Make your Christmas shopping count this year with four Christmas gift ideas that are creative, low budget and, most importantly, ethical.

Christmas is a joyous occasion with abundant food, heartwarming carols and colourfully wrapped gifts! It’s a time for family, thanksgiving and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but in the modern age of consumerism and fast fashion, Christmas is not an enjoyable holiday for everyone.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 24.9 million people are trapped in forced labour conditions described as modern-day slavery.

From clothes to electronics, it can be easy to forget that the gifts we give and receive during Christmas can perpetuate a harmful cycle of exploitation.

But, thanks to initiatives like Behind the Barcode, Christmas shopping can be a gift for everyone involved. To give you a helping hand, here are four creative Christmas gift ideas that are also ethical!

1. One-of-a-kind gifts

With dedicated Christmas catalogues and gift corners in major retail stores, it takes some extra leg work to find a unique gift for a loved one. But one-of-a-kind presents do exist. Instead of frequenting a major retailer this Christmas, pop into your local second-hand store or flea market to find a meaningful gift. It might have a little rust around the edges, but a second-hand present comes with a rich legacy compared to the short lifespan of a brand-new item produced in a factory.

Second-hand shops like the Salvo’s Stores, stock a range of items but with a little digging, you’ll find a unique gift that helps the environment, saves money and contributes to a good cause. What an ethical way to shop!

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Try this: Get creative this Christmas with a gift idea that goes against the grain. Recycling an old necklace or a worn pair of jeans into a new keyring, bag or hair clip is a creative DIY gift that also does wonders for the environment.

2. Fashionable, feel-good gifts

Labour exploitation, particularly child labour, is rampant in the fashion and electronics industries. Many popular brands rely on garment factories in developing nations, failing to account for poor working conditions and low wages. Not only is the fashion industry the second-largest industrial polluter, but garment workers also earn an average of A$3 a day for 12 to 18 hours of work to keep up with the demand for new fashion trends.

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But, if you love a cheesy Christmas shirt or a stylish sweater, you can still give a fashionable gift that doesn’t harm people and the environment. Keep an eye out for trusted fashion labels that are taking a stand against exploitation and pollution. Check out the ethical score of different fashion labels in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report and put your money where it matters!

Try this: Host a Christmas clothes swap instead of habitually shopping for a new Christmas outfit or present!

3. The gift that keeps on giving

The origins of Boxing Day show a beautiful picture of the rich giving gifts to the poor. In the same vein, capture the true meaning of the season with a gift that has a positive impact on more than just the giver and receiver.

Choose between these Gifts of Compassion to support a child living in poverty. Giving an unconventional gift like a Baby Essentials Kit or a goat contributes to a brighter future for a child and their family. And your loved one will receive a beautiful card to represent the gift purchased in their honour. What an excellent choice for an ethical shopper!

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Try this: Speaking out against injustice and poverty can be another wonderful Christmas gift. Use a charity Christmas card as an opportunity to inform your friends about ethical shopping ideas or write to companies to demand fair working conditions. Not only is your voice your greatest weapon, but it can also be a great gift!

4. Fresh and fair gifts

An easy way to ensure your gift is ethical is to look out for the ‘fair trade’ label. There are a lot of criteria to achieve Fairtrade certification. When you spot the Fairtrade certification on a label or packaging, you can rest assured your money is directly supporting farmers in developing countries.

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You can also support local businesses by looking for an independent retailer. There are many fair trade and independent brands online too!

Try this: A box of fresh fruit from a local farmer or corner store can be an ethical (and sweet) Christmas idea! You could gift your friend with a day pass to a fruit picking farm to support local businesses.

Make this Christmas a wondrous time for all by choosing to give ethical gifts that spread the Christmas message of hope and joy to all!

Words by Shona Yang

Photos by Ben Adams, Ryan Johnson