Stuck for what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? Look no further than this. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)
Stuck for what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? Look no further than this. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)

SocietyNovember 27, 2021

The super Spinoff goat-free ethical Christmas gift guide

Stuck for what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? Look no further than this. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)
Stuck for what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? Look no further than this. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)

How to shop consciously this Christmas without donating a farm animal on your giftee’s behalf.

For the fourth year running, collated with love and wrapped in upcycled wrapping paper, we present a smorgasbord of ethical, sustainable, socially conscious or charitable delights to put beneath your eco-friendly flat pack Christmas tree this year.

As a special bonus, everything in this year’s guide is made in New Zealand, which cuts down on the carbon footprint but also ensures your Christmas doesn’t get stuck in the Suez Canal. We’re coming to you a bit earlier than usual, just in case the Waitaki or Waikato create any similar challenges.

This year, we have created a special – and completely original – Christmas Gift Budget Protection Framework: your pathway to an excellent Christmas. Choose which of the green, orange, or red budget categories best suits you then relax and enjoy the multi-directional generosity.

From left to right: Homemade Sugar Scrub, Spruce Dish and Cleaning Clothes, Enchanted Box of Wonder.

Budget category: Green – some disposable income in the community with sporadic side hustles ($2.75 – $35)

Homemade Sugar Scrub (from $2.75 per jar): As a rule, the cheapest and most sustainable gifts on offer will be those that are homemade. If you know the ingredients you’re using are local and/or ethically-sourced, then even better. The only issues of course, are the time and energy resources you have available.

If you have small people, homemade is a great way to cover all the various pre-school/kindy/kōhanga/daycare/school/kura staff members you want to say thank you to, while also keeping said small people busy and not fighting or destroying your house for five damn minutes (my apologies, it’s been a long three months). My favourite is this recipe from blogger Kiwi Country Girl for a sugar scrub. It consists of 1 cup of sugar to 2 tablespoons of base oil, then add whatever scent you’d like from an essential oil. That’s it! Put it in a used jam/marmite/pasta sauce jar you have leftover and you’re done.

Matakana organic coconut oil is a good shout for sustainability and fair trade, but there are cheaper alternatives in supermarkets available. To help choose which sugar, Just Kai provide some great insights. If you have mint, lavender, or anything else that smells good in your garden you can add that to complement your chosen scent and to look impressive.

Set of Four Soy Wax Melts by Crushes ($12): Christmas is an excellent time to give and receive those little luxurious things that smell nice but which are hard to justify buying for oneself. These soy wax melts are a perfect example. They are handmade in Aotearoa and come wrapped in biodegradable soy wax paper. Crushes have a physical store on K’ Road but they are available to anyone via their fabulous online shop, where you can filter by all the usual things like maker, size and type, but also by value. If you or your giftee are doing a handmade Christmas for example, you can filter by that.

Only after goods from Māori or Pasifika-owned enterprises this year? No problem, Crushes has you sorted. Sustainable? Pre-loved? Natural materials? Take your pick and filter away. (For other great ideas of Māori and Pasifika businesses to support this Christmas, you can also check out the Spinoff’s Kirihimete gift guide 2021).

Spruce Dish and Cleaning Cloths ($9): A dishcloth might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for Christmas gifts, but this range available through Oh Natural has a lot to recommend it. They’re reusable, machine-washable, made from 100% renewable and natural material, biodegradable once it’s time to go to the great washing pile in the sky, and they’re also very pretty. Plus, your loved one will think of you every time they do the dishes. 

Kids’ Good Vibes Only T-shirt ($30): Simple, stunning, and with a great charitable impact. Boxylox are an awesome little home-run business based in Lower Hutt that specialise in beautiful gift boxes sourced from quality local producers. Recently, they’ve also branched out into t-shirts like this one. Five dollars from every purchase goes towards the UpsideDowns Education Trust, providing speech and language therapy to children with Down syndrome. If you’d like to support this awesome cause but t-shirts aren’t your thing, you can always buy the adorable UpsideDowns 2022 calendar that, by sheer coincidence, makes its way into this guide each year.

Enchanted Box of Wonder ($35): How can you pass up something with a name like that? Good Fortune Coffee Company roast fair trade organic beans in Petone and have a range of coffees, drinking chocolate and merchandise on offer. I’m a sucker for a sampler and this one has an irresistible name to go with it.

From left to right: Skye Reusable make-up remover pads, Nisa Men’s range, Made of Tomorrow diary.

Budget category: Orange – increasing disposable income in the community ($35 – $100)

Skye Reusable make-up remover pads ($35+): I confess I’m not much of a make-up wearer myself, and when I do attempt it, the removal process is usually to go to sleep wearing it and then to wake up with itchy skin and regrets. I should probably address that. But if you do have a more diligent make-up-wearer in your whānau, this makes a great gift, perhaps paired with something a bit more exciting from the Skye range, like a Bath Bomb Making Kit or a Soy Candle. Skye is a small local business with great commitment to the environment. For instance, the remover pads are made from sustainable bamboo, are compostable, vegan-friendly, and their function inherently prevents waste.

Will & Able Home Essentials Gift Box ($43): OK, home cleaning products, much like dish cloths, aren’t necessarily the sexiest of Christmas gifts, but this one comes in a lovely gift box with a Christmas card from you and the team at Will & Able, and it is very worth it. In this country, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed. Will & Able are a social enterprise aiming to create 100 jobs for disabled New Zealanders. Their refill system saves a lot of waste in itself, plus all of the Will & Able packaging is made entirely from recycled New Zealand milk bottles. You can then reuse them, or send them back to Will & Able to be reincarnated in time for next Christmas.

Nisa Men’s range ($49-$65): Nisa’s women’s undies were in the very first version of this gift guide, back in the halcyon days of 2018. They’re still sustainable, still transparent, still employing women from refugee and migrant backgrounds, but over the last four years their range has expanded to include socks, swimwear, face masks, tops, pants, and this range of men’s undies. To paraphrase the immortal words of Tim Minchin, the old combination of socks, jocks and chocolates is just fine by many, and here’s where you can find that last one.

Made of Tomorrow Daily or Weekly Diary ($59-$79): At the start of the first lockdown, I decided to cheer myself up by reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys, detailing life in plague-ridden 17th century London. I was a great laugh around then, that’s for sure. Luckily, I had been gifted one of these excellent diaries, so when I was inspired to follow in Pepys’ footsteps I was all prepared. These diaries are handmade in Aotearoa from sustainable materials and completely recyclable (just in case yours doesn’t end up in the Turnbull Library for all posterity, but I’m still holding out hope). You can even have it monogrammed! 

From left to right: Reca, Richmond Plains wine, Studio Dexterity.

Budget category: Red – action will need to be taken to prevent an unsustainable amount of disposable income ($100+)

Case of Richmond Plains wine (approximately $135 depending on varieties): Richmond Plains are a vegan and organic vineyard near Nelson. There are six different varieties in their repertoire, so you can put together a case to suit the tastes of your lucky giftee. If that isn’t your cup of wine, then another vineyard engaging in excellent vegan, organic, and bio-dynamic practices are Te Whare Ra. Their range is slightly pricier but includes additional varieties like Gewürztraminer. You could also throw in one of their lovely bee-themed t-shirts for extra points.

Long and short chain choker by Reca ($149): The jewellery answer to Nisa undies, Reca are a New Zealand business whose own pieces are handcrafted by former refugees for a living wage here in Aotearoa. They also source items from two other great social enterprises overseas, like these stunning wool bags, made by a Peruvian NGO that works with pregnant teenagers. Their supply chain is rigorously ethical and sustainable, as are their own creations and packaging. 

Become a Lord or Lady ($320): Ok, this one isn’t technically in New Zealand but it will create 10 square feet of nature reserve which will cancel out the gift miles on your Plot ID card being posted from Northern Ireland. You can also print the certificate at home so no one will miss out on something to unwrap on Christmas Day. Pay $320 and your giftee will become (for example) Lord Paterson or Lady Hamlin of Ardmore. You will be helping a collective create and protect a nature reserve near Derry, preserving habitats for red squirrels, fox, deer, badger, 15 different bird species and over 200 insect species. It’s a pretty fun way to engage in conservation efforts, and a good option for those “person who has everything” giftees. 

Artwork from Studio Dexterity ($100 – $1,000): Studio Dexterity are a social enterprise supporting emerging New Zealand artists in their first five years post-degree. They have a showroom in Waikuku, North Canterbury, but they also have an extensive online shop to source the right gift choice, whether that’s a giant ceramic pear, Stonehenge made from bread tags, or something easier to hang on a wall like a painting by Jessica Ross (Taranaki, Ngā Māhanga), exploring tūrangawaewae and the Blueskin Bay area of Otago.

The wrapping and the rest

Regular readers of this guide will know that these recommendations come from a deeply ingrained need to give and receive physical things to be unwrapped at Christmas, but of course, the donated-goat genre of gift is also a great option. For example, you can donate Covid-19 vaccinations via Unicef, or buy a coat for the refugee camps in Calais and the surrounding areas.

If I’m indulging my love of wrapping and unwrapping though, then I’d better provide sustainable ways to wrap [insert obligatory joke about festive rappers here]. I stand by my life hack from last year for parents; using your kids’ artistic creations to wrap everything (patent pending). If that’s not an option though, then the eco range from Ribbon and Blues could be for you.

If you’re feeling a bit fancier, The Waste Free Home have reusable gift wrap options. To round it all off, you can order packs of eight gift tags, handmade by Emma Ferens, a young woman with Down syndrome living in Tāmaki Makaurau. 

And that’s the list for another year! I hope you have a safe, harmonious Christmas with your loved ones in 2021, and that Santa brings you good things. You’ve almost certainly saved lives this year, which is a guaranteed entry onto the Nice List.

Keep going!