The Alternative Guide to Christmas

Skip the big chains and shop locally this season

Lockdown has ended and the once empty streets of Dublin are again filled with people, many of whom are panic buying for the quickly approaching holidays. It’s safe to say that we are experiencing possibly the strangest Christmas of our lifetime and because of this, we are going to want to make it a good one. However, we don’t have to buy the whole world to make Christmas special this year. Typically, this time of year is characterised by massive material consumption and ultimately, waste. How many times have you received a gift you didn’t really want or need? It’s such a wonderful time of year, but it is also one of the most wasteful. Just last year, Ireland was projected to generate over 90,000 tons of waste over the Christmas period alone.

Moving toward a more sustainable way of living is all about the small steps and trying to buy even a few of your gifts this year from local or second-hand shops can make a huge difference. Better yet, you could opt for something handmade or plan a really nice day out. I think we can all agree that five years down the line, it will be the experiences we remember rather than the presents. All you need is a little bit of imagination and some love.

“Before you go out to buy the latest electronic device or branded jumper, why not take a little look at this guide and see if there’s something else that your loved one might enjoy, that won’t have such an impact on the environment.”

Here at Trinity News, we have created an alternative guide to gift giving where the material is abandoned in favour of presents filled with character, love and memories. For each gift idea, there is a list of where one might find this locally or from an online Irish seller. One of the best things we can do right now to support small businesses during the pandemic is to try to buy our Christmas presents locally. So before you go out to buy the latest electronic device or branded jumper, why not take a little look at this guide and see if there’s something else that your loved one might enjoy that won’t have such an impact on the environment. 


Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is something wonderful about discovering something unique in a vintage or charity shop. There is something special about finding the perfect preloved item, knowing that it has its own mysterious past or story. It can be fun to imagine where that patterned jumper or pair of earrings may have been before they wound up here, discovered by you.

“you can’t be too set on what you want, or you probably won’t find it and you will also miss out on all the wonderful treasures there are to discover.”

Jumpers, shirts and jackets are a go-to Christmas present and you can find some really unique items if you are willing to hunt. If you are shopping on a budget, try Dublin’s many charity shops like Age Action, Enable Ireland, and Irish Cancer Society. Or if you are looking for something different and are willing to splurge a bit more, try a vintage shop like Nine Crows, Lucy’s Lounge, The Harlequin, Om Diva, or Dublin Vintage Factory. I promise you will find something distinctive in any of these shops if you are willing to go in with an open mind and dig around. One thing about shopping second-hand is you can’t be too set on what you want or you probably won’t find it and you will also miss out on all the wonderful treasures there are to discover. 

A book is another classic Christmas present and you can actually find some second-hand books in great condition around Dublin such as upstairs in Chapters, Oxfam Books in Rathmines and Temple Bar, and Stokes Books. For the budding photographer, you might consider buying a second-hand or vintage camera from John Gunn’s, Conns Cameras, or Bermingham Cameras so they can take some artsy photos in the new year. If you have a tech lover to buy for, consider buying them second-hand electronics and games in CeX or Gamestop rather than spending huge amounts of money on the latest gadget

If you can’t find what you are looking for in shops around Dublin, there are many Irish sellers on Depop and Etsy that might have the perfect thing. You can find all kinds of preloved clothes and accessories on these apps for affordable prices. Oftentimes the sellers will offer free shipping or discounts on bundles, so make sure you ask them about this. 

Low impact 

There are also plenty of eco-friendly, low-impact present ideas that are not second-hand. A reusable coffee cup or water bottle can be a great gift for someone who is trying to be more eco-conscious, and there are several Irish companies making great ones at the moment like Edamameeco, Monkey Cups, and Narcissips. If you know your loved one would appreciate a bath bomb or nice soap, try shop for a brand that is kind to the skin and to the environment such as Lush,, Tree Hills Soap, and The Kind. You also can’t go wrong with a scented candle from, or The Kind or a lovely notebook from Easons, which is now doing vegan notebooks and diaries. If you are looking for some unique jewellery as a present and want to shop local, there are some really talented Irish designers out there making wonderful pieces of jewellery right now like Om Diva, Stonechat Jewellers, and The Collective Dublin.

If you want to forgo buying anything physical at all, why not buy your loved one a subscription to their favourite magazine or streaming platform. A year’s subscription to Apple Music, Spotify, Netflix or Amazon Prime is exactly the kind of present that keeps giving even after the Christmas period has ended. A book voucher is another perfect choice, especially if you’re not sure what books they like. It’s also a great way to support local, independent bookshops too like The Gutter Bookshop, Book Upstairs, and The Last Bookshop. If you want to add something to sweeten any of these presents, consider buying some chocolate from an Irish producer such as Bean and Goose, Exploding Tree, NearyNógs, The Proper Chocolate Company, and more.

If all else fails, my personal favourite present to receive is a plant. Whether it’s house plants, seeds for planting, or even a succulent, these are such great Christmas gifts because they last. And who doesn’t want to receive their very own plant baby for Christmas? 

“In my mind, nothing can beat the homemade gift.”


In my mind, nothing can beat the homemade gift. There are so many creative avenues you can explore with this. Why not cook them a meal or bake them some cookies? Alternatively, give them an IOU voucher for a home cooked meal, which they can redeem whenever they like throughout the year. Or if you want something more permanent and full of memories, why not try your hand at a scrapbook or photo album? 

Designing your own Christmas cards, wrapping paper or Christmas decorations out of recycled materials or things you have about the house is a great way to add a personal touch to your Christmas presents and not harm the environment. You could reuse old wrapping paper, sheets, or clothes to wrap your gifts. Another option is to use newspaper or brown paper and decorate it yourself with paints and markers. 

If you find that you’re just absolutely useless at making your own presents, you could always support someone else’s endeavours as there are lots of people selling their art and crafts on Etsy at the moment. Commission a local artist to design a print of the person you love. Christmas is a time for celebrating and now, more than ever, we need some good in our lives. If you are conscious of how much waste results from Christmas, present ideas can reduce the impact your gift giving has on the environment this season.

Heather Bruton

Heather Bruton is the Life Editor for Trinity News, and is completing a master's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literary Studies.