Hooray, it’s my favourite time of year! Not gonna lie, I’ve already been singing Christmas tunes (particularly that pesky nostalgic Coke ad “holidays are coming”) and wearing my festive sweaters! As this post goes live, I’ll be busy decorating the house. 🤗 Here is my Christmas Gift Guide – 2018, and this guide kicks off a month of holiday-themed posts.
I started my Christmas shopping months ago. I like to think long and hard about what to gift, and I listen out for suggestions from people throughout the year. I get the most joy out of making people happy, and I’d rather buy/make something that the recipient will use, value, and enjoy. My aim this year is for no disappointment and minimal waste!
As I’m sure you can tell from the change in content on my blog, I’m trying my best to make eco-friendly and sustainable choices, and generally consume less. This is tricky at Christmas. It’s been a huge change of mindset for me to think “I don’t need anything” when the Black Friday sales came around, and I’ve been as conscious as possible about the presents I picked. We’re also using up all of our old gift wrap (normally I’d buy new themed paper) and leftover cards.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
One of the ways I keep in touch with friends and family across the world is through old-fashioned post. Yes, it uses paper resources and has a high carbon footprint to ship, but it’s important to me for maintaining connections with loved ones, just as I take a flight to see my family. Annoyingly, Canada Post has been on strike so I won’t be able to send cards or parcels from the UK. My plan is to post them from Canada and people can enjoy their cards in the New Year. So friends and family in Canada, if you read this, sorry, your card will get to you eventually!
Before I get into my picks for gifts this year, I want to suggest some ways to shop consciously.
Gifting sustainably is all about preparation. You can make less wasteful choices and pick valued gifts if you plan in advance. Leaving your shopping until Christmas Eve could result in spending too much, buying stuff you don’t love and the recipient won’t love, and is generally wasteful.
Easy does it on the wrapping.
Look for gifts that come in minimal packaging (hard to do with children’s toys and tech) and avoid wrapping paper with glitter as it can’t be recycled. Please recycle your paper, or reuse it! Or, you could even opt for cloth wrapping or newsprint. Lucy and I both agree that the best part of a gift is wrapping it well, and the anticipation of seeing what’s inside a beautifully wrapped parcel. Why not try the less is more approach and opt for bespoke wrapping fewer presents, maybe with pine branches, holly sprigs, or reusable ribbon?!
Shop locally and according to your values:
I tried to source more items in person this year because I actually had the time to go into shops! It’s so rewarding to have a chat with a local shop owner and connect with them, their product, and the community. Christmas markets are also great for gifts! I ordered some things on Etsy to support independent UK companies. Another great site is Wearth where you can shop by your values (ethical, made in U.K., zero waste). I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying second hand (antiques, children’s toys, books), and everyone loves something homemade! 😊
Family – stop reading now so you don’t spoil the surprise!
Read my gift guide from 2017 for more suggestions.
Check out my zero waste essentials post for stocking stuffer ideas!
- Solar charger (affiliate link). Last year I mentioned that portable chargers make great gifts. But why not make it more eco-friendly and go for a solar portable charger?! Hopefully my brother will find this useful when doing field work.
- Gardening tools. My mom is a keen gardener and I noticed in the summer that the last pair of gloves I bought her were looking tired. I picked up a few gardening bits for her including little snippers, gloves, and some reusable plant labels.
- Cooking items.
- My uncle loves cooking and curries so I got him a little book on British curries, and some specialty curry powder from Not on the High Street.
- A tea towel is always a good stocking filler or you can use it to wrap a gift, or line a food hamper.
- One of my favourite gifts is a good quality kitchen knife; I’ve received some beautiful Victoriknox knives in past years. My family is superstitious so we always make sure the recipient gives the giver a coin to ward off cuts (please tell me it’s not just my family! 😂).
- I asked for storage canisters this year and I know we are getting Kilner jars from Lucy’s parents.
- A good book. Here are this year’s selections for my dad.
- Personalised gifts. Monogrammed items or photos.
- Houseplants. I have asked for a hibiscus 🌺
- Birthday book. I used to use a paper diary but now I use my phone as my planner. But, I still like to write down people’s birthdays. I thought a birthday book, also known as an important dates diary, would be a great alternative as I only need to buy one and it lasts forever!
- Notebooks. Most people love stationary. While we’re at it, a fountain pen, or any pen where the recipient can buy new cartridges is a thoughtful gift. This reduces the waste of plastic pens going in landfill.
- A board game. My family plays a game every Christmas Eve. A good quality game like Monopoly, Scrabble etc. lasts a lifetime.
- Useful clothes. Everyone loves a pair of socks, pjs, or winter wear. This year, I went against all my instincts and actually gave money to a sport. My grandma loves watching football and one of her favourite teams is Liverpool. I gave my hard-earned money to the Liverpool Football Club so that she can rock a team scarf. 🙄 I think it will bring her joy so that’s what’s important.
Our niece gets a lot of presents and she really doesn’t need any toys from us. She does need some new clothes so I got her some jazzy leggings and tops and Lucy got her a copy of her favourite childhood book, “What do people do all day?”. I did my best to buy some of her clothes from ethical UK retailers who supply organic cotton. These are more pricy than what she’d normally wear, so they make a good gift.
Kids want all sorts of ridiculous things, but I think the infographic below is really helpful when shopping consciously for children.
- Knitted, sewn, or crocheted items (I can’t wait until I’m reunited with my sewing machine!)
- Baking or homemade chocolates (great for colleagues)
- Handmade gifts or decorations
- If you’re really crafty, DIY items like beeswax wraps, soap, candles, lotion, or bath salts
No Thing (a.k.a no physical gift):
- Host dinner, or help with the prep.
- Gift of time. IOUs for babysitting etc.
- Reconnect. I spend a good chunk of my time at home skyping friends in North America.
- I’m not a huge fan of the gift card, but sometimes a voucher for iTunes or Audible is exactly what somebody wants.
- Experiences. As we did last year, we bought tickets for Lucy’s family to see the Blenheim Christmas lights with us (see post). I also gave them little photo books of our visit as souvenirs.
These should just be little bits in my opinion. I think many of us (myself included) fall into the habit of spending too much money on stocking fillers, or buying cheap plastic rubbish.
Suggestions for eco-friendly stocking stuffers:
- An orange
- Chocolate packaged in foil (fair trade)
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Cellulose dish cloth
- Vegetable brush
- Collapsible straw
- Loose leaf tea
- Wooden toys
- Pencils and small stationary
- Jigsaw puzzle
- Seeds for the garden
- Soy votive candle
- Bath bomb
I’m going to try to not rant too much, but the industry for advent calendars is out of control! People spend hundreds of pounds on an advent calendar full of beauty products, gin, fancy dog food, Lego, candles, etc. Half the days are useless fillers, many of the products are duplicates or scents/formulas you don’t like, and most irritating of all, people buy these for themselves or still expect a “real” present. I find the whole thing greedy, not to mention terrible for the environment. Why not buy one chocolate or paper calendar and rotate who gets to open the windows? Next year I will be getting a second hand wooden advent calendar to fill with foil chocolates and other small bits and we can rotate opening it as a family for years to come. Rant over.
Most importantly, the holidays shouldn’t be all about shopping, and buying gifts should be fun, not a stress. The season is for being joyful, spending time with family and friends, celebrating the values that are important to you whether you’re religious or not, and being grateful.
Give to charity if you can. Oh, and please source and dispose of your Christmas tree responsibly!
I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Gift Guide – 2018. Please share in the comments your ideas for eco-friendly gifts, or an item you’ve bought/made for someone that you think they’ll love!