Welcome to the More Thought, Less Waste gift guide.

As I write these words, things have more or less returned to business as usual after the pandemic-derailed Christmas. However, there is no need to return to normal when it comes to holiday waste (or deal with supply chain snarls): check out these suggestions for ways of reducing your wasteline, expenses, and stress levels around gift giving at Christmas and throughout the year.

Because recycling is for content as well as cans (and bottles and cardboard), much of this might look familiar if you’ve visited the website over the past few years. But keep an eye out—there are new products and websites interwoven throughout the guide, and I am always on the lookout for more eco-friendly shops and products. Drop me a line if any of your favourites haven’t been included or if there are any broken links.

Why do I think that it’s so important that we cut down on waste at Christmas time? Well, there are a lot of scary statistics about the sheer quantity of waste that is produced this time of year.

  • In the UK, over 108 million rolls of wrapping paper (or 227,000 miles worth) are used during the holidays.
  • The nation scoffs down 175 million mince pies. One million mince pie cases are equal to one tonne of aluminium.
  • Over 125,000 tonnes of plastic waste is produced during the festive period.
  • It’s estimated that up to one billion Christmas cards end up in the bin after the 25th.
  • The amount of waste produced over Christmas is 30% higher than average.

When this is added to the normal “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to rubbish, it’s easy to imagine how our desire to do something nice for friends and family leads to a negative environmental impact.


They say it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift giving, but how much thought has really gone into many of the items that end up under the tree, in a stocking, or given at an office gift exchange? Sometimes it can feel like Christmas has become an excuse for just getting something—anything—that is vaguely appropriate. We have conflated quantity with caring and adopted the attitude that something is better than nothing.

How do we to combat this while still participating in holiday traditions or giving gifts throughout the year?

I think much of it boils down snapping out of autopilot when shopping. It’s asking the questions, “How long will this gift last? Is it something the recipient actually needs or wants?” It’s looking at the packaging: can it be reused or recycled? It’s even going so far as to think about the disposal: is it the type of item that will break quickly and end up in a landfill before the end of January? Or was it built to last and could have a second life after being upcycled?

Does the gift even have to be tangible at all? After all, we are living in an increasingly dematerialised world as films, books, and music no longer need to have a physical presence but can be streamed or downloaded. Annual memberships to museums, gardens, zoos, or other favourite places can completely eliminate waste while allowing the recipient to enjoy an experience throughout the year. A taster session to a local craft course, cooking class, or sports lesson can offer skills that can be used for a lifetime, without the need of batteries, ribbons, or bows.

How can we escape from the imagined idea of what Christmas should be (that Instagrammable or pin-worthy tree with a pile of perfectly wrapped presents below it) and instead make it what we want it to be? A friend introduced me to the four-gift rule for children (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read), and I think this can also be applied to adults as well! So, on that note, consider talking to friends and family: do they even need or want gifts?


This may seem like strange advice at the very beginning of a gift guide but consider not giving gifts at all or cutting back on the number given. Many families have started doing secret Santa exchanges where they draw names from a hat and only get a gift for that one person instead of every uncle, aunt, and cousin. Or could you start a new tradition and pool your money to spend it on an experience your family or friends can enjoy together? The memories are likely going to last longer than a product (and don’t required assembly, batteries, or cleaning and maintenance!).

Another great way to avoid over shopping or suffering from CBP (Christmas Buying Panic) is to take advice from old St. Nick himself and write a list of everyone you want to shop for and the types of things they’re interested in. If you want to really stay on top of things, make a note of your budget for each person or decide on a flat rate for everyone.

One of the trickiest parts about avoiding waste when giving gifts is that you have to really think about the other person: what are their likes and dislikes? Are they vegetarian or vegan? Or perhaps have an allergy or illness that needs to be factored in if you’re thinking about buying food? Do they have values that need to be considered, such as being plastic-free or preferring gender neutral clothes? If you’re really not sure what they want to find under the tree, consider asking—you shouldn’t have to be a mind-reader to give a good gift!

I know I just finished writing how gifts aren’t even needed, but if you are looking for just the right Christmas present (or anniversary, birthday, or just because gift), then please consider supporting smaller businesses, independent sellers, crafters, and makers while avoiding miles of bubble wrap* and unnecessary packaging.


This is usually one of my favourite recommendations, but I’m aware that not all markets or fairs have returned to running in person yet. Please check the website of individual makers or your favourite craft fair to see how they’re handling things. 

Or consider venturing online for handmade and bespoke items at Etsy, Not on the High Street, and the British Craft House.


In Chippenham, Cousin Norman’s, Squeeky, Paprika, and The Bay Tree have a variety of locally made and/or quirky gifts. Wherever you are, take a little time to seek out independently owned businesses so your money can do double duty over the holidays: your recipient gets a great gift, and a local business owner gets a boost.


Shopping at charity or thrift shops has a bit of mystery around it: you never know what you might find. However, this is a great opportunity to reuse something and give an item a second (or even third) chance at being useful. It also supports a charity, so win-win!


If you’re planning to help your pals PALL (Plastic A Lot Less), then a local zero waste or refill shop makes a great place to find presents or stocking stuffers. You can find the one closest to you on this link. For Chippenham residents, consider checking out these local(ish) businesses:


Through suggestions from readers and a bit of sleuthing, I’ve found a number of online businesses doing their best to promote reusable products and plastic-free packaging. Although I have not tried them all (yet), this list is a great place to start for Christmas (and beyond):

  • Buy Me Once: An online shop with a number of premium products that are guaranteed to last a lifetime (or at least longer than average).
  • Cosy Cottage Soap: This Yorkshire-based soap company is free of everything except good, clean products. They even offer “sudscriptions” if you or your gift recipient want to stay stocked up throughout the year.
  • Friendly Soap: This shop has come highly recommended by several readers of the blog, and it offers soaps, shampoos, and conditioners in recycled/recyclable packaging that are vegan and cruelty free as well as free from sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, and other not-so-nice chemicals. It is also an best buy.
  • Funky Soap Shop: I get quite a few products through the Funky Soap Shop because I like their refill service, and I’m hoping that more companies begin to follow suit online and off.
  • Herbfarmacy: British grown beauty products that are cruelty free, plastic free, and smell divine.
  • In Greens: A full-service website that covers everything from plastic-free travel and first aid products to kitchen, bathroom, and beauty products.
  • The Natural Spa: To quote from their tagline, The Natural Spa specialise in “plastic free and vegan hair care, soaps and other cosmetics.”
  • Naturally Wrapt: THE place to go for natural wrapping materials ranging from paper tape to ribbon, bags to tags.
  • Onya: Carrying an Onya bag with me was one of the first plastic-free swaps I made over a decade ago, and I still love their products: they’re practical, efficient, and practically indestructible.
  • Plastic Freedom: Pretty much a one-stop shop for plastic-free products, they also aim to cut back their packaging waste as well.
  • Plastics Free: A Cornish company that stocks a wide-range of products for all areas of the house.
  • Posy London: Organic and plastic-free deodorant, shampoo, and conditioner bars. The travel-size sets are great for samples and stocking stuffers.
  • Ruby and Bo: This online shop provides greeting cards, gift tags, and even notebooks that multitask: in addition to sharing your Christmas wishes with a loved one, you or your recipient can plant the wildflower-seeded paper and watch what grows.
  • Tabitha Eve: A Welsh company that produces a number of handmade, plastic-free products for around the house. Sign up to their mailing list to be notified about their regular imperfect product sales; it’s a great way to bag a bargain.
  • The Eco Shop UK: A little bit of everything to help you (or your gift recipient) start down the path to reducing waste.
  • Turtley Eco: Another one-stop shop, this one plants a tree for every order placed in the UK.
  • Wearth London: Not many eco-shops get featured in Vogue, but these items are stylish as well as eco-friendly. They range from luxurious (jewellery) to downright practical (dental care).

For US readers:

  • Buy Me Once: Long-lasting products to help put an end to throwaway culture.
  • Mighty Nest: A monthly subscription service for reusable products that came highly recommended by friends.
  • Tiny Yellow Bungalow: Zero waste and plant-based products for the entire family (and house).

Do you have a favourite Christmas market, refill shop, or online eco vendor that’s not mentioned? Drop me a line.

If you have ended up with lots of packaging material, good quality bubble wrap is often in demand from charity shops to wrap bric-a-brac. What makes bubble wrap good quality? It shouldn’t be covered in tape, torn to shreds, or all popped. Check with your local charity shops to see if they are happy to take it.

I have a confession to make: I love a nicely wrapped present. I love little details, like matching ribbons and gift tags. But there are so many ways of getting that same attention to detail without costing the earth (or breaking the bank!). DIY ideas are listed here, and take a look at Naturally Wrapt for even more suggestions (and the all-important paper tape!).

Looking for something a little different? Check out Ruby and Bo for wildflower printed paper that your recipient can plant and watch grow.


This is an old standby, and one that can greatly reduce your Christmas budget as you may already have some around the house.


Old atlas pages are my favourite way of wrapping gifts. The paper quality is good enough to look quite smart, and you can even use cities or locations that are meaningful to the recipient (I told you I liked details!). These sheets are especially good for wrapping DVDs and books.


Charity shops are a great source for both of these: old books of music and large tomes like dictionaries can be sacrificed for the greater good to wrap smaller packages. However, as I learned from personal experience, you may not want to tell the staff what you’re doing—the glare I got when I mentioned I would be cutting a child’s songbook up to make wrapping paper still sends a shiver down my spine!


Rolls of brown parcel paper can be purchased for far cheaper than normal gift wrap and decorated however you wish: personalised for the recipient with some of their favourite things or let the kids go wild with decorating on a rainy autumn day.


Wrapping something in a scarf or a tea towel allows you to give two presents in one. Cousin Norman’s in Chippenham does sari wraps that can double as a scarf (and sells gift wrap without plastic). On the High Street, Lush offers knot wraps, but any fabric can be pressed into service.

If you follow my less rubbish life over on MissElaineous, you may have noticed that I’ve fallen down the anime rabbit hole, and I’ve also become a bit obsessed with other aspects of Japanese culture, such as furoshiki. This is a traditional way of wrapping objects: it looks amazing and, if you can get the cloth back, can be used again and again.


Standard cardboard gift bags make it easy to wrap awkward presents and, if you know the person well enough, you can ask to have the bag back afterwards and reuse it until it wears out. My preferred option is to give gifts in reusable bags that the recipient can then use themselves; Oxfam’s I was a Sari foldaway bags are lovely, one-of-a-kind practical gifts that are perfect for this.


I have to admit that I tend to re-use biscuit tins for office supplies because they fit perfectly in my desk drawers, but you can also use them to put gifts in. Or perhaps refill with homemade biscuits?


Using glass bottles is a suggestion that I came across at an environmental event. Maybe a wine bottle with a printed certificate for a wine-tasting experience rolled up inside? Or something that can double as a vase when it’s done? Interesting jars and other containers can also be used for gifts: just use a bit of tissue paper and twine to turn it into a Christmas cracker.


Regardless of what you decide to wrap with, it’s always worth considering how packaging will be disposed of, and please keep in mind that gift wrap and greeting cards with foil and glitter usually can’t be recycled (and some of us loath glitter with the fiery hatred of a thousand suns. You’ve been duly warned).


Wondering if something can be recycled? Give paper (or foil) the scrunch test: if it can be crumpled into a ball and doesn’t bounce back, it’s most likely paper (or foil) and can be recycled accordingly. If it springs open, it is probably made with plastic and has to go with general rubbish to landfill.


I see nothing wrong with using Christmas (or birthdays, anniversaries, or any gift-giving occasion) to promote a more sustainable lifestyle to family and friends. If you want to help your friends and family start down the path to less waste, then these gifts say “I’ve thought about you AND the planet.”


Blue Planet II highlighted the problem with plastics in the ocean, and the BBC documentaries Drowning in Plastic and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani’s War on Plastic has driven the point home even further. If you know someone who has expressed interest in reducing their own “wasteline”, there are a number of books now available to help them get started, of which just a few are listed here. Did I overlook your favourite? Please let me know!


With 2.5 billion coffee cups disposed of every year in the UK, anything that can make a dent in this number is a big help. If your recipient doesn’t already have a favourite reusable cup, there are many to choose from, from those that are personalised to something more unusual through Redbubble (useful if your friend or family member is a fan of pop culture).

Looking for a bit extra? Fairtrade tea or coffee is a nice stocking filler, or a voucher to a friend or family member’s favourite café is a great way to reduce waste while letting them get exactly what they want. I’m fond of Team Tea’s taster tins, and if you really want to splurge on the caffeine, subscription boxes are available too.


There are so many stylish reusable water bottles out there now that you are spoiled for choice: metal, BPA-free plastic, foldable … Chilly’s tends to get excellent reviews, and I love my Refill Chippenham water bottle from Jerry. Regardless of the type you get, helping to avoid single-use plastics is a gift that benefits everyone.


Refill shops are popping up across the country. Why not help your pal start PALLing by providing containers that are easy to refill? For thick liquids like shampoo, conditioner, and washing up liquid, a pump bottle is a good bet. For other cleaning products, spray bottles are useful, and, for everything else, there’s bound to be a container that will do the job. 


If you have a friend or family member who enjoys baking, cooking, or eating, there are a number of ways to cut down on plastic waste in the kitchen: reusable cutlery or strawsveggie bags, and beeswax wraps are just a few of the options available. Have a virtual peek in my own kitchen to see what’s available.


If you know a smoker, this could be a great stocking gift. Cigarette filters are made from plastic and can take up to 10 years to degrade, leaching chemicals the entire time. Butts should be disposed of properly, not left on the ground, and these ashtrays can help.

Any eco-friendly favourites left off the list? Let me know.

I think everyone has at least one story of being a given a gift that was wholly inappropriate. The personalised leather journal gifted to a vegan. The fancy box of chocolates handed to a diabetic. In my case, it’s being given bottles of wine or other alcohol, despite the fact that I’m teetotal (or totally about tea). These get re-gifted after the holidays as part of my own circular economy.

So, one of the best ways to reduce waste is to really consider what it is the recipient genuinely wants or needs. It might not always be what you think. For example, as someone who has been waging a battle against plastic for several years now, I really don’t need any more canvas tote bags, water bottles, or bars of soap. This is why I always recommend asking what the recipient wants, preferably well in advance of Christmas so they can be pleasantly surprised when the time comes!


This category probably applies to everyone at the moment!

Vouchers to a local spa or beauty treatment are always welcome (at least in my household!). If you can support an independent business as well, then so much the better. Most face-to-face services have re-opened, but you may wish to double-check that your recipient’s local spa or salon is one of them.

You could also consider a subscription to a meditation app like Headspace or Calm, a voucher to a local yoga studio, or perhaps a trial session to a dance class or other activity that will help the recipient unwind.

And if you think too much negative news is stressing your recipient, perhaps try a subscription to Positive News?


If you know that your intended recipient has a favourite magazine that they splurge on at the newsstand, consider giving them a six- or twelve-month subscription to it. Even less waste: can it be converted to a subscription that can be read on their tablet or eReader?

Speaking of eReaders, my Kindle was one of the best gifts I ever received and I am never without it. If you know what type of eReader your recipient has, vouchers for ebooks probably won’t go amiss.

Vouchers to local bookshops are also great for those who love to browse. Beyond the usual High Street fare, Bath is home to at least two great independent bookshops: Mr B’s Emporium and Topping & Company Booksellers. Mr B’s Emporium also offers a very popular Reading Spa and subscription service.

If you or your recipient prefer to shop online but want to avoid Amazon, try Blackwell’s (free UK delivery), (generates money for local bookshops), Hive Books (offers ebooks), Waterstones, or Wordery (free worldwide delivery).


These lovely notebooks by Sonnaz Nooranvary of The Repair Shop are made from fabric offcuts that would otherwise go to waste. This is a beautiful gift that makes writing an even more tactile experience!

For equally attractive writing instruments, please check out the pens and mechanical pencils crafted by the talented Simon Webb. He often uses wood from special sources, such as the HMS Victory or St. Paul’s Cathedral, so you can give a gift that is meaningful on many levels.


Maybe your recipient loves to read and learn new things but doesn’t have the time or ability to read as much as they used to. Check out a subscription to One Garden so they can join a community of curious minds from the comfort of their own home. 


This section usually highlights how you can give your cinephile friend or family member a membership to their local cinema; however, I’m not sure if these programmes are still running at the moment, so you may want to double-check  with your recipient’s nearest cinema chain.

Instead of a film-based pressie, perhaps a membership to a streaming service if they don’t already have one? NetflixDisney+, and Apple TV are popular, and, depending on your location, there are other services like Paramount+ and Hulu. For anime fans, there’s Crunchyroll and Funimation.


Concert tickets, especially for independent artists, could be a great way to jumpstart the UK’s music scene after Covid, or consider the gift of a streaming service if your recipent doesn’t already have one.

Or for something completely personalised and waste-free, check out Mr. Off the Ground himself: Jon can compose and perform an original or parody song that is practically guaranteed to stick in your recipient’s head throughout the year.


A fashion for brightly coloured socks has swept across the nation over the past several years, and you don’t have to look far to find fun socks made out of bamboo, silk, or even merino wool. If you want your gift to go twice as far, consider supporting Stand4Socks, whose buy-a-pair, give-a-pair policy helps the homeless.

I debated about including this because it’s slightly NSFW (not safe for work … or those who dislike swear words—you have been warned before you click on the link), but I stumbled across Blue Q socks and they made me giggle. The company also donates 1% of the profits it makes from their socks towards Doctors without Borders, so they’re rude with a heart of gold. Or at least bronze. 


I stumbled upon Cycle of Good during a visit to Hampstead Norreys, and I fell in love with their products and their ethos (and I’m not even a cyclist!). Proceeds help provide training and support for communities in Malawi through the recycling of bicycle inner tubes and other materials into amazing eco-friendly items, ranging from washbags and wallets to courier bags and rucksacks. You can even get face masks made from recycled plastic! For those who are looking for something a bit bigger under the tree, check out the Elephant Bikes: these ex-Royal Mail bicycles are built to last, and buying one here sees one donated to Africa.


Giving experiences that can be used throughout the year is a great way to almost completely eliminate Christmas waste while also helping the recipient make lasting memories. You’ll have science on your side too: it’s been shown that people tend to gain greater happiness from experiences rather than things.

To this end, consider giving an annual membership to the National TrustEnglish Heritage, the British Library, or the British Museum. Or think local: in our neck of the woods there’s Westonbirt Arboretum, Bowood House, Cotswold Wildlife Park, and Longleat.

Or are there app subscriptions that would make someone’s life a bit easier? Consider a membership to the Ordnance Survey so the explorer is your life can always get from A to Z.

Do you really want something to wrap and put under the tree for your recipient? There are a lot of great companies doing eco-friendly travel paraphernalia. Check out OneNine5 for award-winning washbags and other pouches. ROKA London have a collection of spiffy rucksacks made from recycled and vegan-friendly materials. For those in the US, Solgaard do an incredible collection of sustainable travel gear, much of which is made out of recycled ocean plastic.


Many people tried to pick up a new language while in lockdown, and if you know someone who is still keen to learn, then the gift of a membership to a programme like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, or Babbel may be perfecto. If you’re interested in saving a bit of cash, my recommendation is to check out the sites on Black Friday as they often offer lifetime memberships for a reasonable price.


Or at least those whose taste buds you would like to tickle. Farm shops are a great source of local products, often with minimal plastic: jams and preserves, chutneys, exotic sauces, and honey all come in glass jars. Locally, I’ve always had success with Allington Farm Shop and Hartley Farm Shop, and I’m sure you can find a shop near you.

We also are fortunate in Wiltshire to be the home of Lick the Spoon, an award-winning producer of luxury chocolate. This family-run business has switched over to completely plastic-free packaging, and whether you’re looking for something to go in a stocking or under a tree, it’s hard to go wrong with these delicious chocs!

Another Wiltshire-based business is The Best Ever Brownie Company in Calne. While not completely plastic-free, I can vouch that their products live up to their name, and they are easy to have shipped to your chocolate-loving friend or family member (or yourself). They also do a subscription service if you want to keep the brownie goodness going beyond the holidays.

You can also consider keeping your friends and family hydrated:

More food-based options include courses, ranging from general cookery to chocolate making and cake decorating to tea tasting (or alcoholic-beverage-of-your-choice tasting: wine, gin, whiskey).


Fast fashion is no joke: the textile industry is considered the most polluting after oil. Luckily there are some great British companies who are striving to make the production process more eco-friendly. These are a few places that have been recommended to me. Have I left off your favourite? Let me know!

  • British Boxers: Has your recipient worn out their pandemic PJs? Check out British Boxers for nightwear and underwear that is made with minimal waste and maximum fashion.
  • Gumbies: If you’re looking for a sturdy, long-lasting slipper to get you through the winter, Gumbies may be just the ticket.
  • Turtle Doves: This company offer a number of products made of recycled cashmere: scarves, hats, and their signature fingerless gloves. I’m wearing a pair as I type this.
  • Vegetarian Shoes: Does what it says on the tin—this company produces shoes (and other accessories) without using animal products.
  • Waterhaul: And now for something completely different … these shades are made from recycled ocean plastic and are both tough and stylish. I already have my eye on a pair for next summer!


In addition to my passion for making the environment a better place, I am also a firm believer in gender equality. While culture is slowly (ever so slowly) changing, one place where we have more direct control is the toy box. Please consider the gifts you give your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any young people you shop for: do they perpetuate gender stereotypes? It’s been shown these cultural beliefs limit the aspirations of children by the age of 7: break out of the pink-and-blue prison!

Chemistry sets, Legos, superheroes, and dinosaurs are not just for boys. Cooking, kitchens, cuddly toys, and crafts are not just for girls. While it’s important to consider if a gift is age appropriate (small, swallowable parts and young children don’t mix), the gender of the recipient shouldn’t factor into your decision.

When giving gifts to children in particular, a big question to consider is whether the item can easily be handed down or taken to a charity shop once it’s outgrown (in other words, try to avoid the plastic toys that break if you look at them the wrong way).

I was one of those kids who loved to receive books under the Christmas tree (and still do!). If you’re shopping for one of them, there’s a wide range of environmental books to get them started on reducing their wasteline:

And I recently stumbled on the intriguing Mud + Bloom while researching gifts. This is a monthly subscription box that is supposed to encourage children connect with nature through crafts and other activities. If you’ve tried this and have any thoughts about it, please let me know!

There are a lot of potential minimum-waste gifts that can brighten the recipient’s day and be used around the house or garden. Keep reading to check them out, and don’t forget to drop me a line if there are other products you think should be included.


I’m starting this section with a few memberships that I wouldn’t mind having myself. If you know someone who like to thoroughly investigate their purchases before buying, then a subscription to Which? in the UK (or Consumer Reports in the US) could be beneficial. For an added layer of eco-friendliness, there’s Ethical Consumer to shed light on which purchases are actually sustainable and ethically produced.



Green gifts can be taken quite literally with this selection of pressies:

  • An annual gift membership to a local garden is one of the best ways to reduce waste and give your friend or family member something they can do throughout the year. Membership to Kew Gardens or the Royal Horticultural Society may work too!
  • Although I’ve never had any luck with the seeds actually sprouting, I love the idea behind Seedball: native wildflower seeds are wrapped up in a bit of clay, chilli powder is used to keep the insects away, and compost to give the seeds a head start. They come packaged in a lovely tin that is perfect for a stocking or buy one of the sets to give as a main present. Simply sow the seeds on the ground or stick a few balls in a pot.
  • Meadow in my Garden is another producer of seedbombs and boxes of wildflower seeds that attempt to do what it says on the tin: turn your garden into a meadow. For those who live locally, you may have caught their wildflower trail in Devizes this year.
  • You can also package up seeds from your own garden; Burgon and Ball do seed envelopes, but you can also save a few pounds and just pop them into your own envelope with a few details on the back about what they are and the date collected.
  • One of my favourite go-to gifts for office workers (and those who are now working from home) is a mug with a potted plant popped inside. Mugs can often be found for a pound or less at charity shops, and a small succulent or cactus is a low-maintenance addition that is small enough not to take up too much room on a desk. Bonus: plants have been scientifically proven to help inspire creativity.
  • This next gift suggestion is a bit unusual but bear with me: a compost bin. If your recipient’s garden has the space and it’s something they’ve shown an interest in but haven’t gotten around to getting yet themselves, a basic Dalek-style compost bin could be the solution. Bow or ribbon optional.
  • Still looking for something green? A voucher to a local garden centre, box of spring bulbs, or houseplant may be just the ticket. If you’re in Chippenham, check out Soil and Stem.
  • Would you prefer to send flowers instead? Bloom and Wild do deliveries that can go through a letterbox, and they have decent sustainability credentials. If you’re looking to splash out throughout the year, you can even sign your recipient up for a regular subscription. And I’m sort of smitten with their collection of mini Christmas trees, but I don’t think they’ll fit through the letterbox …


Gifts for the garden are the type that keep giving: bee houses*, bat boxesbird feeders, and nest boxes help provide wildlife habitat and give the recipient something to watch out for during the year. Bonus points: help them install it! 

There’s also adopting an animal. Not for real of course (dogs, cats, and all other critters are for life, not just Christmas), but through a charity such as the Wildlife Trusts. Sealspuffins, and red squirrels are all up for grabs, and most wildlife charities will offer something similar.

And don’t forget to look even closer to home with your recipient’s own pets. Wiltshire-based Ruth McGrady does incredible pet portraits: immortalising your friend or family member’s furry friend will definitely put you on the Nice List!


I was introduced to Weaver Green’s products several years ago and absolutely love that they have managed to turn recycled plastic bottles into stunning and stylish rugscushionsblankets, and handbags. The colours and designs are easy on the eyes, and despite being made from plastic the rugs are soft under foot. I can also vouch that the rugs clean up easily, so they’re ideal in a kitchen or bathroom. While I haven’t tried them outside, they are advertised as being versatile.



I debated about whether to include this in the plastic-free section but it grew so long that I thought it deserved its own place on the list, especially as bath sets tend to be a popular Christmas gift (in the UK at least). Check out my bathroom (herehere, and here) to see some of the products that can be replaced with plastic-free versions, and here are a few shops to get you started on standard bathroom lotions and potions.

  • BAO: I have to admit the editor part of my brain cringes every time I see the name of my favourite product, but this independent brand has good packaging credentials, contains a number of vegan items, and is cruelty free. The concoctions really do what they say on the recyclable glass jars.
  • Cosy Cottage Soap: This Yorkshire-based soap company is free of everything except good, clean products. They even offer “sudscriptions” if you or your gift recipient want to stay stocked up throughout the year.
  • Friendly Soap: This has come highly recommended by readers of the Off the Ground blog, and, based on their website, their products seem to be the ultimate in free from (vegan, cruelty free, and free from various chemicals that can cause skin irritation). Their packaging is recyclable too.
  • Funky Soap: This a London-based company that produces various lotions and potions in mostly plastic-free and refillable containers. Their olive oil and moringa moisturiser has become a fast favourite, and I love that they offer an eco-checkout option: the packaging is all recyclable.
  • Herbfarmacy: This homegrown company make an incredible collection of products that are organic, vegan, and cruelty free. I’m a fan of their mallow beauty balm, but everything I’ve tried from them has been lovely (bonus: you end up smelling like a summer meadow).
  • The Natural Spa: The shop Just because … you love it! in Chippenham introduced me to this Devon-based company who do a range of great smelling shampoo and conditioner bars.
  • A High Street staple in the UK, most of Lush’s products are in their distinctive black pots that can be returned to the shop for recycling. They also carry a selection of “naked” (i.e. packaging-free products) as well as offer knot wraps: scarf gift wrapping. And gift cards are also available if you can’t decide what your recipient will want (or what scents they can tolerate).

In past years, I’ve including toilet paper in the gift guide almost as a joke. The panic buying of 2020 showed it’s no laughing matter.

We’ve been customers of Who Gives a Crap for several years and have been very happy with their service. They produce a range of forest-friendly toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels, and it’s a simple way to cut down on plastic while also supporting a company that’s trying to improve the world one loo at a time.

One of the most eye-opening books I’ve ever read was Rose George’s The Big Necessity. Quite simply it’s a book about toilets … and how nearly half of the world doesn’t have proper sanitation. The health and social problems this causes cannot be understated, which is why Who Gives a Crap and their promise to use half their profits build loos in developing countries caught my eye. As an extra bit of reusability, each roll comes wrapped in brightly coloured paper that can be used to wrap gifts (provided your recipient doesn’t mind a bit of WGAC branding).

I received quite an education about proper bee houses on Twitter; make sure to check out guidelines before purchasing because many commercially available houses are not actually good for bees.

Are you still looking for that certain something? Keep reading!


I mentioned this way back in the beginning, but I think it bears repeating: consider shopping second hand. Charity shops and vintage boutiques may turn up the perfect pressie, and there are some very creative and clever people out there turning old products into new things.

  • I had the privilege of interviewing Simon Webb as part of my “other” life, and he makes an amazing range of items from historic, bespoke, or just all-around interesting wood. Well worth checking out if you’re looking for something that will help the recipient get in touch with history or perhaps even become a family heirloom.
  • I have to admit that I haven’t seen any Wyatt and Jack products in person, but I love the idea behind the company. They make new products out of unusual items: punctured inflatables, bouncy castles, and deck chairs.
  • There is also Freitag who make bags out of lorry tarps, but the price may be prohibitive for a standard Christmas gift. Sourced is a Cornish company doing something similar (although I’m not 100% certain they’re still in business as their Twitter feed hasn’t been updated since 2016).
  • For even more quirky, eco-friendly bags (and walletsbelts, and laptop cases), check out Cycle of Good. You can even get a secondhand Elephant Bike that was used to deliver the post!
  • Many thanks to a reader for sharing Lorna Doyle’s amazing work turning rescued wetsuits into new products. Perhaps the perfect gift for the ocean lover in your life?

I’m sure there are a lot of other interesting products that have been upcycled to give them a new life; please let me know what they are so I can add them to the list!


If you want Christmas to last beyond a single day, it’s possible to get your friend or family member regular subscription boxes, which usually have three-, six-, or twelve-month options. These can range from tea and brownie boxes to houseplants or flowers and children’s crafts – and everything in between. You may need to dig a little deeper to see a company’s eco-credentials, but this is a nice way to support smaller businesses while showing that you care throughout the year.



Maybe I’m jaded, but I think one of the reasons Christmas has gotten a bit out of hand is because people want the social media friendly image of a tree surrounded by piles of presents. A gift card in an envelope doesn’t make quite the same impression, but it almost completely reduces packaging waste, doesn’t take up space or need to be dusted, and, in most cases, lets the recipient choose exactly what they want. I understand wanting to give children something to open, but I would hope adults can get a bit of Christmas joy without the wrapping paper and bows.



In addition to gifts of annual memberships, there are so many other days out that you can treat friends and family to, from hot air balloon rides to afternoon tea to a day at the racesVirgin and Woodmansterne offer packages, or you can put together your own custom surprise (Jon is very good at this!). A friend shared how she and her family usually avoid unwanted gifts at Christmas by pooling their money to purchase an experience they can all enjoy together. 



Whether blowing glasssewing, or decorating cakes, there are enough how-to courses out there to tempt even the pickiest of recipients (chocolate making perhaps?). And don’t overlook sports: from archery and axe-throwing to yoga and Zumba, there is bound to be activities that will let you purchase a sample lesson or two. Just visit Craft Courses or Google for the nearest class.

Looking for something more cerebral and less calorific? The website One Garden offers subscriptions for learning about a variety of subjects, without the pressure of taking a course. Both live talks and on-demand recordings can bring brilliant speakers into your recipient’s home



The musical Avenue Q said it best: “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself.” There are so many worthwhile charities that you can donate to in the name of your recipient. Besides the Adopt-an-Animal schemes already mentioned, you can have a tree or two planted by the Woodland Trust, purchase a goat (or chicken or school books) through Oxfam Unwrapped, or even subscribe someone to the Big Issue.



Don’t overlook making something yourself: if you have a bit of spare time and a favourite recipe, a homemade treat is always welcome (although you may wish to check on allergies, dietary requirements, and current COVID guidelines to be on the safe side). Or consider actual DIY—is there something that a friend or family member needs done around the house that you can help with? Jon and I have done homemade Advent calendars filled with positive activities to foster the Christmas spirit throughout the entire month of December.


And speaking of Jon, don’t forget you can have a custom song or parody written for a loved one to give as a Christmas gift or any time throughout the year!

What do you do with packaging and products once Christmas has come and gone?

For paper, make sure to give it the scrunch test: if it scrunches into a ball and doesn’t open up again, it’s paper and can be recycled. If it springs back open after your scrunch, unfortunately it’s a mixed material and should be binned.

Believe it or not, good quality bubble wrap is often in demand from charity shops to wrap bric-a-brac. What makes bubble wrap good quality? It shouldn’t be covered in tape, torn to shreds, or all popped. Check with your local charity shops to see if they are happy to take it.

Greeting cards are trickier to dispose of. You may want to check with your local grocery store or school to see if they’re running a recycling scheme, but please be aware that cards with glitter often have to be disposed of separately because the glitter clogs up the machine. (And some of us REALLY hate glitter.) Alternatively, do you like the images any of your Christmas cards enough to frame them and turn them into works of art? Or could they potentially be used for arts and crafts?

Then there’s the elephant in the room: what about unwanted gifts? We have a tendency to hold on to gifts, even if we don’t need or want them. However, this is a waste of resources: wouldn’t it be better if these items could get into the hands of those who will genuinely use them? (After profusely thanking the giver of course!)

So, rather than hold on to things, consider selling, re-gifting, or donating items where they can genuinely be used, such as shelters for the homeless or survivors of domestic violence, food banks, charity shops. This thoughtfulness will keep the Christmas spirit alive well beyond December 25th.