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Local, ethical, sustainable: How to give back this Christmas

Looking for some last-minute gift ideas? From brownies that tackle homelessness to waste-free present wrapping, we’ve got you covered!

The University supports a wide range of local, ethical and sustainable organisations through the Responsible Investments it makes, and many of their offerings make great Christmas presents. Find our top picks for the festive period below, along with some of our own tips to make this Christmas the best for you, the Edinburgh community, and the planet.

Season’s gifting

Take inspiration from these local social enterprises supported by the University.

A walking tour with a difference

Invisible Cities are a social enterprise that help people who’ve experienced homelessness into employment. Their walking tour of Edinburgh will give you a deeper understanding of the rich history of our city, whilst also learning of the services that support its most vulnerable residents. The University supports Invisible Cities though its partnership with Big Issue Invest.

Fairly-traded finds

The best gifts give joy not only to those who receive them but to those who made them. Tucked away from the rush of Princes Street is One World Shop: Edinburgh’s only fair trade store. It stocks food, clothing, accessories, toys and a range of sustainable homeware items. Show your University staff card for discount!

Give the gift of chocolate

Social Bite have a range of brownies they will post directly to your loved ones’ doors. Find festive flavours, vegan and gluten-free options to satisfy all the family. Select their Christmas delivery option so they’ll arrive in time for the big day!

You can also spread some cheer by choosing to “pay it forward” and give someone experiencing homelessness a brownie and hot drink of their own. We’re proud to have supported them in their mission to tackle social isolation in Edinburgh through our partnership with Big Issue Invest.

Food hampers with a difference

Scran’s luxury Christmas hamper is the ultimate foodie gift for a loved one. Find mince pies filled with apples sourced from Inverleith allotments, handmade truffles, organic wine and so much more! Everything included has been made from scratch by Scran Academy’s staff team and young people, who were also a recipient of our Community Grants scheme. If you’re not already persuaded, all proceeds from your purchase will support their programme of education for young people from North Edinburgh.

100% slave-free chocolate
Tony's Chocolonely's chocolate bars

The University has sold bars of Tony’s Chocolonely in University cafés since Fairtrade Fortnight 2020. All they want for Christmas is for slave-free chocolate to become the norm and to close the gap between producers and consumers. When you purchase one of their chocolate bars, you can do so safe in the knowledge that profits are being shared equally along the supply chain. Personalise a bar online to explore their full range (including vegan options) or pick up a bar in one of the University’s cafés!

Upcycled furniture with a mission

Another recipient of our Community Grants, the Move On Wood social enterprise helps local people progress towards employment through training courses in craftsmanship. They use reclaimed wood to create a range of furniture, and can produce bespoke pieces to your requirements. They’re also offering a Christmas decoration made from recycled wood, but get your orders in soon to have it arrive in time for the big day!

Donate to charity

Got a friend that seems to have it all? Why not donate to a charity that supports a cause they are passionate about instead! Avoid buying a material gift for the sake of it, and give your pennies to those in need instead.

Festive feasting

We often buy more food than we need at Christmas. Considering this year’s restrictions, opportunities for big get-togethers are more limited than usual. Make sure the food you buy is only what you will actually eat on the day, along with a few servings of leftovers to avoid creating food waste.

Not set on what you will be eating on the big day? Why not pledge to get all your veg from your local greengrocers. Sourcing local food means you reduce the distance it travels before arriving on your plate, and also helps support your local economy.

Deck your halls

Why not opt for some DIY decorations this year? Dried slices of orange, cinnamon bark or pinecones make for great seasonal decorations, and they are fully compostable. Or simply opt for the decorations you already have!

If you are looking for a few extra pieces to adorn your tree with, Grassmarket Community Project are another local organisation the University is partnered with, and they offer a range of festive decorations in a range of patterns – including various tartans! Your purchases will help tackle social exclusion in Edinburgh.

Wrapping up

Why not reuse your old gift bags, and avoid extra wrapping all together? If you don’t usually, hold onto the gift bags you receive this year ready to reuse in next year’s celebrations. Try using old newspapers, garnished with natural decorations like dried fruit or sprigs of trees to wrap your gifts. Once they’re finished with, just pop them in the recycling bin and your compost instead of adding to the volume of waste thrown away! If you are buying wrapping paper, choose one that doesn’t have a shiny coating on it so it can be recycled. Extra points if you can find some made from FSC certified paper!

However you’ll be celebrating this festive season, from all of us here at the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Planning to follow any of these suggestions? Let us know by tagging us in on Instagram or Twitter!

Find out more about the University’s approach to responsible investment.

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