17 best eco-friendly and ethical gifts for a more sustainable Christmas

·14-min read
We looked for presents suitable for everyone from babies to grandparents  (The Independent )
We looked for presents suitable for everyone from babies to grandparents (The Independent )

Christmas gifts are all about spreading love and happiness.

Of course, the most eco-friendly gifts would be to write lovely notes or poems, bake cakes or give the gift of our time… but now we’re largely out of lockdown, extra hours are not as abundant as they once were. And we’re not complaining!

Still, you’re likely reading this round-up because, ideally, you want to give something meaningful. Well, we’ve found the presents and gift experiences that will not only bring joy to the person receiving them but also, in many cases, will give back to the community or people making them.

How we tested

To come up with this list, a primary consideration was that sustainability and ethics had to be central to the business, not just in the product we listed.

Then we looked for gifts for everyone from babies to grandparents and had samples sent out for the relevant ages to test. We especially were looking for gifts with a difference – and that would make a difference – and considered options for all budgets.

Read more:

The best eco-friendly and ethical gifts for 2021 are:

Migrateful cookery classes

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Last year during lockdown, these online classes were an IndyBest best buy. This year, there’s the option of taking part in classes online or… wait for it… in person! Whatever the new year holds, it doesn’t have to be sticking to the same old cooking routines. What better way to spend a few hours than learning a new recipe and interacting with new people? 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.

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: if joining online from home, we recommend you weigh out and prep ingredients before you begin.

Buy now £20.00, Migrateful.org

Eastbrook Experiences farm safari and overnight bundle for two

Best: For family fun

Rating: 9/10

Sure, we dream of escaping to the country. Sure, us city dwellers have all considered moving there. So, why not book a staycation with a difference? This package includes everything you want from a weekend in the country, namely a nice hotel – in fact, the Royal Oak has just won “Inn of the year” as part of The Good Hotel Guide’s César award – attached to a great country pub.

It also includes a two-hour safari of 1,500 acres of Helen Browning’s Organics Eastbrook Farm, in North Wiltshire, where you can enjoy the scenery and the farm animals, even getting up close and personal with the pigs. You can learn how the farm operates as part of a much wider ecosystem and see what organic farming is really all about… just maybe don’t ask where the sausages come from, if you opt for a full English in the morning.

Buy now £180.00, Eastbrookexperiences.com

V&A festive wreath making kit

Best: Christmas crafting

Rating: 9/10

Why should a wreath be only for Christmas? Especially when it’s as beautiful as this one from the V&A. It’s created using left-over materials from textile shop Wallace Sewell. And when we say created, we mean by you. The making process offers a little bit of mindfulness, just as the madness of Christmas descends.

Wallace Sewell is famous for its signature designs and colourful textiles. This wreath is a great way of repurposing a by-product of the weaving process, and guarantees your wreath will, for better or worse, be totally unique.

Buy now £30.00, Vam.ac.uk

Vintage Roots no sulphur added wines

Best: For wine lovers

Rating: 9/10

Give the gift of the possibility of wine without the hangover this Christmas. Presented in a wooden gift box, these organic drinks have been made without the addition of any preservatives, sulphur dioxide or sulphites. They are among the purest of wines, which, rumour has it, can be enjoyed without the fear of a “bad head” the following day (after “moderate” consumption).

The cuvée secrete range of organic wines are created by Jean-Claude Mas in the Languedoc region of France. The chardonnay is golden in colour with an intense nose of brioche and hazelnuts, complemented by notes of quince. Smooth on the palate, it features weighty flavours of pineapple, mango and melon. The merlot/cabernet sauvignon is inky dark in colour with opulent, layered flavours of redcurrant, black cherry and plum. Very polished and expressive, it can be enjoyed with or without food. Tip: as with most no-sulphur wines, it will continue to improve once opened.

Buy now £30.00, Vintageroots.co.uk

Mermaid Gin gift set

Best: For Christmas cocktails

Rating: 10/10

You can rarely go wrong with the gift of booze at Christmas, especially if you’re turning up uninvited. Mermaid Gin is great for many reasons. Most importantly, the taste – rock samphire (known locally on the Isle of Wight as “mermaid’s kiss”) is the lead botanical, so it’s fresh and ever-so-slightly salty, with a smooth depth of flavour.

But we also love this gin for its beautiful bottle and sustainability credentials. The gin is crafted from foraged and organic ingredients and the company is working with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to monitor and restore seagrass meadows. The bottle alone took a year to design, so that it could be made from sustainable materials and be free from plastic… and there’s a craze of turning them into funky lamps (Google it) so there’s practically no waste.

Buy now £62.50, Isleofwightdistillery.com

Kib Tea the regenerative box

Best: For tea lovers

Rating: 10/10

Tea, chocolate, turmeric chai latte blend… could one box contain any more delights for a cosy winter night in?

Kib Teas are all about making deliciously fragrant and flavourful teas, from regeneratively grown ingredients from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. This means the farming methods give more than they take from the soil and the environment. It also means they work with small farms, including many that are female-led and pay more than the minimum wage (and the brand is aiming to have everyone on a living wage by early next year). Oh, and all the packaging is recyclable and compostable, too.

Buy now £35.00, Kibtea.com

Redemption Roasters 3 month seasonal coffee subscription

Best: For coffee lovers

Rating: 10/10

For the discerning coffee drinker in your life, does waking up to fresh speciality coffee delivered directly to their door get any better? Well, yes, if it’s coffee from Redemption Roasters – a prison-based roastery. It exists to provide alternative employment routes for people who are too frequently overlooked for work. Having a job is the single biggest factor that can prevent someone from reoffending, but prejudice, stigma and fear make it hard for prison-leavers to find work.

The roaster’s coffee is sourced from all over the world, including the Galapagos, with a preference for smallholder farmers. Where possible, Redemption Roasters also purchases coffee that aligns with its ethos – for example, a project called "Spirit of Peace" sees Colombian ex-combatants rehabilitated through work as smallholder coffee farmers. Everyone in the supply chain is paid a living wage.

Buy now £34.20, Redemptionroasters.com

Hand Me Down book club book bundles subscription

Best: For book lovers

Rating: 10/10

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, if you’re lucky, with the lovely added touch of a Clipper tea bag to enjoy while reading. There are now thousands of members and coming very soon will be a model that allows subscribers to send the books back to be redistributed again.

Buy now £9.99, Hmdbookclub.co.uk

Notjust. David Attenbrrrr jumper

Best: Christmas jumper

Rating: 9/10

Now that we’re slowly going back to office, Christmas jumper days have returned. While buying a new jumper every year is not sustainable, buying a gift someone won’t mind pulling out year after year doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. And, let’s be honest, national treasure David Attenborough is never going out of fashion. While there are questions around the sustainability of using recycled plastic bottles as yarn, notjust. is a social enterprise and its production process is zero-waste. And for every David Attenbrrr jumper sold, the company donates 50 per cent of profits to environmental charities.

Buy now £34.99, Notjustclothing.co.uk

Vegan Reclaimed fur open slippers

Best: Slippers

Rating: 9/10

Is it even Christmas if someone, somewhere isn’t gifted a pair of slippers? The soles of this cosy pair are made with eco-friendly jute, designed to mould to your feet for comfort and support. The best part is they’re made by women who are facing barriers to employment in Bethnal Green, East London, for a London Living wage. Note: As they are made to order they come with a three-week wait, so it’s a good idea to get in there as soon as possible.

Buy now £69.00, Birdsong.london

Land Workers Alliance 2022 calendar, ‘Working The Land, Cooling The Planet’

Best: Calendar

Rating: 10/10

For any paper calendar lovers out there, this beautifully illustrated and textured calendar from the Landworkers’ Alliance is a wonderful choice. Each month showcases a different practice that is part of the solution for cooling the planet and building a world with justice and community at its heart.

Buy now £16.00, Landworkersalliance.org.uk

Yala Jewellery ulumbi sunburst earring hoops

Best: Statement jewellery

Rating: 10/10

Who doesn’t need a burst of sun as the winter months draw in? Each ray on these striking earrings has been painstakingly filed by hand to create a sunburst motif, showcasing the talented craftsmanship of the Kenyan artisans who made them. Yala Jewellery offers the chance to own beautiful African-inspired modern jewellery that creates financial opportunities for artisans working in the informal sector in Kenya. All Yala’s materials are recycled, reused or reclaimed. These earrings are made from recycled brass and are available with 24k (recycled) gold or silver plating.

Buy now £100.00, Yalajewellery.com

Elvis & Kresse wrap-around cufflinks

Best: Accessory

Rating: 10/10

There are your standard cufflinks, and then there are the Elvis & Kresse wrap-around cufflinks, handmade to order from decommissioned fire hoses. Available in red or the more rare yellow, they add a stylish pop of colour to any outfit. Plus, they come with the option to be personalised with a delicate laser etching. And 50 per cent of profits from the fire hose collection go to the Fire Fighters Charity.

Buy now £40.00, Elvisandkresse.com

Potr 10cm plant pot

Best: Gift for the home

Rating: 10/10

These geometric beauties will add a gorgeous touch of colour to your home, but they are so much more than simple plant pots. Firstly, they are made from waste polypropylene, saving plastic destined for landfills. Then they are self-watering. The cotton cord isn’t just for decoration – it functions as a wicking straw, transferring water from the reservoir in the base of the pot to the soil in your plant pot. Finally, they arrive flat-packed, directly through your letterbox. This means they are sent with the smallest carbon footprint possible, and you can build them before you gift them. What more could you ask for? Well, maybe a plant. Or some seeds to sow. And for that, perhaps consider these Bee Bombs (£7, Spana.org), handmade in Dorset.

Buy now £14.00, Potrpots.com

Little Omo alphabet flashcards

Best: For young kids

Rating: 10/10

These double-sided flashcards are beautifully illustrated to help your child develop their literacy, speaking, memory and language skills, alongside cultural awareness. Founded in 2020 by Desriee Asomuyide, Little Omo is an inclusive brand created to represent children of colour through educational products.

Asomuyide was inspired to create the brand because it was important to her that her one-year-old son Isaiah, and other children like him, see themselves represented through educational and developmental resources. The cards are made in the UK by a family-owned business that pays living wages. The factory is FSC-certified, which allows them to purchase paper from well-managed forests. The packaging they send the product in is recyclable or biodegradable.

Tip: Little Omo also offers flashcards that include +, - and =, to help school-aged children with their sums.

Buy now £18.99, Littleomo.com

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

Best: For older kids

Rating: 10/10

How about giving a child the gift (of nature) that keeps on giving, this Christmas? These letterbox-friendly 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. The boxes are put together by trained teachers with influence from Forest School, Montessori and Steiner education. All come with organic, peat-free compost pellets to enable kids 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.

Buy now £41.85, Mudandbloom.com

Green & Wild’s Santa sack for dogs

Best: For pets

Rating: 9/10

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, as they are 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 byproduct of the leather industry), the dog will be thankful for what’s on the inside – and that’s what counts. Ours especially loves the ‘andy bag of anchovies, which are… fragrant. Now, if that’s not giving in true Christmas spirit, we don’t know what is.

Buy now £19.95, Antlerdogchews.co.uk

The verdict: Eco-friendly and ethical Christmas gifts

We love the Migrateful cookery classes because they offer fun for all the family at home, or a night out with a difference with friends. It’s brilliant to have an expert teaching you a new dish step by step, and the recipes are ones you can use again and again.

Voucher codes

For the latest discount on Christmas gifts and decorations, try the links below:

For more present ideas, head over to our Christmas gifts section

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