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Tips for more sustainable Christmas gifts

‘Tis the season to panic buy at the last minute. It’s not that you don’t want to save the planet, but the wish to reassure your loved ones that you care about them can easily trump your broader concerns when the clock is ticking. But genuinely thoughtful gifts don’t cost the earth. Take a breath, sit down with a cuppa and a vegan mince pie and see if you can’t change the way you think about Christmas gifts.
First of all, step away from the plastic novelty ‘gift’. Every year vast quantities of the earth’s raw materials are processed into items which serve no purpose other than to be given as presents and may well end up in landfill. If there’s a gag that just has to be made, there’s an e-card for that. Stick to gifts that will be used or consumed. There are plenty of useful products made from recycled or renewable materials, and anyway, there’s really nothing wrong with organic wine or chocolates or sustainably-made socks.
Also avoid overpackaged ‘gift’ editions. Printed plastic is a particular disaster as it’s difficult to recycle, but all superfluous packaging is wasteful. Buy the best, cutest one available for your money and handle the presentation yourself. And choose a responsible gift from an ethical supplier, with all necessary packaging made from recycled or renewable material. Traidcraft at traidcraftshop.co.uk  is a cornucopia of beautiful, sustainable ideas.
Give pre-loved. Given that anxiety about the future of the planet is now mainstream, most if not all your friends and family will recognise a used gift as extra-thoughtful. Browse luxury resale sites, or if you know what you want, try searching second-hand outlets like eBay or free papers like FridayAd. You’d also be amazed at what you can find via your local Freegle or Freecycle group. Or double the value of your gift by buying it at a local charity shop. Check out Oxfam’s online designer store  at oxfam.org.uk for a sample of the unique fashion pieces available.
Second-hand books are also a great way to let someone know you get them. Support your local book trader, or check the impressive ranges at Amnesty International, Oxfam or British Heart Foundation, all of which have dedicated bookstores on many high streets. How about a vegan cookbook for that recent convert? Or a truly special vintage bound copy of a beloved classic? For those who already have the tech, an e-book or audiobook may be more welcome than the bound paper version. And the right album or movie is as good in download form as it would be in a plastic jewel case. Or consider giving a subscription to the digital version of a favourite magazine, or a streaming platform such as Spotify or Netflix.
Choose a gift that will help the recipient to improve their own  sustainability. Reusable coffee cups or water bottles, for example, will be welcomed by almost everyone. ion8 are offering reusable water bottles in two exclusive Friends of the Earth designs this year. Visit ion8.co.uk.
Or why not make it yourself? There are loads of clever ideas online for home-made gifts and of course it means you can choose to use recycled or sustainable materials. Whether you make fantastic jam or are a genius with pressed flowers, nothing shows your love like putting the care and attention into making something unique. What you choose will depend on your talents, but this list at Etsy is a great jumping-off point.
Buying an unusual experience such as a balloon trip or a wine-tasting or spa day is an increasingly popular gift idea and avoids the risk of another non-recyclable hard-plastic ‘thing’ ending up in the back of a cupboard. Or why not provide the ‘experience’ yourself. This could be anything from a manicure for a friend to a spot of gardening or babysitting to a lesson or a special day out. Whether the gift is your expertise or simply your time and attention, there’s sure to be a perfect treat you could give to everyone you love. Print out gift cheques like the ones at Money Saving Expert, find an online template, or consider designing your own. A donation to a charity may also be surprisingly welcome. We particularly love the trees you can give as gifts via Tree Aid at treeaid.org.uk.
Happy gift-giving!

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