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A conscious consumer's Christmas gift guide

How do we do Christmas, consciously?

‘Tis the season of giving but buying gifts seems outlandish to people who are concerned about climate change. After all, your dollars pay for the fossil fuels used to transport, package and produce the present that you buy, which may be delivered from an overseas warehouse, thousands of kilometres away.

Kiwis are big spenders at Christmas – we spend billions at retailers during December; on one single day in the Christmas rush last year, there was an average of 182 transactions a second. While we could all buy nothing, giving presents is quite fun, so if you want to make some more meaningful choices, here are 10 ideas for low-carbon Christmas presents.

Trees from the Kaipatiki Project
For just $10, you can give someone a native tree and the Kaipatiki Project will plant it on your behalf, cutting out unnecessary wrapping, packaging and transportation. The tree will continue to give as it grows, improving the biodiversity in Auckland.

Buy art from a local artist
Head to a local gallery, like Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui, or an artists cooperative shop, like the Stuart Street Potters Co-operative in Dunedin. Some galleries have shops with cards, prints and other artsy gifts, as well as original artworks, and some are holding end-of-year fundraisers like Artspace’s Cash & Carry in Auckland on 12 December, where all works are $200 and include artists like Rosanna Raymond, Shiraz Sadikeen and Pati Solomona Tyrell. In Wellington on December 14, Enjoy Gallery has its annual fundraising show, where you can by works for $160 from emerging and established artists. A membership card to one of NZ’s public galleries is another cool idea for art lovers.

Donate on someone’s behalf
Many charities have a donation scheme, why not donate, write a Christmas card and tell the receiver what the donation will help do. For example, if you donate $30 to Christmas Box, a family in need will get a Christmas food box; or donate some money to the Auckland City Mission to help with their Christmas efforts. 

A gift basket of New Zealand-made artisanal food products
The provenance of our food is becoming more important and there’s no shortage of local produce. Skip the imported chocolates and buy from fair-trade New Zealand producers who use close-to-home cocoa bean suppliers, like Ocho. Places like Moore Wilsons, Farro and other specialist food stores often have a focus on locally-made products too, so check out the labels and see where the ingredients come from and where it's made.

A First aid course
Learning first-aid is a valuable skill and one of those things can be a little expensive. Yes, it’s a bit of homework for a present but for someone who enjoys learning new things, this could be the perfect gift. St Johns and Red Cross offer courses.

Downlights candles
Candles really do it for some people, judging by the proliferation of them in almost every store – you can even get them at the supermarket. Support this social enterprise which sells soy candles with bespoke fragrances, made by people with Down syndrome and disabilities in Auckland.

Homewares from Hohepa’s Rose Weavery in Hawke's Bay
People living with disabilities also find meaningful work at Hohepa’s Rose Weavery in Hawke’s Bay, creating textile products like blankets, bags, throws and more. Check out their wares, as well as goods from Hohepa’s other small businesses.

Gift a chicken or a goat
When you buy a Tearfund Gift for Life card, the money goes towards a specific project. Last year, Kiwis bought a total of 660 goats. When you gift a goat, you’ll help support a project in Nepal that provides goats as well as training on milk processing and animal health so the families can make a living. There’s lots of different gifts to give like coffee plants, chickens, literacy skills, or a high school scholarship.

Op shop & vintage finds
Get in before they close for Christmas – you’ll be amazed at what you can find in an op shop. From ReStore in Dunedin to the op shops of Remuera, don’t knock it before you try it. Check out the Op Shop Directory or My Vintage Town guides which covers various regions.

Add someone’s name to the Walk of Fame in Wellington
Give someone 15 minutes of fame – just like the Hollywood walk of Fame, you name a star that will be displayed on Wellington’s waterfront. Each star you buy represents a family being supported by The Mission this Christmas and beyond. Grab your star before 16 December.