Avoid more ‘stuff’ this Christmas and give handmade gifts and presents that help make the world a better place, writes Nicole Lutze.

Christmas is the most difficult time of year to maintain a low-waste or sustainably-focused lifestyle. We can feel obliged to give shiny new plastic-wrapped products and have little control over what we receive in return. The impact of all this spending and gifting can be damaging to both your hip pocket and the planet.

In 2018, an estimated $400 million was spent on 10 million unwanted gifts that were discarded. Amongst these items which probably ended up in landfill were novelty items, candles, pamper products, pyjamas, slippers, underwear and socks.

So how do we give thoughtful and eco-friendly presents that people actually want?

Start a secret Santa:

My own family started a secret Santa several years ago, and it was honestly such a relief. Each person now only buys one gift each within a set price limit, and we each provide a few ideas for the gift. This means the recipient gets something they actually want avoiding any landfill presents.

Good food is always a gift:

I might be biased because most of my life revolves around growing, eating or cooking food for my family, but good food is always a welcome gift. Put together a small hamper for friends or family comprised of homemade goodies and/or gourmet snacks, such as a locally-produced cheese, fancy crackers, and maybe even a local organic wine or home-brew, depending on their tastes.

You could also gift some organic fruit and vegetables from a local service like Food Connect or Spray Free Farmacy.

Santa doesn’t need to bring a swag:

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to gift-giving for your children, especially if you’re filling a Santa stocking or sack. Trying adhering to this simple rule to ensure you give useful presents while still ticking off an item from Santa’s wish-list: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.”

To ease the financial and mental pressure of Christmas giving, I purchase new and secondhand items over the course of a year and store them away. That way, I only need to pick up a few extra things for my kids based on specific asks or needs at the time.

Give local experiences:

After such a unique and challenging year for local businesses, let’s do our best to support them this Christmas. Consider gifting a voucher to a local cafe or restaurant, buying an annual pass for a tourist destination, or even paying for a night away at a local B&B.

Make a charitable donation:

Perfect for the person with everything, make a charitable contribution on their behalf this Christmas. Australia Zoo is seeking donations for their wildlife rescue program, Oxfam sells Christmas Cards that gift farm animals to those who need them, you could donate to the Climate Council, or invest in research like the University of Adelaide’s environment institute.

Consider DIY:

Making a gift yourself is always more meaningful than simply buying one, and kids love to be involved in the process. Stockpile some old glass jars to fill with homemade bath tea, body scrub, bliss balls, cookies, or cake mix. For young children, a gingerbread playdough gift kit would be an amazing low-waste gift.

Presentation matters:

Shiny wrapping papers may look pretty beneath the Christmas tree, but they’re coated in plastic and an utter waste of resources. Try to use a reusable gift bag instead or take inspiration from a Japanese wrapping technique called Furoshiki. Furoshiki uses cloth or scarves as wrapping, both of which can be picked up secondhand in op-shops. To make some for my family, I used a colourful secondhand sheet which I cut into squares and hemmed on my sewing machine. Children’s artwork can also make a great wrapping paper.

Want more ideas?

Join the virtual Green Heart Fair on 28 and 29 November. There will be plenty of DIY ideas and discounts from local sustainably-focused businesses. Simply follow the fair’s Facebook or Instagram page for more details.