Ethical Christmas Gift Guide 2018 : A List

Christmas is one of those times where it can be so lovely and cute and cosy, and you look forward to getting those new shoes you have had your eye on for ages, and stuffing your face with fancy chocolates.

But I've been feeling increasingly that it can be quite a sad explosion of consumerism, and feels really excessive and unnecessary when some in our world have so little. And I'm not the only one. 

If we are realistic, it's impossible to escape at least a little bit of consumerism at Christmas, so if we are to engage with it, at least we can 'consume' stuff that isn't quite so bad for the world.

I've done quite a bit of research and looking around to find what I think is the best collection of 'ethical' Christmas gifts in 2018. 

I say 'ethical' in inverted commas, as what somebody deems 'ethical' really depends on their ethics. 
For some people maybe they don't entirely agree with WWF for example, or feel irritated by Oxfam. Maybe some organisations feel closer to your ideals, or maybe the issue of another charity has affected someone close to you.

It's why in this list you won't find quite so much from religious charities like Christian Aid or Salvation Army, having been brought up extremely athiest. Although now that I am older, I do see how wonderful some of their work is. But old habits die hard. 

This list therefore, might serve more as an inspiration for you to look to your favourite charity, to an issue close to your heart, or to a cause you feel passionate about. 

I do realise that most of these products are also perhaps slightly more on the 'girly' side, and I can only say that I was drawn to products that I would like myself or that I would love to get for someone I know. Feel free to use this as a departure point for finding something which suits your significant person best.

It is also worth noting that it's difficult to find an organisation or charity that you agree with EVERY one of their policies, but I generally try to support ones that I agree with for the most part
Puritanism seems to be a bit of a thing in certain 'ethical' circles, and I often see it in the Vegan community especially. I think that type of strict, perfectionist, puritan, guilt-tripping and berating culture can be very damaging.
Nothing is perfect. Humans aren't perfect (I understand as much as the next person that sometimes using Amazon is the only option at the time!). 

It is almost impossible to find a totally 'pure' and perfectly ethical gift.
The funds may be supporting human rights causes but it may have not been made in the most eco way, or perhaps it is fair trade but not all of the proceeds go directly to charity. Perhaps one of the materials used to make it isn't completely 'clean' of ethically tricky issues. It's a minefield. I have tried where I can to list things that are both made ethically and where the funds are going towards something ethical, but of course this is difficult. 

I do feel however that it's better to try and strive for something better (imperfectly), than continue to support huge organisations which engage in immoral practices (and then sneer at the fact that the 'ethical' goods are not 'perfect'). 
We just do what we can. 

I am also painfully aware of another issue, which is that 'ethical' products tend to cost more. That it's easier to live 'ethically' if you have more money (in many ways). This is something that I feel really annoyed about, and I am very keen on making ethically-made things / fairtrade etc more normal, affordable and accessible. I realise that often the very low prices of products are due to cutting corners in terms of ethics, and that the higher prices are often because the producers are getting a proper wage etc. However, I have - where possible - included items which are more affordable in this list.

I hope that this curation has sufficiently sieved through the huge number of products online, to find the real gems. It's intended to be full of gifts that are appropriate, affordable and doable (as in, not super complicated to buy).
There should be something here for everyone.

(I will be adding more to this over the next while, so feel free to check back as I get more recommendations from people)

This is predominantly written with a British / European audience in mind (in terms of where the companies ship to), although there are universal ideas throughout too. At the very bottom of this article there are some links to gift guides for some other countries.

Here are some ideas for how to make your holiday season a little more ethical:


If you are planning to buy someone books for Christmas, I would recommend buying them through The Book DepositoryWorld of Books, The Hive or Wordery (instead of Amazon).

I would also strongly recommend buying anything from Verso books - the largest radical publishing company in the English speaking language. They have a sale on until Jan 1st 2019.

According to The Guardian (2016):
"Almost 40% of books are published by five major publishing houses. Small, independent presses are an important source for a greater variety of voices and perspectives. Here are a few great small publishers who have fabulous books in fiction, nonfiction and poetry: Graywolf Press, Red Hen Press, Inkshares, and Melville House. Books from small, independent co-op bookstores are also a great gift idea. Try Antigone Books in Tucson, Arizona, which also has the benefit of being 100% solar-powered; Powell’s in Portland, Oregon; and the famous City Lights in San Francisco, California."

Here are some book suggestions (charitable organisation in brackets):
(I also realise that there are problematic aspects to nearly all of these books, but they are generally positive additions to the book world)

(Here's a link to some more books that have proceeds that go to charity)

Teen/Young Adult-

  • Max (Amnesty International) £7.99

Children's books -

The money doesn't go towards an 'ethical' cause or anything, but I think this book is important and educational.

The only issue is that they seem to be intended for "If you are an individual or organisation working with refugees or displaced communities" - so I am unsure if you can get individual books for personal use (I really hope you can), but feel free to contact them to find out more.



Plant a tree

You can plant a tree as a present for someone, as a way of remembering someone, or even as an activity-present to do together.

Give an experience

One of the best ways to not make such a huge environmental impact is to just not give them a 'thing', rather, an opportunity to experience something.


This is where you can buy someone a present that actually goes to someone in need. These presents can sometimes feel a bit disappointing, even though they do a great deal of good. I think these are lovely if combined with some other small token thing (like chocolate), or if you go for one of the more interesting/quirky ones. I suppose you just have to judge how it will be received by the person.


  • Amnesty candles - in Wild Fig & Grape; Lime, Basil & Mandarin; or Fresh Cotton. £4.50 each or 3 for £12.
  • Jo Malone Charity Home Candles for Mental Health for if you are thinking of buying something more luxury for a friend or family member. The Jo Malone charity collection donates 75% of the profit to mental health charities / projects including: Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (16%), Martineau Gardens (4%), NSPCC (48%), Phoenix Futures (6%), the Redhall Walled Garden, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) (4%), Rotunda Limited (4%), St Mungo’s (8%), Thrive (Society for Horticultural Therapy) (6%) and the Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester (4%). More info on the charities they support is here. They come in white lilac & rhubarb; iris & lady moore; and peony & moss. £47 each

Here are some festive suggestions for Non toxic candles

Calendars / Stationery

Not strictly 'ethical', but I think this is very educational & empowering, and is made by an illustrator (Jade Fisher)'s small business.


Bath & Beauty

  • LUSH 'Charity Pot' - which is a really nice-smelling moisturiser and it's proceeds go to a charity (which changes every few weeks) £13.95/240g   £3.95/45g   £1/10g trial size

  • Burts Bees - no particular product, but basically all their stuff is great and very natural.
  • This is a US-based one, but really worth mentioning. Thistle Farms sells products that are made by female survivors of prostitution, trafficking and addiction. A safe house set up by the Rev Becca Stevens brought together five survivors who went on to start Thistle Farms 20 years ago. Today, the organization employs about 50 survivors at its farm, cafe and studio, and helps employ more than 1,500 women globally. Thistle Farms also offers a residential program for women released from the Tennessee Prison for Women. I particularly liked the look of their healing oils - from $14 (around £12).
  • Nourish London Illuminating Face Shimmer (Nourish is  a British organic company offering scientifically crafted, organic, vegan & cruelty-free skincare) £18

Here's an article which lists the special edition products that are helping Breast Cancer Awareness




  • Solar powered photography 'Sunography' kit - available at Amnesty & Friends of the Earth. £7.95
  • Pela phone cases - these come in a range of prices. (they also have a limited edition penguin case which is cute and apt for Christmas... even though I am told penguins are not Christmassy because they are from the South Pole, not the North pole. But still. They are cold world creatures and I like them.) 
I'm thinking of getting one of the Be the Change, Save the Waves, Turtle or Penguin ones ($35 - $39 / £27 - £30) for myself in the new year. (Probably Save the Waves.)

(Here's a selection of ethical phone cases made in the US - for American readers. [not sure if UK people want to be paying an airfare for their phone case])

Home (excluding candles. games & tech)

Games & Sports

  • Macmillian do a range of Golf things if there is somebody in your life who is into that. £1 - £13.95
  • Or maybe you have a keen fisher-person in your life? Casting for Recovery give proceeds towards fishing retreats for women affected by breast cancer (they are US based). 
  • Dinosaur snap by Green Board Games sold on  (really good for kids) for £4.95
  • Cards Against Humanity - they do a Pride pack (which donates money to Howard Brown Health) £5, a Theatre pack (that donates money to the House Theatre) £5, and they still sell the pack that they used the profits from to counter Trump (£5). Long story. (obv CAH isn't really suitable for children)

(I'm sure there are loads of things I'm missing on the games & sports front so please do get in touch or comment down below if you have any suggestions)


Here's an interesting article on sustainable women's clothing if you want to find out a bit more.




  • Lochcarron for Cancer Research tartan scarf  this really stood out to me. It feels appropriate for winter, has the colours in-keeping with the charity, and I think many would be very happy to find this in their stocking. £22

  • Handmade Paisley Phone Pouch from Oxfam £4.99
  • Hand woven jute bucket bag from Maison Bengal £42 (A fair trade company that supports marginalised communities in Bangladesh. Only locally grown natural materials are used and the products are made in close collaboration with local fair trade partner organisations.)
  • Recycled Sari Bags from Oxfam £21.99
  • Bags from RNLI - in particular I like the bucket bags (£30), foldable tote (£15), tablet cover (£25),  and the pricey (but really nice) '235' bags (£125)



Canvas / tote bags are everywhere - but some of my favourite examples include:


Christmas cards 

If you can, a Christmas e-card is a little more environmentally friendly (Paperless Post is a good one), but I really do understand that it's very different to receive a physical card, and I am a big proponent of old fashioned post anyway. So here are my favourites (of the ones I have seen):

  • Tree Rex for Cystic Fibrosis Trust (pack of 10) £3.75

(Wow. just realised I am really liking penguins this year aren't I?)

Subscription services

Authentic House Subscription Box £15.95/month

(This will be updated with more soon)

Try not to buy from Amazon - if you can. (Reasons for this can be found in this article)
For Amazon alternatives see:  

Other tips / things you can do

I think I am going to note these down and make them a little tick-off list thing. Feel free to do the same.

Charity Christmas tree

Why not give to a good cause while buying your Christmas tree this year?
- If you're in Scotland, you could buy one of the Caring Christmas Trees by the Bethany Trust which supports the homeless.
- If you're in London, you could buy from The Christmas Forest - a small, independent family business who provide sustainable trees from 10 sites across London (or you can order online). Every tree cut after its nine-year growing cycle is replaced, and for each tree sold, another is donated so it can be grown by a family in Africa through Tree Aid.

Alternatively, more and more garden centres are doing a Christmas tree hire service (so that the tree can keep growing once returned - I don't totally understand this). Keep an eye out for the FSC logo to make sure it's grown sustainably.

Charitable bookings
For all those Christmas meals, you can book your table while giving some money to charity.
Have a look to see what restaurants are on there, and if you book your table through Charitable bookings they donate £1 to a charity of your choice. They also do the same service for hotels.

Give as you Live
Do your usual online shopping but via Give as you Live and some money will go to a charity of your choice.

Advent calendars:
Each of the 24 doors represents a £1 donation, and will reveal the registered charity recipient for that day & how your contribution can be used. 85% of the sale price going directly to charity.

A fair trade chocolate advent calendar - comes in milk and dark chocolate.

  • Reverse Advent Calendar. A lovely idea that I got from children's author Alan Dapre, who will- with his daughter - be putting things into a box each day of December, and then donating it on Christmas Eve. Such a lovely idea. (His Tweet is below)

Donate clothes
Help Refugees have various clothing drop off points across the UK where you can donate clothing for refugees. It will be taken to Calais, Dunkirk or Greece.
(you can even volunteer to drive the clothes to Calais)

You can also donate clothes to the homeless
There are huge numbers of places you can do this such as the Salvation Army Clothing Bank, St Mungos, People's Kitchen, Tree of Hope, or specific local ones - for example the Glasgow Homeless Network.
And of course you can always donate to a charity shop.

Donate food
Most supermarkets now have a Foodbank collection basket/trolley/box at the checkouts. You can also donate directly to the Foodbank. There's good info on the Trussell Trust website.

Donate toys
Donate toys (and other things) to Women's Aid 
If you live in England you can also bring items to Refuge

Hand-made craft things / locally-made things
If you live in the UK you can find your local craft fair here.

Why not make the wrapping part of the present?
eg. a cloth, a tea towel, a scarf? (Lush do this well with their knot wraps - from £3.95.) It saves wasting more wrapping paper. There are also some really good ones from Wearth London - including linen (£6), hearts (£10), stars (£12.50), little bento bags (£4) and organic cotton Christmas designs (£12.50). (Wearth are worth looking into in general)

There is also a free app Keepsake Wrap (Apple) which works out the precise amount of paper needed for each present! (or there is this article about how to wrap with mathematical precision & waste less).

Newspaper gift bags from Friends of the Earth - these are made from recycled Indian newspapers and look pretty cool too. From £3.95

Biodegradable glitter
There are three different colours sold by NSPCC - £3.99 for all three

Switch to LED
If you can switch to LED lights in your Christmas decorations wherever possible, it's helpful for the environment and will reduce your electricity bill too!

Coffee Log Fire
If you have a log fire - why not switch to coffee logs? Each carbon neutral coffee log is made from the grounds of 25 cups of coffee and burns 20% hotter and longer than kiln-dried wood. And recycling coffee waste generates 80% less emissions than landfill.


If you're having guests over during the Christmas period, you might want to spruce things up:
- Organic & Fairtrade bed sheets - Dip & Doze do a range of sheets and covers from £15 up to £80.
- Eco hand soap for the bathroom - Humble (eco bath products by TV presenter & environmentalist Kate Humble) do a Rose & Frankincense hand wash (£10) which seems fitting for the Christmas season. (- and a matching hand cream too! £10 or £8 for the smaller version).

- Bamboo toothbrushes (made from natural FSC certified bamboo) €4.50 (around £4)

Stop yourself from buying double
To make sure you aren't buying too much - there's a good app for keeping track of the Christmas list.
It helps you track who you need to buy for an setting a budget per person. Manage Christmas (Apple), and Christmas Gift List (Android).

After Christmas is over...

  • Christmas Tree recycling - most local councils do this, but there are charities all over the UK providing this service too. Just have a little to Google to find out what's near you.
  • Bring leftovers to someone who might need it? Why not bring those chocolates you don't like to a foodbank?
  • 'Olio' - a food sharing app available on Android and Apple
  • During the time of the sales - why not buy second hand? I really love Depop for this, but charity shops are also great (as they are full of brand new Christmas presents that people didn't want)!

Please do let me know if you know of / see something that you think would be good for this list in the comments (I know this isn't extensive and I will have missed some) - I am always really keen to be shown new things!

I will do an ethical Christmas food guide separately.

Hope this helps  x

Note: I will be updating this every so often if I get recommendations from people of things to add to this list. I will post on social media to let you know if I have updated it.

Other articles which may be of use:
For Australians specifically - The Guardian Australia The Good Christmas Gift Guide 2017
For Americans - an article in The Guardian which is much more US centric The Ethical Christmas Gift Guide 2016

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