It is important to spend time with our loved ones during the darkest days of the year. The perfect gift also gives its makers a fair compensation and respects the environment. Together with professionals of different fields we comprised a lifestyle guide providing tips for presents as well as a sustainable holiday dinner spread. With these notes in mind, you’ll be gentle to yourself and your loved ones, and also the makers and the environment.

The fast-paced consumption of the holidays

Christmas and the holidays are known to be a time of giving and gathering with those dearest to you. We rarely consider the impact our celebratory actions together make up. The Finnish Christmas in numbers looks like this:

7M Christmas hams
1,5M Christmas trees
100M € in holiday flowers
1M gifts shipped
12% of total yearly income per household


The perfect gift item is something the receiver truly needs, so boldly ask for real wishes before buying. Another point is the consideration of the country of manufacture, materials and functionality, the ecological burden and ethical issues. These answers aren’t always easy to come by, but asking the right questions is well worth it. From the response, you can rather easily determine how deeply embedded the values are to the core of the business at hand. If a company fails to be open in their actions, vote with your wallet. There are also those brands and companies that want to share their manufacturing processes and the true origin of their products.

“If the item at hand is on the pricier side, ask others to chip into the costs. One truly wished item is more than a pile of unwanted presents.”

- Amanda Rejström, Spark Sustainability -

A material present can also be given to those in need. If you are unsure of what your loved one would want or need, you can guide the gift to bring holiday joy to others as well as the receiver of the gift through charity. For example Venner provides a holiday spread with recipes to a disadvantaged Finnish family. You can also avoid buying new items by finding your gift as recycled. You can make a unique discovery from a second hand shop, and in this way give new life to an abandoned treasure.

“Opt for recycled! If you know you are buying an item for a need, check if you could find it as used. You can also adopt this custom for the whole family; only recycled gift on the holidays.”

- Noora Hautakangas, Relove -

“This Christmas I want to gift courses and services, in other words, more time to spend together or just saving time. To those who don’t want presents, I will write a poem.”

- Anna Kesti, Sugar Helsinki -


An environmentally gentle immaterial gift is more meaningful to its receiver than a knick-knack packed in cheerful holiday gift wrap. The best case is that this type of gift is also more personal than any item. An immaterial present is the better choice, especially when you are not sure which item to get or whether it would be useful to the person you’re gifting.

An immaterial gift usually requires a tad more from the giver, as you should consider the person’s preferences, personality and needs. It can be something, that the receiver could not themselves attain. These types of gifts can provide a true experience or aid in personal growth, for example in the form of a course or cultural event.

“Massage is a gift that rarely goes wrong. Intimacy, relaxation and a joyful mind is what you pass on with this present. The effects can be seen in the human mind in addition to the instant sense of relaxation.”

- Meeri Koutaniemi, photojournalist -

A climate-friendly holiday dinner

Traditional Finnish holiday dishes are based on seasonal thinking and additional inspiration can be found from satokalenteri, giving insight into the current crops available. Use domestic ingredients and switch the rice of the Christmas porridge and casseroles into barley instead. If the traditional flavours seem dull, you can spice up the same ingredients by using different styles of cooking or spices. You shouldn’t prepare traditional dishes just for the sake of tradition. It’s best rather to leave out the foods that don’t disappear from the table into bellies in order to avoid having to dump them into the trash after the holidays. You should also make a headcount to minimise food waste. No one has a bigger stomach just because the holidays arrive. So, again you can go with quality over quantity.

“I’ve once in my life cooked an entirely vegan holiday-time spread, and it was the most delicious Christmas dinner I’ve ever had!”

- Noora Shingler, Kemikaalicocktail -

"Freeze the extra food you couldn’t find use for during the holidays. Buy as much as you can without excess packaging by reusing for example paper or canvas bags and avoid anything single-packed. Choose packaging that is 100% recyclable.”

- Otso Sillanaukee, Nollahukka -
Try out oat cream instead of regular and choose the fish table spread from the green list of the WWF fish guide. Choose local fresh water fish, because its fishing prevents the eutrophication of our lakes. Also game is a green choice. If the ham isn’t for you, you may as well leave it at the store. The average Finnish carbon footprint is around 10 000kg, from which a vegetarian diet saves 600-700 kilos of carbon dioxide a year, the vegan option saving around 1000 kilos. So, going vegan diminishes your personal carbon footprint by around 10%. Still, all types of choices matter. A Christmas holiday to Thailand easily increases the same footprint by 2000 kilos.

“I recommend critical questioning in a world, where the social and environmental responsibility of companies seems to work more as a random tool of marketing than an internally programmed way of acting.”

- Jukka Peltola, Goodio -

“Transparency of production is an important notion, if you’re looking for a sustainably produced gift. I want my choice to also be a gift to those behind the item, both the people and nature.”

- Outi Korpilaakso, Lovia -
The most important is to find your own inspiring way of preserving our planet - all actions matter. We want to make more sustainable choices this holiday season. You can share your own choice and tip on social media with #givedonttake, and take part in a gentle gift revolution.

Yours truly,

Noora Shingler, Kemikaalicocktail
Meeri Koutaniemi, photographer and journalist
Otso Sillanaukee, Nollahukka
Spark Sustainability
Sugar Helsinki