40 Alternatives to ‘New Stuff’ Gift Buying at Christmas

Sustainability & Reducing Waste at Christmas Time

Christmas can be a lovely time for friends and family to get together but the push to buy more and more ‘stuff’ is getting crazy.

Bulging stores fill with extra stuff for Christmas. Advertising increases so people see new toys or gizmos they were perfectly happy without. Huge amounts of energy are wasted on wrapping and shipping. And the planet fills up with more and more plastic.

New stuff is made to break. It’s marketed to be outdated as quickly as possible. One by one we have to rethink our part in the system.

So do we need to give gifts?

Of course not. Some people opt out of presents and do something else with their time and money. Some help those who have less. But, if you take away the pressure to buy the latest fashion/tech/toy, giving to those you care about can contribute to a fun Christmas season and an exciting year.

Contribution Gifts

One option is to help families with the everyday cost of living. Like healthy food. Shops are full of beautifully packaged Christmas treats but what about high quality, no frills, real food?

For example we are given a case of stone fruit every year that lasts through the festivities and into January. My in-laws buy farm direct plums, apricots and peaches and make mixed boxes for the family. It’s locally grown, thoughtful and always appreciated.

sustainable gift ideas

Sustainable gift idea 1: Local fresh produce

Think about:

1  Seasonal fruit boxes like mangoes, cherries or stone fruit. Choose local produce and amazing flavour. If a case is too big, share it with several families.

2  Organic meat (look online for local growers and buy direct).

3  Vouchers to local whole food stores.

Sustainable Secondhand and Upcycled Gift Ideas

As an op shopper from way back it’s amazing to see how busy secondhand shops have become. Recycling is more than trendy. It’s fun. Mostly because you hunt for what you need with no guarantee it’ll be there. For some that’s infuriating, for others it’s the 21st century equivalent of buried treasure.

sustainable gift ideas

The Junk Map features many shops and makers that can help with unusual Christmas gifts. Scroll through the navigation tabs above to find great vintage shops, salvage yards and creative upcyclers.

sustainable gift ideas

There are also thousands of items in great condition on online marketplaces like Gumtree, Ebay and Cash Converters. There are occasional complaints about stolen goods on these sites but most are family sellers moving household items that are no longer needed. Use your intuition and common sense to avoid dodgy deals.

If you know someone’s taste really well secondhand buying can be easy. If you’re nervous about getting it right, ask about store gift vouchers. Who doesn’t like a pre-paid shopping spree?

sustainable gift ideas

Sustainable gift idea 6: Thrift store treasure hunting. Records, home wares, books and wall art.

Think about:

4  Salvage yard or recycled timber yard gift vouchers for renovators.

5  Vintage shop gift vouchers.

6  Secondhand vinyl for friends with record players.

7  Ask friends and family to pool funds for upcycled furniture or artworks.

8  Secondhand children’s bikes, trampolines, sports equipment, camping equipment.

9  Secondhand tech devices (Like these retro bluetooth speakers) instead of new ones. Do a little research on model releases so you know what you’re buying. Too old and it may not work with current software. This is a great option for kids who are still learning to take care of expensive possessions!

10  Vintage containers for flowers or gift baskets.

11  Retro ceramics, glassware and styling props.

12  Useful secondhand tools.

13  Secondhand children’s clothes. Babies and small children grow so fast they barely wear some outfits. Look around wealthy suburb op shops for designer labels in great condition.


Vintage clocks

Sustainable gift idea 9: Second hand tech. Vintage clocks and bluetooth speakers from The Reimaginarium

The list is endless really. Discuss gift giving with your family and try a No New Stuff theme. You could even choose Kris Kringle and reduce the amount of presents to one per person.

Adventure and Entertainment Gifts

One of the best family gifts we received when our daughter was small was an annual zoo pass. We could pop in for few hours any time for animal watching and play dates. It prevented long, exhausting day trips to make the most of the entry fee. And we got to see animals at different times of the day doing different things. Those memories are still talked about many years later.

30 Alternatives to 'new stuff' buying at Christmas

Sustainable gift idea 22 : Annual zoo entry vouchers

You could argue that experiences contribute more to our children and family life than stuff. Excitement, learning, listening, seeing, tasting, feeling. Adventure gifts may not look lumpy and exciting under the Christmas tree but their effects can last a lifetime.


30 Alternatives to 'new stuff' buying at Christmas

Think back to some of your favourite memories. Sleeping in a tent. Sitting in a big theatre watching ballet for the first time. Being at a football Grand Final. Your first plane trip or hotel breakfast. An incredible restaurant. Travel. Music.

The following ideas aren’t new but can be forgotten when you’re dragging around vast shopping centres full of stuff. Look for outings within your budget and remember a fabulous time is remembered long after cheap things hit the bin.

30 Alternatives to 'new stuff' buying at Christmas

Sustainable gift idea 16 : Museums and site seeing experiences

Activity Gift Ideas:

14  Wildlife-watching tours on land or sea.

15  Cave tours.

16  Museum entry (include smaller museums like science, maritime, convict, military, sporting).

17  National Trust and heritage home tours.

18  Handmade ‘Treat Day’ vouchers for kids with a favourite activity and a picnic.

19  Travelling exhibitions (what’s coming to your region from around the world).

20  Outdoor cinema tickets.

21  Circus or rodeo tickets.

22  Zoo, aquarium, reptile park, bird park, wildlife sanctuary entry.

23  Dance, theatre, concert or festival tickets.

24  Guided tours and experiences (Airbnb have a new experience section, Trip Advisor’s Things to Do, What’s On websites, university short courses, tourist information).

25  Brewery, winery or craft distillery tours.

26  Local workshops and classes.

27  Restaurant gift vouchers.

28  Babysitting help to get parents out together.

29  Sporting event tickets.

30  Bowling, skating or adventure park entry.

31  Massage or pampering treatments.

32  Audio books, ebooks, kindle and online entertainment vouchers.

Homemade Gift Ideas

Books and blogs and TV shows are full of homemade recipes and crafty gift ideas so it depends what ingredients and time you have available.

sustainable gift ideas

Sustainable gift idea 33; Baking packaged with recycled jars and thrift store home ware

Think about:

33  Cordial, sweets or biscuits (not my favourite because of the sugar load but fun for kids to make and decorate).

34  Pickles and jams.

35  Sewing projects.

36  Soaps and beauty products.

37  Handmade jewellery.

38  Children’s artwork in secondhand frames.

39  Plants and homegrown produce.

40  Woodwork gifts like children’s blocks, rustic crates, utensils. If you’re skilled with tools the sky’s the limit here. Look for recycled offcuts at salvage and timber yards.

sustainable gift ideas

Sustainable gift idea 37; Handmade jewellery from recycled beads and upcycled necklaces

Also consider storing some of these throughout the year to use at Christmas:

Wash, de-label and keep nicely shaped food jars and bottles.

Op shop manchester or fabric scraps for gift wrapping and upcycling projects.

Wrapping paper, photo calendars and greeting cards to cut up and repurpose.

Ribbons, string, paper and printed shopping bags, magazines.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces (paint over for decorations or tags).

Dried herbs, cuttings and seedlings.

And on and on… There are loads of way to reduce consumption and waste around Christmas. Kick the idea around and get creative!

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