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Eco-friendly Christmas presents for guilt-free gifting

Game Changers: Best books, products, cards and other sustainable gifts from Irish producers

Nothing says Happy Christmas like a damp slice of temperate rainforest. You don’t physically get this from the Hometree shop. Instead, somewhere in a quiet place in the west of Ireland, there will be a native tree growing for decades to come thanks to the gift that is in the best sense, not just for Christmas. The social enterprise has just launched the Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project, a €12 million 4,000-acre plan to protect remnants of temperate rainforest and, where appropriate, begin to establish new ones.

Options start at €10 for a tree which comes with a Hometree card. There’s an annual subscription for a €300 rainforest restoration member with tree updates, two trees planted every month and invitations to volunteer days. You can adopt a whole acre for €5,000. There are designer watches that cost many multiples of that and will never buy the timelessness that habitat restoration can.

The perfect book partner to the Hometree gift for the tree lover in your life is Eoghan Daltun’s An Irish Atlantic Rainforest, which lets you explore his wonderful rewilding project on the Beara Peninsula without leaving your armchair.

They have lots of things to help turn Christmas leftovers into enjoyable meals rather than food waste

On the food front, my favourite Christmas hamper is from the Together Academy, a social enterprise training and employing young adults with Down syndrome. Their €120 hampers come with all the treats made by academy students. They have lots of things to help turn Christmas leftovers into enjoyable meals rather than food waste, like cranberry and port sauce, chilli jam and gingerbread cookie mix with cut-outs, kitchen utensils, wine, coffee, chocolate and Christmas cake or pudding slices.


I love the Christmas cards made by the brilliant mothers’ co-operative Saoirse Ethnic Hands on Deck, a Cork-based social enterprise. Their fabric-decorated Christmas and greeting cards are made with leftover pieces of material from the masks they began sewing during the pandemic. They also sell handmade tote bags and scrunchies.

Another Cork enterprise changing the game on children’s clothes is Kindfolk, where sustainable outfits for Christmas can be bought from Orla O’Connell’s stock of beautiful pre-owned clothes. Everyone can look their best without adding another consignment of clothes to the universe of fashion cast-offs.

My two top book picks for presents are Harrison Gardner’s Build your Own, which is as zen and full of practical inspiration as his RTÉ show is to watch. And Mary Reynolds’s new book We are the Ark: Returning our Gardens to their True Nature through Acts of Restorative Kindness. Leafing through them in the Christmas lull will inspire you to grab your tools in the new year and get to work.

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests