For many, sharing quality time with our loved ones during the festive season is the real gift of Christmas… But it’s also fair to say that exchanging presents ranks high on the yuletide activities we like to partake in when in the company of family and friends!
According to 2022 research data presented by Finder, the projected average Christmas gift spend in the UK was £430 per person, equating to a total of £20.1 billion.
In the spirit of giving, our #ChooseToReuse Christmas Gifts edition shares some tips which can help to shrink both your spending and your carbon footprint…
Before we launch into specific reuse and eco-friendly gift ideas, we’re a sharing a tip which can save you money while preventing waste… We are, of course, referring to Secret Santa!
If you are unfamiliar with the concept, Secret Santa is a tradition in which a group of people are randomly assigned a person to whom they give a gift (usually through picking names out of a hat). The identity of the gift giver remains secret and is usually not revealed until after gifts have been exchanged.
Doing Secret Santa at home is a great way to retain the festive spirit and can prevent you and your loved ones launching yourselves into serious Christmas debt. Agree with your family and/or friends who wants to get involved, throw your names into a hat and decide on a budget to spend on gift recipients. This way, everyone gets a nice gift without breaking the bank!
Get them something pre-loved
Getting second-hand (or “pre-loved”) items is a great way of nabbing unique bargains which are as good as new – and, in some cases, completely unused! See our list of tips below:
Pick up items free of charge
Thanks to the emergence of online apps and websites, we are now able to locate items that people are giving away for free.
Such free items are usually available on a pick-up only basis, so our advice here is to ensure that you either share your location via your smartphone’s GPS or use a web filter to indicate where you live and how are far you are willing to go to pick up (the shorter the journey, the better, as this saves you money and reduces carbon emissions).
Check out the following platforms:
Originally starting life as a food-sharing app, Olio now lists other free non-food items. You can download and sign up for free via Android or iOS to view a whole range of items available near you – or list items of your own which you are willing to give away. The app also features a sale section if you wish to buy or sell products.
Perhaps more famed for being a marketplace tool where you can buy and sell goods, Shpock is another app whereby you can pick up and list free items. Just simply type ‘£0’ as a value in the ‘Price’ tab to explore free pre-loved items near you. You can download and sign up for free via Android or iOS.
Preloved is an online classified ads tool which features a “Freeloved” section. Again, you can register for free with a view to obtaining free items or listing ones which you are willing to give away. Aside from Freeloved, the option to buy and sell products is also available.
Another online classified ads tool where you can get free items and list them too. The option to buy and sell products is also available.
Yet another online classified ads tool where you can get free items and list them too. The option to buy and sell products is also available.
Exclusive to people who have a Facebook account (if you don’t already have an account, you can sign up for free and just create one to use exclusively for Marketplace). As with previously mentioned platforms, you can get free items and list them too. The option to buy and sell products is also available.
If you are hoping to buy your loved ones unique or vintage fashion items this Christmas, or you’re looking to sell clothes and accessories of your own, the below resources and platforms are a great place to start:
Our zero waste map features plenty of reuse organisations that sell second-hand clothes. Just visit this page, then hit the ‘Select Category’ tab below the map to explore charity shops and reuse organisations near you.
A great user-friendly app which you can download and sign up for free via Android or iOS. Vinted has become a household name in recent years and is a great way to buy, sell and even swap a wide range of pre-loved clothes (with many rare finds available for purchase).
This app specialises exclusively in second-hand designer clothing, allowing you to buy big brands at a lower cost. Again, you can download and sign up for free via Android or iOS.
If you have avid readers among your gift recipients to buy for this Christmas, the beauty of buying them a book or two is that it’s hard to go wrong. There are literally millions of titles you can choose from! Just find out what kind of books they are into and then filter your search based on their preferences.
Here are a couple of UK-based* online second-hand book retailers to get you started:
As described by the World of Books website, this is a platform designed to “offer an affordable, sustainable alternative for bookworms who want to save the money and save the planet”. With over 7 million titles to choose from, economy delivery is free, with “Fast & Tracked” delivery services also available at a cost.
AbeBooks allows you to discover millions of gently used second-hand books. Their mantra is that “by choosing to shop for used books, you can save money, be sustainable, support independent booksellers, and have access to an unbeatable selection of literature from the past”.
*We have specifically listed UK-based online retailers in the interests of keeping miles travelled as low as possible.
Getting out and visiting local charity shops is a great way to pick up Christmas gifts. Often, you’ll come across rare finds which are in high quality, durable condition.
Items on offer usually include (but are not limited to) clothing, books, toys, ornaments, and kitchenware (as well as furniture and electrical appliances in some cases).
Local Instagram influencers such as @charityshopgirlcsg and @rows.of.rosie are leading the way in terms of charity shop haul inspiration – we recommend checking out their channels for ideas before heading out on your next charity shopping spree!
Looking for charity shops near you? Visit our Zero Waste Map, then hit the ‘Select Category’ tab below the map and select ‘Charity Shops’ to explore outlets near you.
Choose wooden toys and board games over plastic toys
There are plenty of reasons why wooden toys and board games (which don’t have plastic pieces in them) are a better choice than their plastic counterparts…
According to parent-empowering website GoodTo, wooden toys are:
- Safer for your child
- Better for the environment
- Longer lasting
- Great enhancers for early education
- Encouraging for creative play
- A great way to promote teamwork skills
- Cheaper in the long run
- Adaptable (i.e. can be upcycled, repurposed)
- Better looking
If the above quick pointers aren’t enough to convince you, or if you just want to find out more, then you can read the full article here.
Buy a universal battery charger and rechargeable batteries
Buying universal battery chargers and rechargeable batteries to accompany an electrical appliance which you are gifting is a nifty tip…
It allows your gift recipient to cut down battery waste, while also saving them money in the long haul.
Perhaps buying yourself a charger and rechargeable batteries to have at home may not be a bad idea either? They could come in handy for any electrical appliances you may receive as gifts. They would also be useful for certain toys if there are little ones at home.
Not all batteries are rechargeable! Once they die, batteries must be disposed of safely.
Placing batteries in your residual waste bin causes life-threatening fires at home, in waste collection vehicles, and at Recycling Centres. Binning batteries also pollutes the environment and is a waste of valuable resources.
Please recycle your batteries at your nearest large supermarket or at your local Household Waste Recycling Centre.
Make and bake
If you are looking to cut your budget or you’re unsure of what gifts to give, surprising family and friends with homemade treats is a perfect way to remedy such Christmas conundrums!
Making and baking festive sweets is also a great way to keep the kids entertained…
Homemade chocolate truffles, classic fudge and Christmas Jam are just some recipes which are simple to make and can be packaged as gifts… Either on their own or as part of a festive hamper!
Not many recipes come easier than this Christmas Truffles recipe from BBC Good Food – however, it is a messy one, so you may want to grab your apron!
All you need to do is:
- Finely chop up some dark and milk chocolate and place in a bowl.
- Then, melt double cream and butter in a pan until the butter has melted (you’ll want to take off the heat as soon as the butter has melted, as the mixture is likely to split when stirred in with the chocolate if you go any hotter).
- Then, pour the mix onto your chopped chocolate, stirring together until your chocolate has melted. At this point, you can either leave the mixture as it is or add other festive flavours such as brandy, Irish Cream or orange zest.
- What you now have is a lovely ganache, which should be left to cool and then popped in the fridge to chill for 7 hours. You want the ganache to be sturdy but flexible enough to roll into balls. If the mixture is too hard when you take it out, then leave it at room temperature for half an hour or so.
- Now comes the fun (but messy) part – shaping and coating your truffles! You’ll need to use a flavourless oil on your hands before spooning small heaps of the ganache mixture into your hands and forming into balls, ready for coating. The BBC Good Food video tutorial uses chopped hazel nuts and crushed amoretti biscuits, but you can use other coatings such as cocoa powder, icing, sprinkles or a crushed biscuit of your choice. Speculoos (caramelised) biscuits could add a festive warmth to your flavourings, while something light like a Rich Tea biscuit would add a nice crispy texture. Whatever coating you decide on, just make sure you roll your truffles around so that they’re completely covered.
- Once coated, place your truffles back in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up. The truffles will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge or a month within the freezer. They can be packaged in a greaseproof-lined gift box – you could even add a gift tag saying “Keep me in the fridge” along with a use-by date and/or home freezing guidelines.
View the full Christmas Truffle method and recipe here: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/christmas-truffles.
Moving onto a cleaner but slightly more challenging recipe – yet again, from BBC Good Food – this homemade fudge recipe is another great gift option to consider making.
As stated on the website, this recipe uses:
- 125g salted butter,plus extra for the tin
- 397g can condensed milk
- 460g light muscovado sugar
- 150ml whole milk
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Aside from the above ingredients, you’re going to need the following utensils:
- A 20cm square cake tin
- Baking parchment
- A saucepan (plus a wooden spoon for stirring)
- A sugar or probe thermometer
- A stand mixer or electric handheld whisk
Once you have all of the above ingredients and utensils in place, we advise you follow the step-by-step video tutorial listed at the top of the article.
After you have made your fudge, it will keep up to three weeks in an airtight container, so bear this in mind when it comes to packaging as a gift. You may want to use a fancy container and possibly add a decorative touch – we recommend using reusing jars (just make sure they have a wide rim and that you sterilise them before storing your fudge). If you opt to use glass food containers or Tupperware, then you can always wrap with Kraft paper or a scarf (which can form part of the gift). Whatever container you use, we recommend adding a label with a use-by date written on it.
View the full Classic Fudge method and recipe here: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/classic-fudge.
Our third and final recommendation from BBC Good Food is this Christmas Jam recipe, which has a rich cranberry base and is vegan, dairy-free and egg-free.
For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- 500g fresh cranberries
- 2 oranges,zested and juiced
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 500g caster sugar
- 2 tsp edible glitter (optional)*
*Edible glitter is not a microplastic, making it both safe for consumption and harmless to the environment (as opposed to normal glitter).
You will also need the following utensils:
- A small plate (to put in the fridge so you can test the jam)
- A heavy-based saucepan
- Sterilised jam jar(s) – depending on size (the article recommends 3 x 228ml jars)
Essentially, all you need to do is chuck all the ingredients into the pan (save for the edible glitter, which you stir in later if using), bring to a boil and then simmer for around 30-35 minutes before testing.
Once ready, you leave to cool for 10 minutes and then decant into sterilised jars and seal – it’s as simple as that!
What makes this jam even more appealing is its long shelf life – it will keep for three months if stored in a cool, dark place for three months, or for one month in the fridge once opened.
As with the other recommendations, we suggest adding a label with storage info and an expiration date.
View the full Christmas Jam recipe and method here: www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/christmas-jam.
Other homemade Christmas food gift ideas
The above recipes are just some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Aside from truffles, fudge and jam, you could also search for the following recipes:
- Christmas cookies
- Shortbread biscuits
- Rocky Road
- Peppermint bark
- Gingerbread shapes
- Mini Christmas cakes
- Festive chutney
Who knows? You may even add your own twists along the way or come up with a completely new recipe of your own!
Buy them an indoor plant
Indoor plants are a great gift to buy. Besides from looking pretty, they are long-lasting, durable delights which bring several scientifically proven health benefits…
According to studies highlighted in this article from Healthline, indoor plants may:
- Reduce stress levels.
- Sharpen your attention.
- Be therapeutic.
- Help you recover from illness faster.
- Boost your productivity.
- Improve your whole outlook on work.
- Improve the quality of indoor air.
Furthermore, the Royal Horticultural Society states that indoor plants can reduce blood pressure, as well as fatigue and headaches.
Top tips before you buy
- Choosing a low maintenance option: Succulent plants are a good place to start your indoor house plant search, as they are very low maintenance in most cases. BBC Gardeners World Magazine’s list of 20 of the best succulents to grow may come in handy!
- Buying plants that are safe for your gift recipients: If your gift recipient lives with children and / or pets, then not all plants are safe, so you’re best checking this in further detail before completing your purchase. Healthline lists a few plants you many want to avoid buying for people with children and pets here.
- Composting plants at the end of their lifecycle: With the right level of care, indoor houseplants should last for years. Once they do come to end of their lifecycle, however, composting them is a great way of reducing waste, feeding soil and fuelling your garden. Want to learn more about composting? Join our Home Composting Network today to receive a free compost bin* and tips on how to compost your organic waste.
*Please note, compost bins are FREE to residents based in Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral) but are subject to limited availability (while stocks last).
Give the gift that keeps on giving
Give someone the gift that keeps on giving this Christmas…
Memberships and courses are great, as they give your gift recipients the opportunity to indulge in a hobby or passion, and in some cases, even allow them to develop new skills!
Giftmembership.co.uk lists gift membership choices in one place for convenient browsing. Whether your loved ones are passionate about history, nature, gardens, culture, or food and drink, there are plenty of options which suit a variety of budgets.
If you’d prefer to buy them a course instead, Buyagift features a range of online packages available to purchase from as cheap as £5! Yoga, makeup, fashion design, nail technician, British Sign Language, tarot reading and musical instrument courses are just a few of the options which you can gift to family and friends.
Gift them an experience
What’s life without making memories? Instead of physical gifts, buying your loved ones an experience day not only gives them something to look forward to, but also something precious to look back on too!
Whether it’s a meal voucher, a pampering session, a trip to the theatre, or something a bit more out-of-the ordinary such as a hot air balloon ride, feeding animals at the zoo, or even a beekeeping experience, the options are almost endless!
Experience day gift cards are available to purchase online, so it’s worth researching your options before taking the plunge and buying as a gift for your loved ones.
Encourage others to reuse and be more eco-friendly
Buying presents which are reusable or eco-friendly is a great way of helping your gift recipients to protect the environment and, in some cases, save money.
Here is a list of ideas which may be worth pursuing:
Reusable water bottles
According to Recycling Facts, we generate 15 million single use plastic bottles a day! Thankfully, reusable water bottles are becoming more and more mainstream. Some of them even have in-built water filters!
Reusable travel mugs
According to various sources including UK Parliament, in the UK we throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups per year! Recently, this has been offset by the willingness of coffee retailers to allow customers to use their own reusable mugs. Many coffee shops and retailers even encourage and incentivise reuse cups by offering discounts!
These are a great sturdy alternative to use instead of single use paper straws, which have become commonplace since plastic straws were banned in the UK back in 2020.
Reusable shopping bags
Trendy tote bags are handy to carry bought items on the go, time and time again. Recent research states that we use 13 billion carrier bags in the UK each year, so embracing more durable and aesthetically pleasing cotton shoppers is generally a good way to go in terms of saving money and the planet!
Reusable produce bags
Reusable produce bags are great for storing loose items such as fruits and vegetables. These bags are usually made from breathable materials such as organic cotton and mesh. You can even buy reusable and washable sandwich bags! Reusable produce bags are a great way to cut down every-day plastic waste.
Insulated lunch bags
Insulated lunch bags are a great alternative to the humble lunchbox and a handy gift for children and adults alike! The insulation is a game changer in terms of keeping your lunch cool and fresh.
Loose leaf tea infusers
Aside from offering a sustainable alternative to tea bags, gifting loose leaf tea infusers along with a batch of loose leaf tea is a presentable little gift bundle for your loved ones to open on Christmas Day.
Solar powered portable power banks
Charged by daylight, these power banks can be used to charge your phone and other electric appliances on the go!
Bamboo toothbrushes are a bathroom essential which will help your gift recipients cut down on plastic pollution. Clean teeth, clean conscience!
Bamboo make-up brushes
Bamboo make-up brushes are a durable way to greenify your beauty tools!
Eco-friendly beauty bars
Eco friendly beauty bars can be used for hair, face and body, and are packaged without plastics. The zero-waste way to shower, bath and wash at home!
Reusable nappies and wipes
Buying for a baby this Christmas? Getting reusable nappies and wipes will not only save the baby’s guardians heaps of money but will also significantly reduce waste. According to WRAP, “by the time one baby is potty trained the baby could use 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies. In comparison, a baby only needs around 20 to 30 modern real nappies, and these can also be used by any siblings that come along”. As disposable wet wipes are non-recyclable, getting reusable wipes (or flannels) is also a good way to save money and protect the planet.
Pass it on
Received a gift you don’t need but don’t want to ask for the receipt? Return it for and exchange, re-gift it if someone else would love it, sell it online or feel great and donate it to charity!
This blog forms part of our #ChooseToReuse series. Please note, with the exception of MRWA-published documents, external links featured within this article are not officially endorsed by MRWA and are for reference and information purposes only.