Ethical Christmas: seven gifts that tread lightly on the planet

The frenzied celebration of tinsel-coated consumerism is upon us. But you can (just about) enjoy it without hurting the environment or turning a blind eye to the working conditions of those who make it all possible.

1. Beer made from leftover bread



Toast beer; well worth your dough?

Food waste is both a growing problem and the stuff of ethical nightmares. But savvy brewers are taking some of the 24m slices of bread thrown away in the UK every day to make beer. Every 330ml bottle of Toast beer (£1.80 at Tesco) uses one slice which would otherwise have been binned. Plus, all profits are ploughed back into feedbackglobal.org, the charity that campaigns to end food waste.

2. Organic oranges

Valencia oranges



Gebana delivers freshly picked organic oranges from Greek farms. Photograph: Alamy

New to the UK this autumn, Gebana is a fair trade company that delivers freshly picked organic oranges from Greek farms straight to your door. They cost £46 for 13kg plus delivery.

It hopes to build a global farmers’ market that favours small-scale organic producers in Africa, Asia and southern Europe. Guardian readers can buy at ethicalshop.org with a 15% discount until 8 December by using the code 15GGU.

3. Tackling the wrapping mountain

Recycled brown wrapping paper



Recycled brown wrapping paper isn’t just for The Sound of Music. Photograph: MillefloreImages/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Very little Christmas wrapping is made from recycled paper. But the Post Office has a cheap, 100% recycled alternative for just £2.39 for 6 metres. Don’t worry if it’s a tad plain – if it was good enough for Maria in The Sound of Music, it’s good enough for you. Not all wrapping paper can be recycled. If you scrunch it up and it stays scrunched, it can be. If not, sadly it’s destined for the black bin.

4. Ditch single-use plastic

Join the campaign sweeping the nation by cutting out single-use bottles of liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner. Switch to solid bars of soap as a planet-friendly alternative.

Check out Friendly Soap’s ethical gift packs, priced at £9.99 plus P&P.

5. Upcycled refugee life jackets

The thousands of discarded life jackets piled high on Greek beaches are a poignant symbol of refugees fleeing the horrors of the Iraqi and Syrian conflicts. Now a Dutch social enterprise is turning this mountain of waste into an opportunity by upcycling them into computer bags and travel accessories made by the refugees as part of a skills and training programme. Prices from €29 for an iPad sleeve at makersunite.eu.

6. Ethical footwear

Making espadrilles in the Juta Shoes workshop



Making espadrilles in the Juta Shoes workshop

Juta Shoes is one of a growing number of social enterprises producing environmental and ethical win-wins.

Its espadrilles are made in London by women whose migrant and refugee backgrounds mean they are more likely to be either unemployed or work for pitifully low wages. Juta pays them a fair wage to make shoes from sustainable sources.

Customise your own by choosing from either upcycled leather offcuts or reclaimed vegan faux fur. From £40 at jutashoes.com.

7. Ethical fashion

Clothes from ethical fashion label Brothers We Stand



Clothes from ethical fashion label Brothers We Stand

Are you wearing an environmental and ethical disaster? From toxic chemicals to climate-changing emissions and sweatshop labour, “fast fashion” has a massively negative environmental footprint.

The good news is there are now more and more fashion companies aiming to minimise this impact.

Brothers We Stand, Know the Origin and People Tree are committed to changing how our shirts and skirts are made. And if you’re looking for an ethical stocking filler, check out the organic socks from Greenfibres from £4.95.

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