Here we go again. Carols blaring through the radio, loads of useless plastic junk being bought, wrapped and discarded. Hams, turkeys, the beach, the bach, and the barbecue are the parts I prefer.

While malls are filling with wary Christmas shoppers, I thought I would compile a list of ideas for gifts that will have less impact on your wallet and the planet.

TradeMe is a wonderful solution for buying used items. This site probably does more to reduce waste than any other tools we have in New Zealand.

This year I am buying my little daughter a used dinghy from TradeMe. We are going to give it a quick coat of low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint from Resene's Environmental Choice range which will make it last longer. I like working with wood, so if it ever suffers damage I will repair it, rather than throw it away.

The art of re-gifting
Though often frowned upon, if you ask me re-gifting is an excellent way to reduce the amount of new materials that we buy. I have re-gifted a number of items over the years and pulled it off with ease (I hope...)

My brother-in-law has a family re-gifting policy whereby each person buys or re-gifts books that are continually re-gifted throughout the year for birthdays and the following Christmas.

Give a goat
Oxfam run an excellent campaign over Christmas called 'Unwrapped'. You can give a goat to a family in Papua New Guinea and be content in the knowledge that it is going to really help families for generations to come.

I would also quite like to receive a goat for Christmas. Ideally an angry one with large horns that could give grief to the taggers who continually deface our headquarters in Upper Queen Street.

Give help to a cause close to your heart
Choose a charity with a cause that you or your gift recipient loves, then instead of wasting money on thoughtless stuff, get a nice card made of recycled paper and write about how the gift is going to make a difference. Perhaps make a pledge to donate your time or make a donation in the gift recipient's name.


If you employ staff, another excellent idea is to give employees days off to go and volunteer their time for a charity of their choice. We call this high level help at Sustainable Coastlines. It will often deliver much better outcomes for the cause than money would, but it will also keep workers happy and make your business look good. A win-win for everyone.

Give one percent
The One Percent Collective has an excellent way that you can give a gift. Write a card to your giftee asking them to choose whom out of the six charities will receive one percent of your income for a year. This is a more interactive option than knowing that a goat will be bought, as you will also get to go to awesome events and enjoy the benefits that the collective has to offer.

Give an experience
I reckon that experiences are a fantastic option for gifts. Trips away to enjoy nature, concerts, shows or other experiences that don't involve buying material goods are excellent.

Last year all of the kids (well, thirty year-old kids) pooled together and bought tickets for my mum and her sister to see the Rolling Stones. Now I am not saying that a Stones gig is particularly sustainable, but it is awesome. The ladies had a lovely night and no one was left with things that they feel too bad to throw away clogging up the closet after that gift.

Give a tree
Trees are one of my favourite presents for people. They actually have been for a long time, because they are cheap, thoughtful and look great. It is important to investigate whom you are giving one to though. It is no use giving a kahikatea that is going to grow massive to someone who lives in a town house.

Give food
If you can, a gift of food grown in the garden or something you have hunted / gathered / baked can be a brilliant Christmas gift. If you are clever you can do this without creating waste and it will be obvious that you have put your time into it, which is more important than spending money.

Last year, I gave my father-in-law a live cray and two butterfish for Christmas. He is a legitimate seafood fiend and this present was better than anything I could have bought.

Give time
One of the best presents I have received was a babysitting voucher so that my wife and I could take some time off and go to a movie. Sounds simple I know, but time is our most valuable asset and we should really think about what we are using it for. Giving it to people can be a very meaningful gesture.

Hand-made gifts are another way that you can give time. People will appreciate it much more than something that is just going to collect dust on the shelf.

A Hungry Bin
Hungry Bins are a fantastic system for composting. Not only will they minimise waste, but they will produce excellent worm wee that will make the garden grow well - a gift that keeps on giving.

A stainless bottle
Shameless plug here, but hey - I have had my Sustainable Coastlines one for over two years. They stop the need for plastic bottles, look great and encourage you to keep hydrated. If someone you know doesn't already have a re-usable bottle or re-usable shopping bags/fruit and vegetable bags, then splash out and buy them some. Better still, get the kids to decorate the item and make it unique.

If you have any other great gift ideas that don't require a panicked trip to the mall then please share in the comments section below.