Sustainable christmas hero
1 December 2021

Sustainable Christmas gift ideas

We asked experts how we can make our Christmas presents more sustainable.

In the week after Christmas an extra 50,000 tonnes of waste floods into our landfills. We asked experts how we can make our Christmas presents more sustainable.

Why not wrap presents with old fabric.

Miriama Kamo – broadcaster and member of the Zero Waste Network

My biggest tip is not to use Christmas wrapping paper. Instead wrap presents with old fabric (pro tip: buy scarves from second-hand shops), newspaper, maps, wallpaper – anything that you have lying around. They look awesome, especially if you keep any old ribbons and bows to reuse.

As for gifts, think handmade (cakes/cosmetics/crafts) or experiences (zoo/boating/time together).

Always look for companies with sustainability at heart. Buy local and check the ingredients so you know the product is planet friendly. I like to think of gift giving as local, low waste, and luxurious – gifts and experiences which indulge both people and planet.

Miriama Kamo is a broadcast journalist (Sunday/Marae, TVNZ1) who’s been involved in the zero waste movement for the past three years and works hard to try to reduce her family’s carbon footprint.

Sarah Pritchett – WasteMINZ

For a few years now my parents have gifted my family and my sister’s family an experience, instead of presents for Christmas. We’ve been zip lining, jetboating, white water rafting, and to a family-friendly concert (pre-Covid).

Why not give someone an experience they will never forget.

A good friend and I make a donation for each other at Christmas time. Last year she donated to the Christchurch Foundation on our behalf, and I paid a koha to Stuff on their behalf and got them a voucher to a local café.

Second-hand shops hold all sorts of treasures. Young tamariki aren’t really bothered with the provenance of their toys, and you may be able to find some good quality buys.

Think about buying items that last. For the coffee aficionado in your life, manual espresso makers (from the simple stovetop to the slightly flasher ROK espresso) produce coffee that’s just as good as an electric espresso maker (and without the need for pods). And they’ll last pretty much forever, with only the occasional new filter needed to keep them making great coffee.

Sarah Pritchett is the senior project manager for WasteMINZ, which represents the waste and resource recovery sector in New Zealand.

Paul Smith – Consumer NZ

Since being involved in our Built to Last campaign, I’ve tried to gift (or ask for) pressies that don’t waste resources (and actually can help keep stuff in use for longer).

Repair tools from iFixit will help friends and family keep stuff in use for longer. While Sugru will fix broken handles, reinforce charge cables, and has endless ways to make awkward things easier to use.

CaliWoods razors are lovely to use, get rid of plastic waste and, with spare parts and a blade recycling service, are an easy way to go circular.

Don’t buy new tech devices – refurbished models just a couple of years old do everything you need. I’ve used GoodTech.co.nz but there are many others.

Paul Smith is Consumer NZ test manager who is on a mission to ensure the products we buy are built to last and are able to be repaired.

Kahurangi Carter – Para Kore

Think about the whakapapa of your gifts this Christmas. Have they been ethically made? Are they from a maker whose values align with your own?

In our whānau our tamariki are given something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

Gift an experience: One of my favourite places to spend time with friends and whanau is on Mt Ruapehu. They have gondola rides and 2022 Season Passes available now.

Gift a donation in someone's name: Two of my favourite charities are the City Mission Donation and Rainbow Youth.

Handmade gifts always go down well.

Gift something you made: There are amazing recipes in the book Hiakai, by modern-day food warrior Monique Fiso. You can cook something delicious for your friends or whānau. Last Mother’s Day my kids made me muesli and I loved their thoughtfulness.

Gift something second-hand: It's so much fun going through op shops. You won't believe the treasures you find that remind you of your loved ones, whilst staying away from the fever of mall shopping. Trade Me is another great option – I often find beautiful clothes from brands I love, like Kowtow.

Gift a voucher (not a plastic gift card): Who knows what your person likes better than themselves. A voucher to Mutu, where you can rent things you need like tents for summer camping is a great option.

Meri Kirihimete.

Kahurangi Carter is the regional manager at Para Kore, which advocates a te ao Māori solution for a world without waste

Georgie Ferarri – Sustainability Trust

‘Tis the season to think sustainable, be ethical and #SupportLocal. So my biggest tip is to give the gift of a fun experience.

Not only does this mean zero-waste gift giving, it’s a great opportunity to support a local business. Here in Wellington, you could gift an annual membership to Zealandia or Wellington Zoo. One of our EcoShop staff said that the best gift he ever received was a zoo membership – he was able to pack a picnic lunch and pop over to the zoo with his kids whenever he felt like it. It really is a gift that keeps giving!

For more ideas, keep an eye out for the Sustainability Trust Christmas gift guide at the beginning of December, full of awesome advice and tips for a sustainable festive season.

Georgie Ferrari is the chief executive of Sustainability Trust – a social enterprise that supports sustainable living.

Member comments

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Your Highness
04 Dec 2021
Vouchers

I give reserve bank vouchers, aka bank notes. I’ve never had a recipient sneer at the gift. They don’t expire, and are accepted everywhere. People know best themselves what they want, so it’s likely to result in less waste.

Sam Y.
04 Dec 2021
$5 Christmas

For something like 15 years, my family has done a pot luck meal and $5 Christmas presents. By that, I mean we are unable to spend more than $5 on any one person. If you are a couple, you can team up and spend $10 (actually, we have allowed for inflation and it is now $6pp, so $12 for two). However, we are also welcome to 'spend' nothing: we can make, mend, promise some help, recycle, or regift. We bake. We buy second-hand books, or regift those we have read. We also don't wrap presents, just using recycled paper carrier bags year on year. It is low stress, lots of fun, and puts the focus where it belongs: on people. It is being with our whanau that really makes our Christmas celebrations a celebration.