The Sustainable Guides Christmas Series: Conscious Gifting

The gift of giving 

The joy of giving gifts is undoubtedly one of the most magical parts of Christmas. Thoughtfully planning gifts for family and friends, wrapping up individual presents in festive paper and placing them underneath the tree, is a process that gives us all a warm fuzzy feeling. And while covid may have stolen a few of the joys of Christmas from us, buying thoughtful presents is something we can all still enjoy. Let’s make it count.

Put your money where your mouth is 

2020 has thrown a curveball, leaving countless businesses in unfortunate positions. The fragility of businesses has dawned on many of us. It turns out, where you use your purchasing power really does matter. Now is the perfect time to forget mindless consumption, and to support those business you’d like to see more of; those businesses doing great things in the world.

Accordingly, at Sustainable Guides we think 2020 is the year to experiment with Christmas traditions. This festive season, we believe it’s a great time to build better habits in sustainability, to consider the wellbeing of others and to pay towards businesses and organisations that match our own beliefs ethics. 

In the remainder of this Conscious Gifting Guide article, we will open your eyes to countless responsible gifting ideas that you may have never considered. Whether you are looking for something to wrap and send, or something slightly less tangible like an experience – we’ve got answers. 

Although we can’t provide equivalent businesses for all parts of the globe, hopefully this article can at least inspire you in your own country, to get creative and put your money where your mouth.

Gifts you can’t wrap

Some of the best gifts you can give at Christmas are the ones you can’t wrap. Experiences, charity donations, animal adoptions and subscriptions, make for awesome gifts with no-to-little waste or emissions produced in the process.

Charity gifting

The great thing about giving to charity through gift-giving, is that you can always find a charity to match someone’s interests. Buying a present for a keen surfer? Head to the websites of various ocean charities and see what they have to offer. Looking for a present for your niece? Look into adopting an animal. Below you will find only a very small number of charity gifts we highly recommend.

Adopt an animal with WWF

On the WWF website you’ll find a page dedicated to animal adoptions. Gift the children in your family with an animal adoption this year and help protect some of the world’s most vulnerable animals. With WWF, you’re able to adopt a whole range of animals including koalas and pandas. Each adoption comes with a gift pack and as well as regular updates on your chosen animal. 

Plant trees with World Land Trust

This one is perfect for that member of the family who never needs anything new. With the World Land Trust you can plant trees in someone’s name. On top of a certificate, your recipient will also receive a gift pack. 

Adopt a chimpanzee with Jane Goodall Foundation 

Put money towards orphaned chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo by adopting one. All four species of chimpanzees are endangered today and remaining populations need to be protected. When you adopt a chimp, you’ll not only get a certificate but a biography of your chimp, updates and invitations to Jane Goodall Institute events. 

Buy cards at Oxfam 

Oxfam Unwrapped offers a range of charity gift cards and eCards, with the money raised going towards poverty alleviation projects across the globe. This year, money raised will be used for those suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Grab some merch at Oceanic Global

Granted, this one is technically ‘wrapped’, but it is bought direct from a charity. Oceanic Global cares for all things oceanic. The charity raises awareness of the devastating effects of human activity on our seas and offers solutions to protect them. On their online shop, find colouring books for kids and clothing ideal for anyone who has a love for the ocean.

Thoughtful experiences

Experiences make for thoughtful presents, whilst reducing waste and senseless consumption. In 2020, resist buying a selection of body lotions for your mother, that will stay in the cupboard for years to come. Experiences are more meaningful. 

Fundamentally, the beauty of experience gifts is that:

a.) they really can be anything, and can be chosen to suit the interests of the recipient,

b.) you can choose to buy from local business, and in turn support deserving businesses in your region. 

On top of this – whilst there are of course exceptions – a well thought-out experience gift is inherently more eco-friendly than something wrapped, since it doesn’t involve packaging and waste.

Vouchers for environmentally friendly restaurants and bars; lessons for kayaking, canoeing, standup paddle boarding or surfing; tickets for a music festival or theatre performance; a voucher for nature tours; class passes for a yoga or dance studio; sustainable salon vouchers; an online course; foraging tours; a subscription to a language course – the list goes on. Below are only a few of our favourite experience ideas.

Environmentally friendly indulgence

Being taken out for a drink or meal by a close friend, is in our opinion a great way to enjoy a Christmas gift. But add a dose of meaning to your evening by seeking a sustainable option and make the evening even more significant. With a simple Google search, it’s likely that you’ll find a nearby sustainable bar, brewery, winery, distillery, restaurant, pub or cafe to match your eco-friendly standards.


For example, at Scout in London cocktails are concocted with foraged ingredients and with a zero-waste ethos. At HIMHOK in Oslo, drinks stay true to surrounding nature and accessibility. At Cape Byron Distillery near Byron Bay, gins are made using rainforest botanicals and are served in an eco-friendly establishment. At this gorgeous spot, you can even take a botanical tour of the rainforest with a guide. Why not even consider a tasting at a sustainable winery such as Gemtree Wines in South Australia, or Le Garenne in France’s Loire Valley


At Acre in Sydney, dive into a menu focused on transparency, seasonality and traceability in a urban setting featuring a vegetable garden. At Mezza9 in Singapore, get lost in a myriad of sustainable food options at one of the country’s most glamorous hotels. Treat a vegan friend to a plant-based feast at Blossom in NYC. At The Modern Pantry in London, pay towards innovative food, sourced responsibly and locally. 

For more inspiration, head over to our website and browse sustainable options in your region.

Weekend Escapes

Consider gifting your loved ones with a night in a hotel, bed and breakfast or resort which matches your own sustainability standards. Buy a voucher from local accommodation and allow your recipients to book in their own time. Hospitality is an industry which has suffered greatly this year, and your support could make all the difference, especially to smaller businesses. Let’s not forget, that a night away is also undeniably one of the most exciting prospects in 2020.

Vegan cooking class

With veganism on the rise, it’s likely that you have a couple of either vegan or vegan-curious friends to buy gifts for this Christmas. Try hunting down a vegan cooking class this Christmas and help your plant-based friends to master their vegan cooking skills. For example, at London Vegetarian and Vegan School, learn how to conjure up delicious plant-based Indian cuisine or perfect Middle Eastern flavours.

Vouchers, tours, passes and classes

Quite frankly, experience gifts can cover almost anything. Most businesses you can think of will be more than willing to help you out with a voucher, so find a fitting experience and simply ask!

Sustainable Guides tips: For more inspiration, head to the ‘experiences’ tab on the Sustainable Guides website and gain some more experience inspiration!

Paperless subscriptions


If you have a friend who loves to read, loves to learn or is interested in particular topics, offer them the gift of multiple books. Audible allows readers listen on the go, to any book they choose. Gift a friend an Audible subscription this year and rest assured you’re not only saving paper, but offering the gift of stories, words and knowledge! Similarly, present your parents with a kindle and save them from buying future hard copies.


In 2020, there’s really a magazine for everything. Plus, with the emergence of different online reading platforms, magazines need not always be delivered to your door in paper form. Do you have a parents with an interest in architecture, or a sister with a passion for hiking? A quick Google search will reveal magazines you can subscribe to.

The ultimate Sustainable Guides choice this year, is a classic: National Geographic. National Geographic has provided incredible photography, fascinating science news, and wonderful travel stories for over 125 years. Gift someone you know with a year subscription and support a business driving positive impact and positive transformations.


Although travel is far from our thoughts this Christmas, a break from holidaying offers us the chance to properly prepare for a future trip. Consider gifting a friend a subscription to a language app. Duolingo, Babbel or Busuu are three examples. Alternatively, if you know a local tutor or a language school in your city, how about paying for a short course for the keen traveller in your family? This way, you’ll be supporting local business too.

Gifts you can wrap

At Sustainable Guides, we highly encourage gifting things you can’t wrap. However, there are of course a great deal of highly worthwhile gifts more tangible than the above, that should be mentioned. After all, presenting your loved ones with sustainable and ethically sourced gifts can do a great deal of good for local business.

It would be too much to list everything here, and so instead, we offer you below a lost of top tips and inspiration for your Christmas gifting.

Buy local

This may seem simple, but with covid temporarily shutting local stores and with the public encouraged to reduce movement, tracking down local products is tricky. Having said that, it’s also incredibly important at this time to increase efforts to support local business. Reflect on whether you know anyone in your circles with products you’d like to buy and businesses you’d like to keep afloat. Alternatively, put in the extra work to seek out local products as alternatives to the things you’d usually buy online or order from other countries. Just remember, one hundred dollars paid to a one-woman business, puts food on the table for a week.

Choose businesses that match your beliefs

Before buying a product this year, do some basic research on the background of the company you’re buying from. If you’re buying a dress for your daughter, reflect on the ethics of the brand. Is there any mention of sustainability or ethics on their website? Those businesses with a kind heart and eco-friendly ethos will proudly state their credentials and will have nothing to hide. Very often, the product you’re hoping to purchase can be found in a more sustainable or ethical version. Do your research and breathe easy with the thought that you’re paying towards responsible businesses.

Consider secondhand buys

Facebook marketplace and Gumtree – amongst other online secondhand platforms – are great places to find the gifts you need at lower prices, whilst reducing your environmental footprint. For example, when buying toys for a child or headphones for a teenage son, secondhand options are readily available and in many cases near-new.

Practice sustainable wrapping

If you’re going to buy exquisite, thoughtful gifts, ensure that you wrap using environmentally friendly methods. Our top tips include:

  • buying from sustainable wrapping businesses
  • using recycled materials at home, such as newspapers or paper bags (decorate to your taste!)
  • gifting the present in a reusable tote bag for the recipient to keep
  • using reusable fabrics instead
  • getting creative with boxes, bottles, jars and other items around the house

Use go-to websites

At Sustainable Guides, one of our top-tips for conscious gifting relates to choosing reliable websites and sources. A handful of websites offer environmentally friendly homewares, clothes, beauty products, kitchenware and much more, all in one place. Below, we offer a few country-specific options.

USA: Earth Hero

UK: Natural Collection

Australia: Biome

Get gifting!

Have you been inspired by our gifting ideas? Tag us on instagram or use the hashtag #SustainableGuidesChristmas to spread the festive sustainability!  

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