Planning to have yourself a merry little (green) Christmas for 2023? We know that we need to be more sustainable but, at this time of the year, faced with endless lists and demands on our time, the best of intentions often go out the door. According to MyWaste.ie, we produce up to 30% more waste than normal during the Christmas season. That’s not just food and plastic and wrapping paper – it’s money that we’re throwing away at a time when we all need to keep a close eye on the bottom line.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Cut down on waste by getting the family involved in a Kris Kindle where they only have to buy for one person (and make sure to set a price limit), buy Irish and support small businesses by shopping locally. Here are a few ideas for thoughtful gifts from Irish producers and makers that you can order or pick up in advance instead of panic-purchasing at the last minute.
Best for: anyone who loves cooking
Harvested by hand from the waters around Achill Island in Co Mayo, Achill Island Sea Salt has a delicate saline flavour and soft flaky texture that’s perfect for finishing dishes. With no added ingredients or preservatives, this is pure Atlantic flavour that enhances anything that it comes in contact with. The company was started by Kieran – an Achill native – and Marjorie O’Malley in 2013 and Achill Island Sea Salt recently gained Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) recognition from the EU, which acknowledges its provenance and quality. “Sea salt on top of anything looks nice,” says marketing manager – and family member – Maebh O’Malley, who credits the salted caramel trend with getting people to think of using salt with sweet dishes. They produce three varieties of salt – natural, smoked, and seaweed – which are available as a gift pack (€13) or as part of a box that also includes packs of their irresistible Achill Island Sea Salt caramel fudge and nougat (€35). Individual jars of sea salt (from €4.75) are widely available in artisan shops like Sheridans for last-minute gifts. achillislandseasalt.ie
Best for: creative play with kids
Avoid the plastic pile on and instead gift friends with kids a chocolate truffle making kit (€37.99) from Irish company Jiminy Eco Toys. “We approached Alison at [Clonakilty-based ethical chocolate company] Exploding Tree and asked if she could create an ethical truffle-making kit with us,” says Jiminy founder Sharon Keilthy. “We worked together on it, and this is the result.” The organic, Fairtrade certified chocolate comes in recyclable and compostable packaging. Just add cream – dairy or non-dairy – to enable kids (of all ages) to make up to 50 truffles. jiminy.ie
Best for: your favourite coffee fiend
We need a more environmentally friendly alternative to disposable coffee cups and these ceramic travel cups from Grounded Pottery fit the bill. Marjorie Cunningham and Emma Carmody are the mother-and-daughter team that make the hand-thrown, hand-decorated ceramics (€45-€50), taking inspiration from the sea and landscape near their studio in Ardfert, Co Kerry. They started making the cups about three years ago, according to Carmody, because “we wanted to create an every day, one-off item made using traditional pottery methods….to give people a long-lasting, well wearing unique item.” Satisfying and comfortable to hold, the ceramic holds the heat, which is good for keeping both your drink and your hands warm on winter walks. Customers agree: “what we find is that many of our customers are repeat buyers, either buying themselves a second travel mug for their work place or home, or buying gifts for people,” notes Carmody. Available online at groundedpottery.ie and from The Cottage in Ardfert (V92VX31).
Best for: anyone wanting an alternative to alcohol
Looking for a non-alcoholic beverage but fed up with artificially flavoured, over-sweetened soft drinks? Gerry Scullion’s Louth-based King of Kefir has been fermenting up a fabulous range of flavour since 2014. Scullion uses stevia leaf as a natural sweetener for his drinks, which come in four varieties: lemongrass & ginger, cucumber, mint & thyme and chilli & ginger. The hopped culture variety, made with aromatic amarillo, citra and mosaic hops, is a great alternative to big-brand, low-alcohol beers. Unfiltered, unpasteurised and fermented using water kefir grains, the end result is a refreshing, lightly carbonated drink. Anything that helps digestion at Christmas time is worth investigating and these will add a range of gut-friendly probiotic cultures to your diet. King of Kefir cans are available nationwide and mixed cases of 12 x 330ml cans (€33) with all four flavours can be found at kingofkefir.ie. They also have a gut-friendly Christmas hamper (€30) which includes their kefir and Irish-made treats from producers BiaSol and Homespun.
Best for: those with a thirst for knowledge
The Common Knowledge Centre, based at Kilfenora in Co Clare, is a not-for-profit social enterprise that focuses on teaching people practical, sustainable skills like building, making, mending and growing. Founded by Fionn Kidney, Spider Hickman, Erin McClure and Harrison Gardner (presenter of RTÉ’s Build Your Own Home), the centre offers a wide range of workshops, from the committed – an immersive five-day Build School, four-part Seasonal Permaculture weekend series or two-day Cook with Confidence course with Ballymaloe and Ottolenghi-trained Ashley Gribben – to day long Foraging & Food Making and Willow Basket Weaving classes. Pay for classes or purchase vouchers in denominations of €50 online at www.ourcommonknowledge.org
Best for: the vegan of the family
If your Kris Kindle recipient is a just-turned vegan family member, pick up a gift set of plant-based mayonnaise from Dublin-based Too Savage. Founder Conor Bacon has just released a wasabi mayo, using Irish-grown wasabi from Beotanics in Co Kilkenny, to join the Spicy Mayo, Curry Mayo and Smoked Garlic Mayo that are already in the range. The Christmas Gift Sauce Set (€27.95) available online at toosavage.ie will ensure that nobody has to miss out on post-Christmas sandwiches.