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5 Christmas gift ideas that give back to causes you care about

Get into the spirit of Christmas with these present ideas that will give a little back. Here’s our ultimate guide to giving green and socially conscious gifts

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5 Christmas gift ideas that give back to causes you care about

Christmas Pinterest boards would have us decked out in festive aprons, effortlessly pulling star-shaped cookies from the oven while Mariah warbles in the background and scented candles flicker on our tastefully decorated mantelpieces.

In reality, the kids are driving you mad with their Christmas wish lists, the workload at the office has ramped up, everyone at the mall seems to have forgotten how to park/be polite/smile, you can’t find a ham that feeds less than 40, and the to-do list is out of control. Presents for the in-laws, your kids’ teachers, the babysitter, the neighbour who always gives you a gift, Secret Santa at work, Secret Santa at your partner’s work – presents, presents and more presents.

And… breathe.
If you’re starting to feel a little cranky about the rampant consumerism involved in Christmas, we’ve got some ideas on how to give and celebrate in ways that will continue to bring happiness long after the last of the ham has been devoured.

1. Buy from a business on a mission 

If you want to buy gifts for your friends, family or colleagues, why not look for something that allows you to share the love at the same time? It goes without saying that supporting a local business will make a local family do a happy dance, but there are also businesses that support good causes, which means your purchase in turn supports someone in need. Hurray for win-win outcomes!

  • Star for Starship
    There’s always room for one more decoration on the tree. These hanging stars are perfect for Secret Santas, teachers or even as a finishing touch to a wrapped parcel for someone special. They’re just $3 and all proceeds go to the Starship Foundation. Grab one from New World.
  • Trade Aid
    Not only do they have a great range of pressie ideas for everyone (coffee, chocolate, cushions, musical instruments, clothing, accessories, games), but any time you buy from Trade Aid you’re making a difference to a maker or artisan overseas. tradeaid.co.nz
  • Food for Good
    Books are always a sure-fire winner, especially when they’re 192-page books filled with amazing recipes and beautiful photography like this one is. The cherry on top: for every book sold, a kid who would normally go without is given a lunch. How’s that for a warm fuzzy? Food for Good is $39.99 from Eat My Lunch.
  • Smartass
    We promise this toilet talk is for a good cause. Smartass is plastic- and tree-free TP (toilet paper) made from sugar cane and bamboo fibres. It’s not only good for the environment, but it’s also good for New Zealand: for every carton of Smartass sold, a tree is planted by Million Metres to improve water quality and enhance fresh water biodiversity. Give 48 rolls for $48 from smartass.co.nz.
  • Mr Four Eyes
    If your special someone is hinting at a new pair of sunnies for summer, check out Mr Four Eyes. For every pair of sunnies or prescription glasses sold, this clever lot gift a pair of glasses to a Kiwi kid who needs them. You can’t beat helping create a bright future for a little.
    mrfoureyes.co.nz
  • Texan Art Schools
    As well as a range of goodies made by clever local makers, including art, ceramics, jewellery and accessories, Texan Art Schools also stocks work by artisans with a social arm to their business. The Loyal Workshop produces divine, ethically made, hand-stitched leather wallets, satchels, bags and belts made by women in Kolkata – for these women, this job is the means for them to escape the sex trade. If you’re after something for a little person you know, check out Kat Merewether’s books and children’s dinner sets. Kat donates to the Kiwis for Kiwis charity from every book sold.
    texanartschools.co.nz
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1. Star for Starship, $3, from New World. 2. Oliver frames, $250, from Mr Four Eyes. 3. Kuwi’s very shiny bum cookie cutter, $7, from Texan Art Schools. 4. Wooden animals, $39.99 for 20, from Trade Aid.

2. Don’t buy gifts – give 

If you’re feeling worn out and slightly hollow after all the Christmas consumerism, take it down a notch and donate directly to those who need it: either money, gifts or time. Here are a few ideas on how you can be a Christmas angel for someone this season:

  • Buy extra during your family shop for the food bank (Countdown has bins) or Women’s Refuge – nice shampoo and conditioner, moisturiser or face cream may be the only gift these ladies receive this year.
  • Donate your time to a cause – see if any local charities need help sorting products, washing clothes, making food, delivering parcels or carrying out other practical tasks.
  • Go to a rest home and visit the elderly – you can sing, hand out cookies or just sit down, have a cuppa and make conversation with those who would love a set of ears and some warm companionship.
  • The Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal collects gifts for those in need. You simply leave your present (wrapped and brand new) under the tree with a tag to indicate which age group and gender would most appreciate your gift.
  • Already donated a goat? Now you can also donate honey bees, a vege garden or school supplies to those less fortunate through Oxfam Unwrapped or various other charities working overseas. (Goats are still available, FYI.)

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3. Look for sustainably made gifts 

A quick scroll on Pinterest will show you that there are some clever folks out there making awesome things from materials that would otherwise have been biffed. Old sheets, timber offcuts, vintage suitcases, floorboards from broken-down baches… Where we may have seen trash, they see treasure. Seek out pressies made in a sustainable manner and feel good about doing your bit for the environment.

  • Saucy Box
    If someone you love likes a good condiment with their barbecue, this is a sure-fire way to brighten up their Christmas morning. A Saucy Box includes a bottle opener, utensil strap, toothpick compartment and, of course, all the sauces, oils and seasonings you need. Best of all, these handy boxes are made from recycled timber or timber offcuts and the leather straps are offcuts from old handbags. Get one for $189.90 from saucybox.co.nz.
  • No Brand New
    Scan this directory of Kiwi businesses that provide products or services that are recycled, upcycled, restored or reinvented. We love the mosaic skulls made from vintage crockery by Flock Loves Art and the Mushama & Me raincoats made using old fabrics including sheets. Nobrandnew.com
  • Sew Love
    Search Etsy for this clever Raglanite who makes fanny packs (yep, they’re back), hooded poncho towels and surfboard covers using recycled fabrics. But wait, there’s more: she sews them using solar power in Cecil, the solar-powered caravan! Sew cool. etsy.com/shop/SarahSewLove
  • Te Huia cushions
    These gorgeous hand-stitched cushions are made from recycled fabric by members of local iwi in the Taumarunui area to help fundraise for youth to take part in the Inzone Educational project, which gives Maori and Pasifika young people the opportunity to live ‘in zone’ for high-performing schools in Auckland. The cushions are $64.50 from texanartschools.co.nz.
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1. Saucy Box, $189.90. 2. Sew Love bumbag, $45. 3. Te Huia cushion, $64.50, from Texan Art Schools.

4. More planet-friendly present ideas 

Keep your Christmas sustainable with these low-waste suggestions.

  • Hungry Bin. These compost bins certainly lead to a more sustainable way of life. Worm farms are so cool: they use up all your food scraps and reduce the amount of rubbish you chuck out each week, they make amazing soil, and worm wee is about the most effective natural fertiliser you can get. Hungry Bins are $325 from hungrybin.co.nz.
  • When it comes to wrapping, think outside the square instead of reaching for your usual roll of gift wrap. Paper kept from last year’s celebrations is great, as is repurposed kids’ artworks, tea towels or a beautiful piece of recycled fabric.
  • Would your family be willing to try a sustainable Christmas? Perhaps one year you could try only giving gifts that are upcycled, recycled, secondhand, homemade or even regifted – just be sure the original gifter isn’t at your celebration, unless they’re likely to laugh! If your family is willing to forego gifts altogether, maybe you could instead donate that money to a worthy cause you’re all keen to get behind.

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5. Get creative in the kitchen

If making, baking or creating gifts isn’t going to add to your stress levels, get stuck in and churn out some pressies with a personal touch. Don’t worry if your efforts come out looking less than Insta-worthy, it truly is the thought that counts. Schedule a day in the kitchen and make edible gifts that are frugal and filled with festive spirit.

Coconut ice, fudge, cookies(make them in a festive shape for extra points), chocolate or peppermint bark are always good, or step it up a level with an in-a-jar mix:
place the dry ingredients for pancakes, luxury hot chocolate or choc-chip cookies in a jar and write the recipe on a cute label. For a less sweet choice, what about roasted honey nuts, homemade muesli, flavoured salts or infused sugars?

If you have a glut of fruit, make chutney, jam or lemon curd. Package your homemade goodies in recycled jars or boxes with handmade labels – if you have kids, leave them in charge of this bit.

Whip up this lemon cordial, which is the perfect thirst-quencher on a hot day:

+ Pop 2 cups sugar, 1½ cups water and the zest of 2 lemons in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes to make a syrup.
+ Stir in the juice of 8 lemons, 3 tsp citric acid and cool.
+ Serve diluted with water, sparkling or still.

Words by: Debbie Harrison.

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