Great Britain

15 best sustainable Christmas gifts: From organic socks to coffee subscription boxes

Christmas is going to look very different to usual this year, despite the positive rules that were recently introduced to allow three households to spend a few days together over the festive period.

But, one thing’s for certain – we’re going to want to spread some love and happiness.

Of course, we could write lovely cards or poems, bake cakes or give the gift of our time with a video call where we pop the kettle on, or uncork the bottle, before we give the person we’re calling our undivided attention  – and now more than ever, these things mean so much.

But, another way we have become accustomed to showing people we care is by giving gifts. You’re reading this round-up because, ideally, you want to gift something meaningful.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. We've found the presents and gift experiences that will not only bring joy to the person receiving them but also, in many cases, give back to the community or people making them.

Plus, it's a practically plastic-free list, all physical items are made to last and in an environmentally-friendly way by workers who have been paid fair wages.

It’s been a tough year. Let’s make Christmas presents the gifts that keep on giving...  

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Migrateful online cookery classes

Whatever the new year holds, it doesn’t have to be sticking to the same old cooking routines. What better way to spend a Saturday night at home than learning a new recipe, taught live over Zoom? Tina’s cook-along class for Filipino dishes ukoy and adobo was a delightful way to spend the evening and taught us about the cultural elements of the meal too.

It was lovely to interact with new people and several of the guests signed onto the same class creating a fun and festive vibe. The icing on the cake is Migrateful’s mission to empower and celebrate refugees and vulnerable migrants on their journey to integration – another way that food has the power to bring people together. Tip: we recommend you weigh out and prep ingredients before you begin!

Fat Macy’s artisan hamper

The way to anyone’s heart is through their belly and this hamper delivers all the sweet and salted goods plus a Good & Proper tea and a bottle of wine to wash it all down with.

And if that’s not warmed you from the inside then the fact that the catering company harnesses the power of food and community to enable young people to change their future, certainly will. Each purchase funds trainees living in temporary housing to access a programme of support, leading to work alongside accomplished chefs.

The innovative scheme allows trainees to save for a housing deposit, without affecting their access to support, giving them the boost they need to break the cycle of homelessness.

The hamper includes salted roasted almonds, halkidiki olives, pear and fig rubies in the rubble, chutney, cardamom shortbread stars, hazelnut and dark chocolate biscotti, fat macy’s almond granola, good & proper tea, a bottle of origin’l réserve brut.

Unseen Tours, Walking Tours of London

In the new year, people are definitely going to want to get out and about again and why not give the gift of allowing people to reacquaint themselves with the city of London at the same time as discovering it in a whole new light?  

Unseen tours are two-hour walking tours hosted by homeless, formerly homeless and vulnerably housed people. This means the historic facts are weaved together with the modern-day realities of what it means to live on the street. our tour was led by the fabulous Viv, who guided us through the streets from Temple to Covent Garden.

Our tour began on a bench which had been her bed for a year; took us past historic monuments, taught us quirky facts about the Savoy Hotel, made us augh with stories about her incredibly colourful life, and showed us the nicest places to use the toilet for free. You can’t ask for much more than that. We both wore masks and walking outside felt Covid-safe. If you want to donate to a Christmas charity this year then Crisis and Pathwaysare two recommendations from Viv.

Aerende denu scented rapeseed wax candle

When you have been in lockdown and are still cautious about venturing out, a stylish and beautifully scented candle that is inspired by British forests, meadows and valleys is a very welcome present, indeed.

These are very possibly the most ethical and sustainable candles in the UK. They use rapeseed wax (GMO-free and sourced from Europe) rather than soya (linked to deforestation and other problems), are vegan-friendly, essential-oil-scented (so burn clean), and are handmade in the UK to provide employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities. Each one comes with the name of the maker written on it, which adds a lovely, personal touch.

Hand Me Down Book Club book bundles subscription

As book lovers, we couldn’t think of a more beautiful gift. Hand Me Down Book Club was founded “to prevent books being sent to landfill while they still have great stories to tell”. Essentially, this means you select your favourite genres and are sent a selection of second hand books, tied with string and, the lovely added touch of a Clipper tea bag.

Valentina Karellas the Danvers scarf

If you want to wrap someone in love, then this is the scarf to do just that. Each row is accountable and treasured by hand, made to order on a vintage industrial knitting machine. The Danvers scarf is made of beautifully soft and bright (surplus) cashmere, which is incredibly limited stock. When this yarn is gone, it’s gone...

Apostle coffee subscription box

There’s good coffee and then there’s really good coffee. Coffee made from organic single origin Hondouran beans, farmed to fair trade standards, roasted in an “off grid” roastery (in Shropshire) that’s powered by wind, solar and natural gas, and delivered straight to your door in 100 per cent compostable letterbox-friendly packaging. Phew. Did you get all that? We’ve just had a cup.

Plus, each purchase comes with a certificate to show you have inset an entire ton of carbon, because Apostle has planted an endangered tree with a 40-year-lifespan in the forest that surrounds the roastery. That’s one to go on the fridge.  

The cardboard can be recycled and the stickers and inner cellophane bag can be put in the general waste or go in your local council’s compost collection if you have this service.

Recollect you Christmas recollections

Now, every Christmas has a wildcard present. And this is the one for our list. We love this idea. Essentially, you record seven audio statements about someone and Recollect You sends them as audio files to their inbox at the same time, every day, for a week.

This software was set up during Covid by a husband-and-wife team so it’s just getting off the ground. We tested it and it worked brilliantly. Questions include things like: “If you were a character in a Christmas movie, you would be…” and “Over the next year my hope for you is…”

Admittedly, it did feel a bit intimidating to think up answers, at first. Thankfully they’re emailed to you to think about and you can retake! We felt our answers got a little cheesy, but that could be because we’re usually emotionally repressed. Besides, this is about letting someone know you how much they mean to you and telling them things you wish they knew but probably wouldn’t say usually. And they were well received.

Vino Vero sustainable European wine gift box

Travelling is somewhat difficult at the moment, so why not gift a taste of Europe? A favourite Christmas gift set is this trio from Vino Vero in Leigh-On-Sea. It includes the Barmes Boucher, a no-dosage sparkling wine designed to reflect pure terroir of Alsace in France; the biodynamic Almatea Loraxel from the Penedes region of Spain and inspired by Greek mythology; and the Gran Cerdo Tinto made by cult winemaker Gonzalo Gonzalo in Rioja who has rejected all chemicals in the vineyard and ferments his wines in concrete tanks, so there is no oak influence.  

Mi Apparel sedicated brand equality socks

Is Christmas really Christmas without someone gifting socks? And if you’re the one giving them, then a bold slogan is the way to go. But, only if the brand lives up to that slogan in its business practices, which we are assured Dedicated Brand, does. The socks are organic and Fairtrade certified cotton and ensure secure, decent working conditions for both farmers and workers.

Mud & Bloom children’s gardening and nature crafts subscription box

What do you buy kids at Christmas? How about the gift of nature that keeps on giving? These letter-box friendly gift boxes arrive every month with four seasonal growing and craft activities along with instructions, nature news and games to teach children about the seasons, plants, insects, birds, soil and rainfall. All boxes come with organic, peat-free compost pellets to enable anyone to grow the seeds regardless of whether they have access to a garden. The activities go down a treat with the age ranges for which they are intended (three to eight) and if you can’t complete all the activities in term-time, they make for great ideas come the holidays.

Philly & Friends ‘Who do I See in the Mirror?’ picture book

“The little girl, Philly, has so much self-love, it’s contagious”. Who Do I See in the Mirror? is a gorgeously illustrated and powerful book that reminds children they are so much more than their physical appearance. After our six-year-old niece read the book to us over a video call, it sparked a conversation about what she loved about herself. Recommended for up to aged six.

Small & Bright the baby Christmas box

For younger children aged 0-2, try the Small & Bright boxes of learning. These beautifully packaged boxes are inspired by the Montessori approach to education, which places great emphasis on the notion of “respect”, and is designed to inspire self-esteem and self-awareness by enabling little ones to explore and discover independently. Each item is thoughtfully sourced, there is hardly any plastic in sight, and activity cards give ideas on how to use the toys in different ways as the baby develops and grows. Available as single boxes or as a subscription.

Green & Wild’s Santa sack for dogs

Who writes a sustainable gift guide and forgets about pets? Not us. Let’s be honest, these natural hessian Santa sack for dogs are really for the pet’s parents. But, filled with a selection of healthy treats and an eco-toy (made from jute, a natural plant fibre, and covered in offcuts of soft suede, a bi-product form the leather industry) the dog will be thankful for what’s on the inside – and that’s what counts.

The verdict: Sustainable Christmas gifts 

Of course, it depends on who you’re buying for but we love the Migrateful Cookery Classes because you can be alone in your own home but together with a group of different people. It’s brilliant to have an expert teaching you a new dish step-by-step and is fun for all the family, whether you live together or not.

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