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SG’s Sustainable and Non-material Christmas Gifts

In 2021 Sustainable Guides is taking the concept of ‘Green Gifting’ one big step further. No need to drag around heavy shopping bags this festive season. No need to wrap, and definitely no need to start shopping two months prior to the big day. This Christmas we introduce to you the best non-material Christmas gifts available in 2021.

The truth is, the most sustainable ‘thing’ to gift is one which you can’t touch, pick up, wrap or put under a tree. The most sustainable gift to give, is one that is non-material. Everything we see in the world – anything that is tangible – has a whole host of environmental impacts associated with it. Don’t get us wrong, some ‘things’ are more sustainable than others and we at Sustainable Guides are huge advocates of sustainable products. Hemp clothing, bamboo toothbrushes, furniture made using responsibly sourced wood, you name it; if it’s been consciously sourced and produced, we want to shout it from the rooftops.

Yet even the most responsible of products have some kind of impact on people or the environment; a carbon footprint, water, electricity or any other kind of resource usage. No product is perfect and it’s simply impossible to get away from. Therefore, if you’re looking for a challenge and want to be a truly sustainable Christmas-gifter this season, your best bet is to buy non-material gifts. We truly believe it is more fun this way.

Not only do non-material Christmas gifts have very little impact on the environment (of course there are exceptions), your well-considered gift could in some cases even be carbon positive or have an environmentally beneficial impact. Consider an animal adoption with WWF, a tree planted in your best friend’s name or a kayaking adventure which doubles up as a litter picking session (Sydney by Kayak).

In the remainder of this non-material Christmas gift guide, we share with you our very best ideas and launch you on your journey to a different, experimental kind of Christmas.

Our best ideas for sustainable, non-material Christmas gifts

The DIY Gift

When it comes to gifting, it’s the thought that counts. This year try creating something with your very own hands. A poem, a home made video of a recent trip, a slide show presentation of your year with a loved one, or a digital photo album of all your favourite photos taken with your mum. Got some paint in the cupboard you never use? Or something else crafty? Get crafting!

The gift of fixing

Everyone you know has something they’ve been meaning to do, can’t afford to fix, or doesn’t have the time for. Unorganised photo albums, a shed that needs clearing out, a vegetable garden waiting to be planted or a collection of Spotify playlists which with all good intentions, never got curated. Why not offer the gift of your time this year? Play to your strengths and help someone with something that will truly make a difference!

Plant a tree

With One Tree Planted, you can offer your loved ones trees, planted. In doing so, you’ll be helping forest areas impacted by environmental disasters, restoring nature and biodiversity and boosting local communities. With one tree costing only one dollar, you can buy as many as your budget allows for! Whether it’s 5 or 500, give it a go this year.

Gift a personalised video

At Sustainable Guides we absolutely love this option! The possibilities are endless.

Option 1: Record a 30-second video message for your partner, then ask all their friends and family to do the same. Once they have all submitted their videos, piece it all together and play the video to them on Christmas Day. Such a video is something that people can keep for years to come.

Option 2: Otherwise, if you know that someone in your life loves a particular celebrity, musician or instagram account, see whether that person has a video message service! Cameo is the absolute best way to do this. Take for example Birds of Oz; an instagram account people all over the world are going crazy over, for its beautiful birds. Or maybe you’d prefer a personalised message from Matthew Perry.

The gift of nature

You can’t go far wrong with a gift that involves an outdoor experience. Whether it’s kite surfing, kayaking, a hiking tour or climbing, the gift of experience is something we absolutely love. To get started, brainstorm some things that your gift-ee likes to do. All you have to do next is start googling. Stuck for ideas? Try something like Groupon or any other voucher service.

Charitable donations

Everyone has a person in their life that doesn’t need anything and often, doesn’t even want anything. For this person, there’s nothing better than a simple charitable donation. The great thing about this is, there’s a charity for every kind of case, plus, everyone holds a particular cause close to their heart. Donate, create a nice card or design using Canva and present it to your loved one on Christmas Day.

Animal adoption

Adopt an animal this Christmas for one of the smaller members of your family. Select an animal which you know the little one absolutely loves, and you’ll be a hero this Christmas. Penguins, elephants, pandas and turtles, you name it, WWF has made it possible.

Spa or salon day

At the end of the year when everyone has been working so hard, a pampering session is greatly appreciated. Both hair salons or a local spas offer someone you love the gift of an indulgent experience. If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, try using Sustainable Salons and choose a business which strives to be as eco-friendly as possible. Otherwise, spend a little time googling and finding an option which suits your values and those of the recipient (cruelty-free, organic, zero-waste etc.).

Weekend adventures

For the adventurer in your life, plan an adventure. Plan a hike, book a campsite and organise the food and logistics. Craft your details to the likes the individual. Your trip doesn’t have to be expensive or far away from home to be unforgettable.

Gift a yoga class

Even for those who don’t routinely take part in yoga, the gift of a class is something ‘different’ to do and in our experience, this is only ever received positively! Find a local studio and enquire about gift cards. You might even like to find out whether any yoga retreats are available for the true yoga fan in your life.

A language course

You know that friend who has started dated a Spanish person? Or your mother wants to start learning German for your partner? Do you know someone who visits the Netherlands every year and wishes they knew more of the language? A language subscription is the ideal gift for these people! Try Duolingo or Rosetta Stone. If you don’t find what you like there, keep looking! There are plenty of subscriptions you can get for the language-curious.

Meditation subscription

In 2021, almost everyone has experienced some difficulties in their lives. With job losses common and friends impacted by Covid-19, meditation has become increasingly important and also increasingly embraced within a wider audience. Give Calm or Headspace a try or any other subscription you can find which fits the bill.

Online courses

Remote learning is more popular than ever in 2021. So, what better non-material Christmas gift to offer a friend or family member, than an online course they’ve been meaning to start? With everything from marketing to cooking to finance, every interest or skill under the sun is catered to. Coursera and Udemy are excellent places to start.

In-person classes

The concept of in-person classes has admittedly been a little questionable in recent years. Yet as we move into 2022 with vaccinations and an increasingly positive mindset, Christmas 2021 might be the time to buy your friend a local course or class. Cooking classes, woodworking, photography, music or singing; match the course to the person’s interests and be endlessly thanked for your innovative idea!

Personal trainer

If you know someone who lives for fitness, or who is looking to take a plunge into a new healthy lifestyle, offer the non-material gift of a personal trainer. Buy as many sessions as your budget affords and start someone off on their journey as motivated as can be!

Book or audiobook subscriptions

Purchasing a subscription for a book company can be time and cost effective for the gift recipient. Online books are often cheaper, whilst audiobooks are always easy to listen to; on a run, in the car or on a train. Open someone’s eyes to the gift of a book subscription and take the ‘material’, out of books. Ever heard of Blinkist? Neatly summarising books into shorter audio versions, you can take the main messages from the books you’ve always wanted to read in 20 minutes! Perhaps this is the perfect gift for the impatient reader in your life?

The gift of Masterclass

Masterclass is an innovative new way for you to learn all the skills and acquire all the knowledge you like, from the people who know best. Ru Paul, Jane Goodall, Tony Hawk and endless others, speak on topics ranging from public speaking, to acting, dancing, cooking and entrepreneurship. Your pick!

Non-material Christmas Gifts for the entire family

Challenge yourself this festive season by presenting family and friendly with only non-material gifts. Above, we have proven that the possibilities are truly endless.

For more help with sustainable Christmas gifting, click here.

Jessica Beaumont
Noticing the footprints left behind by travellers in the countries she has lived in and loved, Jessica found her calling in the sustainable travel niche. Aside from writing, Jessica is found exploring the Adelaide Hills for good views and delectable wines, dancing, taking leisurely walks on the beach and trying to make friends with dogs.