A sustainable Christmas gift guide

There's a reason they call Christmas the silly season. Unbridled consumption, maxed out credit cards, and crunching through the crisp piles of discarded gift wrap and ribbon settled on the ground afterward. And how much of the stuff we give and receive do any of us really need?

So this year, the ecostore team has come up with some alternative, gift giving ideas that are a bit greener and hopefully also a bit less stress-inducing.

And it's not just for Christmas. We hope the suggestions below will guide you through a gifting dilemma at any time of the year.

Give Memories

We think it's pretty hard to go wrong with this first one. A website like Tinngly offers experience gifts that the recipient can select themselves from a number of different options. Or donate to a charity in your friend's/family member's name, and you'll both experience the joy of giving. Oxfam Unwrapped and World Vision Gifts are two programmes that offer gifts fully loaded with feel-good factor.

  • How about a round or two of novelty mini golf?
  • The classic - dinner and a movie (their choice)
  • Lessons in something they really want to try, like archery, hip hop, pottery, Vietnamese cooking, beekeeping…
  • A membership to an art gallery, orchestra or film club - bonus points for supporting local arts and culture
  • Really push the boat out with glamping at a summer festival

If your budget isn't quite stretching to events and concerts…

Give your time

Maybe there's someone in your life who's run a bit ragged by all of their commitments (which can take on epic proportions during the festive season). Or perhaps you find yourself with plenty of time on your hands, but not so much in your wallet. It might be tricky to wrap, but your precious time is one of the most valuable, generous things you can give. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Babysit - or better yet, take their kids somewhere fun
  • Help them plan a party
  • Write and perform a song for them, then give them the sheet music
  • Cook and serve a meal (and do the washing up) so they can take a night off
  • Give a massage
  • Create a voucher for a certain number of hours that they can redeem any way they like
  • Offer to spruce up their garden, plant some vegies, or build a pond

Perhaps the recipient doesn't live near you. In that case…


Upcycling means reusing and/or repairing discarded objects or materials to create something new. One particularly beautiful form of upcycling is Kintsugi. This is the Japanese art of repairing broken porcelain and pottery with ‘gold', so the repair is visible, and treated as part of the object's history. Rather than throwing that broken pottery bowl out, resurrect it into something more precious. Here's our handful of other handmade, upcycled gift ideas:

  • Make a terrarium in a large glass jar using small plants and stones from around your garden
  • Resew a soft woollen blanket into sofa cushions with contrast stitching
  • Turn the sleeves of an old (but hole- and stain-free) jumper into cosy leg or arm warmers
  • Fill pretty, mismatched teacups with soy based wax scented with their favourite essential oils - once the candle's burned, they can go back to being teacups
  • Transform magazines into Danish star decorations
  • Upcycle last year's cards and ribbon into new gift tags

Perhaps craft is not really your thing…

Buy second hand

Whether you discover your best second hand finds online, in a garage sale or at a charity shop, this is the kind of gift you may want to start searching for early in the year. Your choice is wide open here, and buying a second-hand gift is a chance to give something that's perfect for the recipient, yet totally unexpected. A few potential treasures to get you thinking:

  • A delicately beaded vintage bag or chandelier earrings
  • Rare vinyl from their favourite obscure band
  • A lovingly restored modernist clock
  • A pretty china tea set and a (new) tin of Darjeeling
  • Retro glassware - think chunky whisky tumblers or etched Champagne coupes
  • A printed silk scarf from the 50s
  • A set of antique hardbacks or classic comics in mint condition

Haven't found anything second hand that's just right?

Make something

Handcrafted gifts always have a story to tell, which makes them just a little bit magic. Tap into your unique creative abilities, search Pinterest or YouTube for ‘how to' and get making, with these ideas for inspiration.

  • Craft a set of pottery mugs (it doesn't matter if they're a bit wobbly)
  • Create a beautiful and fragrant Christmas wreath using cinnamon sticks, star anise and dried orange
  • Knit a soft shawl, legwarmers or beanie (if it's winter where you are)
  • Roll bliss balls and pop them in a vintage biscuit tin
  • Create a work of art in paint, clay, textiles, found objects… and then sign it with a flourish
  • Re-pot a cutting from a favourite plant
  • Curate a private Spotify playlist with all their guilty pleasures

Too pushed for time to get creative?

Buy Ethical

Now, the word ‘ethical' may be a bit subjective, so here's a general rule of thumb when finding an ethical gift: durable beats disposable. A great idea for big families at Christmas is doing a Secret Santa. Everyone is randomly given 1 person in the family to buy for (and usually a dollar limit). This reduces the number of presents you need to buy - which is sure to shorten your festive to do list. When you only have one thing to buy, you can choose a higher quality gift that's designed to last. And the admin is simplified by using a free tool like Secret Santa Organizer.

We'd love to hear your best sustainable gifting deas. Please let us know in the comments or on one of our social channels.