Have a green Christmas – gift ideas for the sustainable shopper

Not everyone can make gifts but happily there are talented craftspeole who can

Happy Cyber Monday everybody! And belated happy Black Friday. Oh and is it time for the winter sales yet?

While Christmas has long been a time of over-consumption in this part of the world, it has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past decade or so with an ever-growing emphasis on the urgent spending of money.

Where once the winter sales period was confined to a limited spell beginning on December 27th and ending in mid-January, the run up to the big day now is signposted with all manner of special offers and encouragements to spend more money.

In contrast to the sometimes wild over-consumption there has been another more quietly emerging trend: the dream of a green Christmas and the notion of making the season more sustainable.


While the most effective way to have the most sustainable Christmas would be – of course – to ignore it entirely and buy no presents and dress no trees or halls and eat no more food on the big day then you might on any random Wednesday in December.

But simply typing those words gives us the chills because despite Pricewatch’s hard-earned reputation for penny-pinching, we recognise that it is the season to be jolly. And we like giving and getting presents.

Craft fair

Many of those setting up stalls for the five-day Contemporary Craft and Design Fair which starts in the RDS, Dublin on December 4th will be placing a huge emphasis on sustainability and the Sustainable Pop-Up stall features 40 of Ireland’s finest environmentally-aware brands.

Nicola Connolly owns one of those brands and she will be selling her Nunaia skincare products at the fair.

Before she started making cosmetics she worked as the head of Spanish operations with Ryanair but gave that up to spend a decade living and working with communities on the Galápagos Islands, the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Andes mountains helping them to develop sustainable models for their heritage.

She now lives on a nature reserve in Tipperary.

“The places I travelled [to] showed me a whole new way of living,” she says. “These incredible communities connect with the earth and have a huge respect for it and what they take from it. The earth is their pharmacy. I learned so much from the incredible ingredients they use.”

A percentage of the money she makes from her range goes to the Nunaia Community Fund for scholarships for women and girls in the South American communities where she sources her ingredients.

Then there is the former engineer who has thrown himself on to the scrapheap in order to create homewares and lighting from reclaimed and recycled materials.

Kopper Kreation is the brainchild of Emmet Bosonnet who says he is passionate about sustainability. Once a month he travels to local scrapyards to search for discarded copper, steel and brass which he reinvents into functional homeware products with an industrial feel. His book-ends and tealight holders are inspired by his awareness of his environment as well as conversations and collaborations with customers and other artists.

Based at The Chocolate Factory, off Parnell Street in Dublin, Bosonnet doubles up his studio space into an Irish design store called Raw Material which features the work of other creatives working both in the building and throughout Ireland.

“I started work as an engineer, but knew quickly that it just wasn’t for me so I took off travelling around the world,” he says.

“When I came back I started working with a company selling renewable technology and was shocked to see the amount of perfectly good material being sent to the recycling centre. I started visiting local scrapyards and buying pieces to turn back into life part-time but then decided to turn it into a career move.”

He says he thinks “sustainability from top to bottom. I’m plastic-free, all my packaging is recycled and I’ve gone virtually paperless as well. At the minute, a lot of young couples are buying old houses and renovating them to be more energy efficient. Unfortunately, this means a lot of more modern plastic pipes are being used and all of the old copper or steel is being taken out and scrapped”.

He says when people think of copper, brass and steel “they think clumpy and heavy but I like to keep my pieces light and delicate”.

Cliona O’Brien of Moon and Mellow has fashioned a new range of ethical and luxurious cotton pyjamas.

The entrepreneur, who lives in Naas, has a background in marketing and business management and has spent the past 10 years working in responsible sourcing and developing products for some of the world’s top-ranking global brands – and finding ethical factories to produce them.

“I had an idea of what I wanted the pyjamas to feel like, and I had to find the perfect cotton to reflect that,” she says. “I had to also make sure the producers could prove where their fabric was from and that it was ethically sourced, which wasn’t always an easy thing to do.

“I always knew I was going to focus on sustainability, but you have to overcome so many obstacles that crop up. You have to realise that it really is a mindset and stick with it.”

Conscious Christmas

The RDS is not the only game in town. In recent weeks the Conscious Christmas Store opened on Dublin’s Fade Street courtesy of sustainable brands The Kind and Jiminy. We love the look of the cosmetics, kitchenware and bathroom items.

The soy candles look classy and there are also eco-friendly themed books and presents made from recycled materials. The reusable Christmas crackers and wrapping are inspired.

Then there is the Globe Christmas Market in the Globe Bar on Dublin’s South Great George’s Street next Sunday, promising vintage presents, handy crafts, art and more.

A festive bazaar will be held over three weekends in December at the Hen’s Teeth gallery, store and diner on Blackpitts, Dublin 8. It promises a curated selection of more than 30 local makers selling gifts, homewares and fashion at the specially constructed market.

Craftspeople, artists and traders taking part in the bazaar include knitwear designer Pearl Reddington, homeware makers Electronic Sheep, printmakers Jill & Gill, street art collective Subset, Palm Free Irish Soap and jewellery maker Capulet & Montague. Their stalls will sit alongside the existing Hen's Teeth range of art, homewares and books.

A series of make your own gifts workshops will also take place across each weekend, including wreath making with Tjikko Floral; riso printing with Or Studio; macrame from Studio Folklore and the craft of head wraps with Turbante.

"In the digital age we are drowned in images, with the rest of our senses starved," says co-founder Magnus Mudrack. "Bazaar markets are a full sensory experience, we find traders who lovingly craft their goods and all your senses help decide if you have fallen in love with that jumper, print, bar of soap or the many other goods."

The markets will run on Friday, 6pm-10pm, and noon-8pm Saturday and Sunday from December 6th, 13th and 20th.

Oh, and – in our best Columbo voice – one more thing, the shamelss plug.

On December 8th the Irish Times charity Christmas fair takes place in The Irish Times building, Tara Street, Dublin. There will be loads of gifts and mountains of books at bargain prices as well as a bric-a-brac stall manned by Pricewatch so the value will be amazing. Doors open at 11am and close at 1pm and the price of admission is a mere €5. All proceeds from the Christmas fair will go MS Ireland and SOAR.