Christmas presents that make the world a better place

Want to make a positive impact on the world around you this festive season? Then have a look at these alternative gift ideas.

Amidst the turkey and the tinsel it's easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas.

Once a time of reflection and goodwill is now overshadowed by senseless spending, drinking and eating that we live to regret come the New Year.

If you want to get into the true spirit of Christmas and escape the materialism this festive season why not consider some alternative gift ideas that can really make a difference to the world we live in? 

Here are a few to get you started:

Charity gifts

Buying a gift from a charity shop will mean you can save money but also play your part in helping raise funds for a good cause.

You can find local charity shops near you on the Charity Retail Association website.

Many like Oxfam have special Christmas gifts if you can’t find any gems second hand.

These include regular ethical presents you would expect such as a Fair Trade leather wallet but there is also the option to pay money towards programmes that can help struggling communities across the world in Oxfam Unwrapped.

This can take the form of a stocking filler gift where £10 can help train a farmer but there is also the opportunity for larger gifts like feeding a community which costs £490. Other programmes include buying goats, chickens or some pigs to give families a helping hand. This sort of programme isn’t a hand out, but equips communities with the tools they need to raise themselves out of poverty.

ActionAid, UNICEF, Save the Children, Greenpeace, Crisis and lots of other charities have similar Christmas gift alternatives that could really help make a difference in people’s lives for a fraction of what you would spend anyway. Also check out Good Gifts for more ideas.

Eco-friendly gifts

Recent research from charity Sightsavers found that there could be 21 million unwanted gifts this year with beauty products and Christmas novelty gifts topping the list of the most unwanted items. The research found that Brits recieve £40 worth of useless presents each year and one in five end up getting rid of them.

Why not try to avoid waste this year and get a free gift using Freecycle? Instead of buying something new you can help others recycle their unwanted items and give a great present to a loved one that they will appreciate.

In my local area there are people currently giving away jigsaws, a fully functional printer and a large 42” TV. Using this website could mean you end up getting a better gift than you could have afforded in the first place!

Pre-owned items might not appeal to everybody but there are other gifts that don’t have to hurt the environment.  Recycled stationary, solar powered gadgets , homemade gifts, ethical apparel and wooden toys can help make a positive impact because they reduce waste, cut down carbon footprints and they are sourced sustainably.

If you do receive an unwanted gift don’t throw it away or leave it to gather dust. Donate it to a charity, put it on Freecycle or even be a bit cheeky and re-gift it to someone who might appreciate it more!

Investing in entrepreneurs

OK so this sounds a little strange, but sites like Lendwithcare allow you to invest in small-scale entrepreneurs in developing countries. Whether it's a general store owner in Togo or a poultry farmer in Ecuador, you can buy a loved one a voucher which they can then use to support whichever business they like.

For a full explanation, read Lendwithcare: ethical investing in developing countries

Sponsor gifts

Millions of children live in poverty across the world - by sponsoring a child this Christmas you can help to feed, educate and care for them. Many charities offer the chance to help, take a look at Sponsor a Child to see which one you could donate money to on behalf of loved ones this Christmas.

Alternatively for younger children you might want to sponsor an animal for Christmas.

With Guide Dogs for the Blind you can sponsor a puppy that will grow up to help the blind lead normal lives. Your loved one will get a cuddly toy, a welcome pack with ‘pupdates’ including photos at key stages in training and an exclusive calendar. It costs £4.33 a month which equates to about £50 in one year. That sounds better than an overpriced heap of plastic that will fall out of favour with the kids after a couple of months.

If you want something a bit more exotic the World Wildlife Federation has a range of endangered animals that you can help protect. You can adopt a tiger, polar bear, panda, penguin or African elephant among others. You get to choose how much you want to pay but the minimum is £3 a month or £36 a year. Your recipient will get a free cuddly toy, magazines, a certificate, fact book and stickers.

Time gifts

Time is an understated gift that actually holds a lot of value. This Christmas you could agree with a few friends and family to not give presents but to spend time volunteering instead. Through Crisis you can volunteer to help feed the homeless over the holidays and the Samaritans always have a lot of opportunities to help those in need.

But giving the gift of time doesn’t have to be for a charity. It can be for friends and family that could really do with some help. Instead of splashing out and buying expensive toiletries you could provide 12 tokens for babysitting to be redeemed throughout the year or offer your time to a friend who is moving house or setting up a new business.

More on Christmas:

The worst charity Christmas cards

Get free Christmas cards, gifts, music, animations and more!

Twelve good, cheap Christmas gift ideas

The best Secret Santa gifts

How to make successful homemade Christmas presents


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