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Last-minute gift ideas that are good for the planet (and your wallet)

Tree hugging, little boy giving a tree a hug with red heart concept for love nature
Finder's sustainability expert shares his top 5 ethical gifts for the festive season. Source: Getty

With Australian households tipped to spend an average of $969 this festive season, it’s never too late to start thinking about how you can be more mindful with your gift-buying so you can source low-cost gifts that won’t harm the planet.

Below are some practical gift ideas that could fit the bill this holiday season.

1. Give the gift of an experience

There’s already enough stuff in the world so why not give an experience? Whether it’s a bushwalking or hiking tour, a wine tasting experience or a weekend away glamping, there are plenty of experiences that don’t harm the environment (and will support local business too).

Sites like RedBalloon and Gift it Now are great places to start, where you can get vouchers for under $50. Another benefit of getting an experience voucher over a product is you don’t need to wait for postage or shipping.

2. Make a donation to the bushfire disaster appeal

With the unprecedented bushfires that have devastated our natural environment, and with 108 active bushfires in NSW alone, why not be mindful with your spending and fund the solutions instead? Gift donations are a thoughtful last-minute present and can go a long way with the fire services and charities that look set to be working hard throughout the festive period.

You can donate directly to your local Rural Fire Service or to charities like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

3. Reusable products (think keep cups, metal straws and tote bags)

For an inexpensive Kris Kringle gift, reusable products such as keep cups, metal straws and bags are a good eco-friendly choice. You can find keep cups for under $30 from major retailers, while you can get custom cotton tote bags for under $20 (made of 100% natural material).

Other reusable products include Australian-made beeswax wraps (a good alternative for cling wrap or single-use plastic), eco-friendly skincare products and reusable coffee capsules.

For more ideas, check out Finder’s ethical gift guide.

4. Air-cleaning plants

Plants certainly turn a house into a home but did you know that research by NASA has found that certain plants may also remove toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air in a room? In some ways, gifting a plant is like giving the gift of clean air and that’s not to be overlooked in our current smoke-filled regions.

They’re also a perfect last-minute gift as you can get your hands on them at your local Bunnings or garden centre and they won’t break the bank. To maximise the air-cleaning potential, look out for lady palms, parlor palms and peace lilies, which all performed well in the original study.

5. Meat-free cookbooks

By now you have probably heard that reducing your meat consumption is one of the best ways you can reduce your impact on the environment. Even switching to one vegetarian meal a week can make a difference, but it can be tricky to find meals that are easy-to-make, nutritious and (most importantly) filling. It’s for this reason that a good vegetarian cookbook could make a great sustainable present. Good options include Veg by Jamie Oliver or More by Matt Preston and they shouldn’t cost the earth down at your local bookstore either. To add a personal touch, why not make some DIY vouchers offering to cook a meal or two from the book for your loved one while you’re at it?

If you’ve left your shopping until the eleventh hour, not to worry. There are plenty of thoughtful presents you can give this festive season that are both affordable and good for the environment.

By Ben King, CSR Manager & Sustainability Expert at Finder.