nephews live out of my area. So our upcoming 2022 gift to them is a stay at our place and take them to places unique to our natural area in summer – a visit to the bogey hole in Newcastle, the caves at Caves Beach and a kayak on Lake Macquarie.
Teens love being active and spending time with people, so experiences that get them outside, walking and talking are the best! Then, as a family, do things like a trip to Sydney by train, go to the theatre, eat at restaurants we don’t usually visit, organise a treasure hunt or camp somewhere different, like Cockatoo Island.
Just like teens, grandparents relish time spent with each other. My Granny (no longer with us) was always delighted when I gave her my time by going out to lunch, followed by a visit to the local public garden of her choice. She loved this most: being with family, enjoying good food and being surrounded by nature.
Make, Create & Grow Gifts
These gifts are tangible things that will be used and take up no permanent storage space, including food, plants, body care and wine.
I love giving food-based gifts, as one of my strengths is cooking from scratch using real ingredients. My go-to Christmas gifting bakes are my Mum’s melt-in-your-mouth pecan shortbread, gingerbread, Aunty Elma’s lemon butter & toasted muesli.
My special Christmas Day menu plan includes homemade sausage rolls, sangria, and sticky date pudding (found in my favourite cook book by Stephanie Alexander). These become my foodie gifts to the family.
Giving a make, create & grow gift shows you care without filling the house up with stuff.
As for making and creating, this can include:
- Printing this year’s collection of photos
- Making a fun video, a poem, a song
- Creating cards for each family member and writing a special message
- Making household low-tox cleaning solutions
- Anything crafty, arty, or creative
In addition to cooking, I enjoy making these natural, petroleum-free beeswax candles for the family to enjoy throughout the year. Utilising our strengths and passions makes this type of gift giving more manageable and enjoyable during this busy time.
Local Make, Create and Grow Businesses
If you’d like to boost your making, creating and growing gifts, source products from your experienced local business that fit this theme. In the Newcastle region, visit Honeybee House Skin Co. for soaps & shampoo bars, Wholefood Family for kvass, The Healthy Cocktail for juices, Cocoa Nib for artisan chocolate, The Source Bulk Foods Erina for package-free staples and treats, Mind & Body Teas for tea blends, Newcastle Wildflower Nursery for native plants, High Tea with Mrs Woo for slow fashion clothing and Hook Line and Stitcher for macrame decorations. Seek out local handmade markets such as the Homegrown Markets and Olive Tree Markets.
Online Make, Create and Grow Businesses
A bunch of seriously great creative Australian small businesses sell their products online. Etsy is one creative-based marketplace to shop, whilst Biome stocks vegetable and flower seeds, Australian essential oils, beeswax candles and DIY kombucha kits.
It’s perfectly okay to give second hand gifts or re-gifted items, as long as you know that the person you’re giving to needs the gift and will appreciate it.
My extended family understands our values and why I gift them a preloved item, such as a book or toys.
Carefully selecting the type and condition of second hand gifts is key to perceived value. A second hand item that’s in excellent condition and could be new (but never used) brings joy and surprise!
And the better news is that we’re spending less when sourcing second hand and using what’s already in circulation – an ideal eco-friendly present.
Tip for giving a second hand gift – use the term vintage, retro or preloved. It’s more enticing than the phrases “used” or “second hand”
I’ve been giving preloved gifts to my family for a few years. The gifts are only small, but there’s a higher level of appreciation than buy-because-it’s-Christmas present.
Local Preloved Gifts
Check out these Newcastle local shops and businesses that sell various preloved items and clothing. For example, visit The Retro Wardrobe for vintage clothing and wares in Hamilton, Coliseum Antiques for bric a brac in Mayfield, The Conscious Exchange for preloved clothing and Stoned Saint Moon for vintage clothing in Islington.
Online Preloved Gifts
French for Tuesday’s online shop stocks quality, curated, one-of-a-kind preloved items. Alternatively, businesses specialising in vintage goods and second hand items sell with Etsy Australia . And the main source of second hand preloved shopping are op shops – they’ve gone digital, so well-known charities such as Vinnies Shop, Salvos Stores, and Lifeline Canberra bring you op shopping online.
Buying New Gifts
Buying new gifts is the easiest default option for gift giving. New gifts can be eco-friendly, but there are some worthy considerations before purchasing:
Is the item durable?
Is it reusable?
Is it locally made in your area or in Australia?
Is it made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials?
Does it have minimal packaging?
If your eco-friendly gift is not needed, it becomes clutter, stuff and a waste of resources.
Even though many gifts have a sustainable or ethical element, always keep in mind the person receiving the gift.
If gifting something is your love language, give the gift of cash. A cash gift is flexible, with no plastic gift card needed, and is open-ended for where to spend the money. There may be something a little obscure on their wish list, such as a leather crafting tool set or a pair of quality dressmaking fabric scissors!!
Online New Eco-Friendly Gifts
Here are some clever ideas when thinking about what to buy as a new, sustainable, eco-friendly gift.
The most popular and sustainably practical gifts include magazine subscriptions such as Australian Pip Magazine, these every day practical and easy to clean glass Weck jars, and this extensive range reusable eco friendly products from Australian online shop Biome. French for Tuesday’s online shop also has amber glass bottles for your DIY green cleaning, reusable produce bags and coconut scourers.
Being Kind to Ourselves
Being sustainable with gift-giving is about easing the pressure of materialism by being kind to ourselves and thoughtful to others. We can simplify gift giving by tapping into our strengths & creativity plus meaningfully connecting with the people closest to us. Whether you give the gift of time, a make, create & grow gift, a preloved gift or a new sustainably-minded gift, it’s the thought and time that counts.
Some links in this post are partnership links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission. Thankyou!
For more Christmas inspiration and stories, head to