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Ethical Christmas gifts: 5 ways to gift with ethics

March 25, 2024
December 4, 2019

Ho-ho-how much waste do you think Australia produces during the Christmas period? Here’s a clue: it’s 30% higher than usual. You don’t even need to know how much waste we normally produce to know that’s *kind of* an issue – especially in the midst of this whole climate crisis thing.

According to one report, Australians also rank Christmas as one of the most stressful events in life – right up there with moving house, divorce, and switching jobs. Makes you wonder if we couldn’t be doing it a little better, doesn’t it?

The good news is we can do it better. 

We created this gift guide not only to give you ideas for ethical Christmas gifts, but also to get us all thinking about how much we gift in the first place.

1. Gift less

Surveys reveal that 86% of Australians find buying presents difficult, while a further 65% find Christmas shopping a stressful experience. To those Australians, if not gifting at all is out of the question, we have two words: Kris Kringle.

If you’re not familiar with the Kris Kringle 'game' or concept, it’s about ensuring each person in a group has to organise a gift for one other person only. All you need to do is agree on a budget, draw names out of a hat, and hey presto: your gift-getting list has been zapped to just one. There are even online tools to help you figure it all out. Everyone will still get to give and receive a gift, but you’ll all get to skip the associated emotional stress and financial strain. If that’s not a happy holiday, we don’t know what is.

2. Gift ethical

Whether you subscribe to the Kris Kringle idea or not, you can still commit to doing just a little more research before hitting the shops (or the internet). The goal of ethical Christmas gift giving is to try and ensure everything you buy has a minimal environmental impact while maximising its social impact. Streetwear for the kids? Check out HoMie, a Bank Australia customer that donates all profits to support youth affected by homelessness or hardship. Camping gear for the folks? Patagonia and Kathmandu are both certified B-Corps.

There are no shortage of brands doing good, but if you need a little help with your research, ranks brands according to their ethical track record across a multitude of industries (fashion, food, appliances, health and beauty and more). Think of it as your one-stop shop for ethical gifting.

3. Gift (or get) donations

One way to make a difference is to make it known that you’d like people to donate to a few causes you care about, rather than get you presents you don’t really need. We’re not suggesting you walk around with a massive ‘DO-GOODER!’ sign on your head, just that if anyone asks what you want for Christmas, you have a few initiatives in mind for donations.

If you’re stuck for ideas, you could consider Bank Australia customer grant recipients like Scarf, a program that helps refugees rebuild their lives in Australia. Scarf have an online shop of home and lifestyle items, including gift cards for socially conscious diners, and profits are used to help fund their programs.

4. Gift second hand

Chances are that anything your family asks for this Christmas is readily available in one of Australia’s many second-hand stores, Cash Converters, or on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or any other popular second-hand site.

The best part about buying second hand is that you know you’re not contributing to any extra waste, and the second-best part is that there’s a good chance whatever you’re buying will be cheaper than if you’d have bought it new. And if the gift recipient is a little *funny* about the whole second hand idea, just tell them it’s an antique. Or vintage. Easy.

5. Ethical gift subscriptions

For the gift that keeps on giving, consider signing some of your loved ones up to some ethical subscription services. Take Offset Earth, for example. For as little as $7 a month, you can sign up yourself, your family or friend(s) and help offset their emissions for a whole year (the organisation will use that money to put towards tree-planting and other regeneration projects to help sequester carbon).

You could also subscribe them to an online magazine or newspaper like The Guardian or New Scientist (it’s a good time to be educated), get them some eco-friendly coffee pods care of Pod & Parcel, and even sign them up to an ethical toilet paper subscription. Because nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like an ethical toilet paper subscription. Trust us. We checked.

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