Christmas time is nearly upon us and what’s not to love about that? Long summer days, beach time, holidays, family, food, friends and of course, gifts – So. Many. Gifts. While gift giving is a wonderful and generous tradition, it can cause much agony during the festive season. The inundation of ‘stuff’ gifted by family, friends, neighbours and co-workers can be overwhelming and a little disheartening. If you haven’t experienced this first hand, go and have a chat with an apartment dweller, van-life enthusiast, or anyone with kids… Not only this, but the packaging, ribbon and randomly appointed trinket that you got for your cousin’s cousin, more often than not ends up in the trash, landfill or the ocean.

Looking down the barrel of yet another Christmas gift inundation, combined with the desire to declutter my family-of-four household, I’ve done some investigation into gifts that are more than just ‘things’. These unique present ideas will reduce the negative impact that Christmas ‘stuff’ often has on our planet (and in your house).


We live in a beautifully diverse country, home to many who love travelling the world, but when was the last time you played tourist in your own town? This Christmas, give your loved ones the gift of a homegrown experience they will never forget (or throw away).

In Christchurch, gift a dolphin watching cruise, a traditional Punting tour on the Avon river, and more. If your gift recipients are in Auckland, how about a windsurfing beginner’s course, a sky jump from the iconic Sky Tower, or a bridge climb/ bridge bungy from Auckland Harbour Bridge. There are wonderful experiences to be had in every corner of New Zealand, and they can easily found with a swift google search.

On a less adventurous scale, tickets to a music concert or even better, an inspirational film festival, such as the Ocean Film Festival touring next April, are affordable experiences that you can enjoy together with as many or as few people as you like.


How many times do you give or receive a present from someone whose company you would much prefer than the haphazardly wrapped scented candle bestowed upon you? Forget the candle this year and give the gift of time. Make the recipient a voucher book that they can redeem throughout the year. It could include 1 x picnic together (tech free), 1 x dinner date (I’ll cook), 1 x surf session, or anything else that you enjoy doing together, but rarely seem to get to.


Christmas shopping can get expensive, but gifts don’t always need to be bought. For those looking for less expensive options, tap into your resourcefulness and give the gift of creativity. Upcycle an old shoe-box and fill it with your favourite memories together. It could include photographs, baked goods, letters, travel souvenirs or anything else that holds sentimental value.

If your giftee is not someone you share special memories with, create some by making them a thoughtful yet practical gift. Bees Wax Wraps, crochet dishcloths and home-made bath bombs can be made with the help of online tutorials or DIY guides. These eco-friendly ideas will be sure to make your gift recipient think of you each time they use their homemade gift.


Indulging in a class or learning a new skill can seem like a luxury, especially around Christmas time. Treat your friends or family this Christmas to something they’ve been wanting to do but haven’t allowed themselves yet. Booking a fun class with your loved one is a fantastic way to learn new skills, and most importantly spend quality time together. Try slacklining, aerial yoga, freediving, ninja warrior training, trapeze, pottery, or whatever tickles your fancy! Alternatively, purchase a digital course on a subject your gift recipient is passionate about. Masterclass and Creative Live are two sites that offer a great variety of online classes across numerous disciplines.


As we know, gift giving can be stressful on us and the environment. Therefore, many of the gifts we’ve suggested are intangible or homemade, for the purpose of minimising our environmental damage. Well we’re here to tell you that it’s possible to purchase tangible, affordable AND sustainable gifts too! A living plant or tree from Tree Gifts NZ is a unique, eco-friendly gift that can be delivered straight to your recipient’s door. Sustainable and environmentally friendly, they will continue to grow and be enjoyed for many years to come. Tree Gifts NZ has even been so kind as to put together a Christmas gift list for you! Seed and Soul is another eco-friendly brand, producing 100% natural (and affordable) skincare and beauty products. They’ve got their own gift packs too, perfect for Christmas! Without spending any money at all, pay it forward with a copy of your favourite book as a thoughtful Christmas gift. Explain on the inside cover how the book changed your life and why you think they’ll love it too.


Amidst the gift-giving frenzy that surrounds Christmas year after year, it is important to remember those who need our charity, for whom gifting can change lives. The Red Cross Cyclone Support Package can be a literal life save for many New Zealanders affected by cyclone season. Cyclones have devastating effects on the community, so giving to the Red Cross helps to ensure there are enough resources to reach all those in need this Christmas and New Years. But it’s not just humans we can help. You could choose to adopt a World Wildlife Fund Maui dolphin as a Christmas gift for someone special. The donation goes towards conservation efforts for the last 63 existing Maui dolphins, and the lucky recipient will receive a personalised adoption certificate, dolphin stickers, factsheet and a reusable animal-print carry bag! Oxfam Unwrapped is another initiative that lets us give to those who are really in need. Each tax-deductible gift goes towards transforming the lives of people in poverty, via tangible items such as a goats, fish farms and water wells. The person the gift is bought for will receive a special card outlining how the gift is helping others, and your donation will go towards a number of important projects.

So when you are soon tasked with yet another Christmas gift conundrum, keep in mind all the unique ways you can give gifts this year. Getting on board with low waste presents will benefit yourself, the environment and might even surprise your cousin’s cousin with something useful for once!

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