Monday 3 December 2018

Ethical Christmas Gift Guide

I won’t lie, the thought of Christmas this year made me panic a little bit this year from my purely eco-warrior side (my festive side is very excited). There’s plastic wrapping, foil and single-use stuff everywhere… Not to mention I haven’t decided what to make as the main part of my Christmas dinner yet! But there’s ways of ensuring that presents you buy are better for both the people of the world and the world itself. Here are some suggestions:

Wild & Sage Soap for Calais - £5

I bought three of these in September – two as birthday presents for two of my best friends, and one for my own personal use. Wild Sage hand make their vegan soaps in a little , and I couldn’t recommend them more. First of all, they smell amazing. Second, they are super moisturizing and feel great. Thirdly, they are completely plastic free – they aren’t completely naked as they have to be posted, so they’re wrapped in paper (which, of course, is compostable). 

They do lots of different soaps; the one I have in particular is their Soap for Calais. For this soap, Wild & Sage give all of their profits to the charity Care 4 Calais, which helps refugees and asylum seekers on the Calais border. 

Lush Charity Pot Hand and Body Lotion - £3.95 (45g)

Lush has lots of gift-able products. Yes, they have their pre-made gift boxes, but they do contain Styrofoam peanuts, which I don’t think break down very quickly, and probably leave micro-plastics hanging around all over the place. However, you can always make your own little gift set with your own boxes or non-plastic wrapping (their scarves are quite useful for this). This way, you can save money, plastic and make it a bit more personalised for the person who will be receiving it.

One of the pieces I think would make a great gift from Lush is one of their Charity Pots. These come in several different sizes, and, at the moment, they have a limited edition naked version (no plastic container). It smells so lovely and can be used on your hands and body – I tend to put it on my hands before I go to bed. One thing that’s really special about these pots is that all the money given (apart from taxes) are given to the charity on the lid, and these range from women’s rights and LGBT movements and animal rights and welfare globally.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s bloomin’ fantastic. 

The Charity Pot has been running for 10 years and, according to the Lush website, have raised £4.3 million for the various different charities they support. 

Lush, in my opinion, are a great company. Although they have some plastic use, they do run a repurposing and reusing program with some of their pots. Similarly, a whole load of vegan products and are famous for their anti-animal testing campaigns, among their other political campaigns. 

Just be aware of any allergies the person you’re giving to has and AVOID at all costs. For example, I was going to get a Charity Pot for one of my best friend’s for her birthday but when I checked the ingredients saw it contained aloe vera and put it straight back down because I knew of her allergy. Keep an eye out people. 

Books (all prices based on Hive)

Books are always incredible gifts. Whether they pass on information or share a story, books are powerful things. They literally change the world. The world is made a better place when a new book is published or picked up in a library, a charity shop or a bookstore. (Except books like Mein Kempf, let’s be honest here.) Most books will be a good choice, but here are some suggestions:

The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White – £8.15

Anyone who knows me, or even follows my Twitter, will know how much I love The Guilty Feminist. They’re my favourite podcast and I feel a little thrill every time I see a new episode on my feed. I have seen them live once and am going to see them again in May – I cannot wait! Earlier this year, Deborah Frances-White, the presenter and founder of the Guilty Feminist released this book. Each chapter focusses on a different issue, which has probably been discussed on the podcast at some point, but she writes in more detail about. I was given this by my parents for my birthday and I haven’t got around to reading it yet, but I can’t wait to!

As the Guilty Feminist don’t have advertisers or other sponsorships or crowdfunding, the profits from this book will mean that the Guilty Feminist is able to keep running, spreading the rod of feminism, informing and campaigning wherever they can. Just by buying this book, you would be helping to keep a movement alive. 

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and other lies, curated by Scarlett Curtis – £7.89

This book has taken the latter part of 2018 by storm. I have seen it everywhere. Curated by Scarlett Curtis, this book is a collection of articles, poetry, short creatives pieces, letters, etc., all from a collection of feminists. There are big names such as Gemma Arterton, Deborah- Frances-White and Helen Fielding among several women who I’d never heard of, but I am excited to read their work. All the profits for this book go towards the women’s rights charity, Girl Up. 

How to Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum - £5.85

I read this book in October and essentially, it’s a beginner’s guide to reducing plastic consumption, and would therefore be a perfect gift for someone you know who is at the start of their plastic awareness journey (sorry to be cliché with the J-word). Written by the Head of Oceans at Greenpeace, this book has lots of useful tips, and is also made with minimal plastic. 

No. More. Plastic. By Martin Dorey - £6.35

Similar to the previous book, Martin Dorey (founder of the Beach Clean Network and #2minutesolution campaign) provides facts about the plastic crisis and lots of #2minutesolutions to help resolve/reduce it. He does more on recycling rather than reusing and doesn’t particularly talk about several solutions I would have thought are actually quite obvious, particularly in terms of menstrual hygiene. I read this in less than an hour and will be handing this around to anyone I can (with my annotations, corrections and editions, of course). It’s a get people started with reducing their waste.


You can never really go wrong with food as a present, let’s be honest. Well, unless you give a box of Roses to a vegan. There are lots of ways you can give more ethical food pressies! One of my friends and her boyfriend are making their own jam to give this year, and my family have often given jars of our homemade chutneys before. You could make some cookies, or whatever it is that you know the person you’re giving to loves!

If you don’t fancy cooking something up for yourself, you could start by heading over to your local vegan shop (if you have one). They often have Christmas gifts or packages, or you could make your own gift bag with the goodies they might have. For example, in Newcastle I know that the Hungry Vegan sell sweet hampers and Tyne Cheases do an amazing looking range of vegan cheeses which I am very tempted to get as gift for myself as part of Christmas dinner.  

Something homemade

Some of my most treasured presents are ones that have been handmade (such as the Suffragette-coloured crochet blanket I was given for my birthday). There’s something so special as a gift that has been made with you specifically in mind. They are unique, simply put. This could be a painting, photo, blanket (as said before), some form of clothes,  

Oxfam Gifts

Whilst being a charity shop being primarily known for their second hand items, they do also have set of new stock. For example, they sell products from Divine (their dark chocolate is vegan and incredible), Bio D, Chilly’s, as well as travel mugs among others. You could easily make a zero waste starter kit or ethical food goodie bag for someone. I love my Chilly’s water bottle, and as they are a little pricey, they would make an excellent gift for someone who hasn’t yet got a water bottle. 

And hey, you can always find something incredible second-hand there as well!

Magazine/newspaper subscription

By this, I obviously don’t mean get your best mate subscribed to the Daily Mail for life. That’s neither fun nor ethical. If you know of an independent or otherwise pretty cool magazine that someone will like/does like, then make sure they don’t miss out! Sure, it’s not the most low-waste option, but it can really do a lot to help support creatives who are doing great things.

A magazine I love is oh comely. They are a feminist magazine who have loads of really interesting articles, including niche interviews, affirmations, book recommendations, ethical fashion among other issues. One recent article I thought was particularly interesting was one on feminist porn by Soma Gosh. They’re doing some super cool stuff. 

A couple of years ago my dad got me a subscription to Private Eye for my birthday. Private Eye is one of my favourite newspapers, if you can call it that? It criticizes absolutely everyone, even down to local governments, and explains issues in a way that makes it easier to understand. Also, cartoons. I live for the cartoons.

Another option in this area could be to donate the money you would have otherwise spent on a present to The Guardian. As one of the only mainstream left wing newspapers left, they are not owned by one specific person, instead by a trust, and also have no paywalls. This is done to keep their writers as free as possible and their work as accessible as possible, so that everyone has access to their articles and therefore more people can be informed about the world as possible. This would be a great gift for anyone you know who is an avid Guardian reader.


I don’t know about you, but for me, growing up clothes were a present that I regularly got from relatives – right from sparkly dresses and leggings when I was younger to wacky Christmas jumpers and the jumper and jacket my grandparents got me for my last birthday. Clothes are practical presents which can mean so much. 

Charity shops

Clearly Oxfam isn’t the only charity shop there is. And charity shops are treasure troves. Clothes, DVDs, books, nick-knacks, small things that could mean a lot. Obviously, don’t just go and buy any random crap you find straight away just because, but you never know, you could find a piece that someone would love and wear for years. Charity shops are places where you find pieces that you wouldn’t anywhere else. 

Upcycling Stores/Beyond Retro/Ethical Clothing companies

If you don’t want to go rooting around in charity shops, you can find plenty of new ethical clothing. There are lots of ethical companies you can try, too many to list even, and there are several places to check online, including my Fast Fashion 101 resource document and the app Good on You.

There are also lots of upcycling clothing companies across the UK (and the rest of the world). For example, Beyond Retro are a company with stories in Brighton and London, who take vintage clothing and repair them or improve them so they can be used and loved again. I bought my favourite pair of trousers from their Brighton store in March and they are now one of the highlights of my wardrobe. They also have an online shop which would definitely be worth having a look at (seriously, I should be sponsored for this blog post – anyone who’s been featured, hit me up).  

These are those trousers on the first day that I wore them!

Tips and Tricks

  • Try to reduce the amount of wrapping you use

-      Wherever possible buy recycled/non-plastic wrapping paper or reusable wrapping (such as scarves, which can also then add to the present!)
-      Try to give the present in person wherever possible, meaning you don’t have to 
  • Aim to get them something useful. We have all got those presents which we’re not entirely sure what to do with, or where to put it, and have ended up throwing away or donating or still have hanging around in a corner. If it’s something they’ll use regularly then there’ll be less dead material hanging around. 

  • Experiences are a wonderful alternative to material gifts. It doesn’t have to be expensive either – it could simply be a picnic on the beach or a pizza and film night put in your diaries and to be prioritized over everything else. Tickets to see a show, spa days, concert tickets, etc., are all great ideas depending on what you can afford. 

If you liked this post you might like: 5 Ways You Can Save Money by Reducing your Waste

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