What to give the person who doesn't want anything? No, seriously – no waste, no plastic, no chemicals, no unfair labour, no 'unknowns'. This year, with Christmas slated to be unlike any we've had before, it feels timely to share a roundup of gifting ideas from the Provenance team that allows you to give with a more positive impact.
Every day, we'll be adding to this list a new gift to feel good about. Follow us on Instagram and let us know your tips. We'll be sharing more of our favourites in our stories there.
DAY 1: A TREE FOR LIFE
"A few years ago I set up a grove with Trees for Life - they are a rewilding project based in Dundreggan up in Scotland and each Christmas I plant trees instead of giving physical/material gifts. I’ve found people are generally quite moved when you plant a tree dedicated to them, and of course I don’t need to wax lyrical about rewilding to you all, so if you’re struggling for sustainable gift ideas and you can’t bring yourself to give someone another bamboo cup or metal straw, plant a tree for them instead! Fun fact: this is also the project we support with a Provenance Grove where we plant trees to celebrate people’s work anniversaries."
– Beth Thayne, Product Manager
DAY 2: CHOOSE LOVE
"Happy 2nd of December! Here are my Christmas giving ideas, whether you want to donate gifts or your time:
Charitable giving: Buy a gift for someone in need at Choose.Love – an NGO focused on giving items needed for refugees fleeing war, persecution & climate change.
Donate your time: Offer to pick up friends’ things to take to charity or ask people in need directly if they would like whatever you have collected (+ hot drink)"
"Happy 3rd of December! As a child, one of favourite presents was a 'Perpetual Calendar'. It was a little source of inspiration and reminder on general 'life truths' that somehow kept me grounded. Over the years I’ve forgotten how helpful they were to me and this activity has led me to try and rekindle this daily practice! Alternatives today: this looks like the most popular one on the App Store. Also sharing a quote that has always stayed with me: 'Three things that never come back; the spent arrow, the spoken word and the lost opportunity.'"
– Astrid Chang, CFO/COO
DAY 4: FIX WITH FRIENDS
"This is something I started doing a couple of years ago, and it might sound a bit strange but it's about the simple things. Every year for Christmas I go around to friends' houses and I fix things. We all have something that’s broken that we can’t bear to throw away or a button that’s missing on our favourite shirt. So I show up with a needle & thread, some super glue and a bottle of wine. We chat, have a laugh and I mend the broken things. This is what I'll be taking to my friend's house this week-end." (see image above 😍)
"A few weeks ago our in-house culinary expert Aurore shared her fool-proof hummous recipe - a perfect snack for a festive gathering of six-or-less people, right?! Hang on to the brine - also known as aquafaba (or bean water for the etymologists) - from your tin of chickpeas to make some vegan mousse for dessert. You need:
Equipment: An electric whisk, a bowl, some boujee glasses/jars/ramekins to serve
Ingredients: Aquafaba from a tin of chickpeas, a tsp of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and 100g of your favourite chocolate.
Melt your chocolate either in a bowl over boiling water or in 30s blasts in the microwave. Once it’s melted, leave to cool whilst you prepare your aquafaba.
Put the aquafaba in a bowl with a tsp or so of lemon juice and whisk it. You’ll be whisking for anywhere between 5-8 mins but you should start to get some soft peaks like when you make meringue. Trust me, it will happen!
Add the tsp of sugar and whisk again for another minute or so, just to be sure!
Fold in your cooled, melted chocolate, mixing slowly until the chocolate is mixed in with your aquafaba mix.
Put in 4 small bowls/ramekens/glasses/jars and leave to set in the fridge for 1-2 hours!
And voila your nibbles are sorted with a tin of chickpeas, a lemon and a bar of chocolate."
– Beth Thayne, Product Manager
DAY 6: SEASONAL SCENTS
"This winter I’m planning to make a batch of stovetop potpourri using pears, apples, cinnamon sticks and rosemary and will be gifting some to my friends to celebrate the winter solstice on the 21st."
– Caitlin Jones, Senior Business Analyst
DAY 7: BOOKS ON FOOD
"Here are some books to help you make sense of it all:
And for bonus points buy them on bookshop.org to support local bookstores!"
– Faisal Chaudhuri, Content Strategist & Designer
DAY 8: CHEAP & CHEERFUL DHAL
"Ingredients for Tarka Dhal (the simplest and best dhal)
1 cup dry red lentils
3-4 large cloves of garlic
~6 tblsp cooking oil
2-5 cups of water, there’s quite a lot of leeway with the amount of water depending on how runny you like your dhal. I like mine runny.
2-3 tsp salt (go on - use 3)
Set the water to boil in a kettle
Crush (with the side of your knife) and very roughly chop the garlic
Put a large, heavy pot on the stove on a high heat, make sure to use one that has a lid
Pour oil into the pot until the pool touches the sides all around - that's the right amount
Add the garlic to the pot
Turn your hood extractor fan onto full
Fry the hell out of the garlic. Keep frying it on high heat until it’s dark brown to black and slightly smoking
Turn the heat to low and add the lentils to the pot, keep stirring them until they change to a lighter orange
Slowly and carefully, holding the kettle at arm's length, pour the hot water into the pot. Expect a lot of bubbling and steam, but it should calm down once you’ve added all the water.
Add the salt
Put the lid on the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes or until all the lentils have disintegrated.
Boom! Enjoy it as a soup, as a dhal alongside a curry or on its own with rice and pickle. If you make it quite runny you can also use it as a gravy substitute, so that’s kind of a Christmas connection!"
– Felix Watts, Blockchain Engineer
DAY 9: THE WRAP
"I stopped buying store-bought gift wrapping many years ago now and instead opts for any material that’s lying around the house. Here are some ideas that might be helpful alternatives:
Repurpose old scarfs or tea towels (for a fancier version, try the Japanese Furoshiki fabric wraps)
Re-use packaging that comes with store-bought flowers
Re-purpose jars and tins for gifting food
Re-purpose shredded paper, tissue or box that comes with your online parcel deliveries."
– Harini Manivannan, Customer Success Manager
DAY 10: SPECIAL DAYS
"Meet my Nieces & Nephews. They are a delightful little crew... and are incredibly fortunate to have all they really need taken care of by their parents. They absolutely don't need any more stuff! So Aunty Louise tends to give swimming lessons, because that is a useful thing and makes family holidays much more fun/less stressful for everybody. I'm also keen to adopt the idea of 'Special Days'...where each kid individually gets a 'special day out' with something educational/fun to do together! But COVID really muddled with my grand plans in 2020, so will try again in 2021!!
– Louise Garvin, Head of Enterprise
DAY 11: ARTS & CRAFTS
"My mum had spare plain blank kitchen tiles laying around, and deep in my arts & crafts supplies I had ceramic pens, so this year I have drawn people’s pets on to a tile as an Xmas present. I find people are very warmed by the fact it’s homemade and touched that I’ve spent time on it - and for me, it’s free!!! Win-win. This is my friends working Spaniel Mausy - not one of my best but can’t find my photos of the others, grr!!! Get artsy this Xmas gang is the message!"
– Eleanor Luther, Executive Assistant to the CEO
DAY 12: A TREE TO RENT
"For those of you that enjoy a real Christmas tree, I stumbled on London Christmas Tree Rental on Instagram. As the name suggests, you rent a tree during the Xmas period. It gets delivered to your door with its own stand/bucket so you can water it and then gets returned to the farm where it continues to grow until the following year. They say you can name your tree and request it back each year (kinda cute), and once it reaches 7ft it leaves the farm and gets planted in a forest somewhere (extremely cute).
In a time when more of my family seem to be asking for gifts “on Kindle”, I’d like to celebrate the enjoyment of good books. Whenever I visit someplace I will invariably end up in the local independent bookshop, browsing for a while and then buying something out of a mixture of curiosity and guilt. Books can take you back or forward in time and to different places. Here’s a few that celebrate the local and distinctive:
"If you do want to give actual gifts, I think food is the best! But traditional hampers are just so, so bad. They contribute so much waste (not to mention – unhealthy eating & drinking). They are typically packed-full of crappy products that don't align with my values, and the packaging is the cherry on top of a whole unsustainable gifting issue this time of year.
But...I love Christmas and I'm no grinch – so I set out to find a better alternative. There are a few companies now doing ethical, high-quality gifting sets that give back with each sell. I came across the Social Stories Club which makes hampers that curated to support thoughtful and ethical products – all packaged in the most sustainable way.
They say: "Our gifts are bursting with positive stories of social change guaranteed to excite the recipient. All our packaging is sustainable with either a biodegradable box or a reusable hamper. The wood wool which fills our gifts is sourced from sustainable timber forests. The products in our boxes empower artists with disabilities, reduce landfill waste, provide education of young girls, and more."
Similarly, Social Supermarket is doing some brilliant ones (we are using them as our own team at-home Christmas 'party' boxes this year). They're filled with positive-impact brands and share the waste they're cutting down on by only working with sustainable products.
– Sarah Fulton Vachon, Marketing Manager
DAY 15: EVERYDAY SUSTAINABILITY
"As I'm sure you already know, it is possible to do your grocery shopping in a sustainable way. But did you know that it's not just about going organic and avoiding meat?
Things like laundry liquids come in returnable, refillable glass bottles, and foods like nuts and porridge are all free of nasty plastic packaging. Once you're done, you can simply return those containers so they can reuse them all!
Last but not least, here's some super easy guides to descale the kettle and clean around the house with natural ingredients. Simple and friendly to the environment."
– Simone Vittori, Engineer
DAY 16: SUPPORTING HOSPITALITY
"We can all agree it has been a strange year. Socialising has been non-existent and going for dinner with friends seems like a distant memory. The hospitality sector has been badly hit in 2020 so this Christmas I’m going to be supporting local independent coffee shops and restaurants by buying local and gifting vouchers to my loved ones. Whether it is your friend’s favourite coffee spot or a restaurant they have been wanting to try, keep your favourite places going by supporting them this Christmas, we will be back in no time."
– Leah Sheridan, Account Manager
DAY 17: VEGAN LIVING
"I'd like to share a short story that changed my life shortly before last Christmas. I caught the end of an interview on Virgin Radio with Chris Evans just wrapping up interviewing someone about a change in diet and the ways people eat. He mentioned "The Game Changers". I made a mental note to have a look into it as I made my way home. That evening I had a glass or two or wine while I watched The Game Changers and made a commitment to become vegetarian, that was it - no more meat was going to pass my lips. At the end of the Game Changes on Netflix they put up a recommended viewing of Cowspiracy. The next morning I was up early and decided to lounge for an hour or so before starting my usual Saturday morning routine of tidying the garden and getting the weekly shopping. That Saturday morning I watched Cowspiracy and after that I decided to become a Vegan. And I have never looked back. Last Christmas was my first Christmas as a Vegan and I've been vegan ever since. I was a vegetarian for about 12 hours! The response I had from the people I worked with initially was full of School Boy digging. My family still ask if something is "vegan"? as if it's poisonous! But to be fair they are eating a lot less meat, and they secretly enjoy the vegan meals I make. One year in I can say it's been a real game changer for my life and I'd recommend anyone to watch the films on NetFlix. Ultimately things can go right and things can go wrong, but something going wrong can also open up possibilities for change. Becoming vegan has had a massive positive effect on my life. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!
How do you spot the Vegan in the room? Don't worry, you don't need to spot them - they'll tell you!"
– Eddie, Engineer
DAY 18: A FEAST OF FOOD & MUSIC
"Two things that I love at Christmas are good music and good food:
Food Every year for the past 10 years or so, I have been tasked in my family with the great honour of making the cranberry relish. In my opinion, no Christmas feast is complete without it! We've been using Delia's excellent recipe for years. My advice? Add extra port and extra sugar to intensify the flavour
"Following Eddie's vegan post and continuing the food theme…I thought I’d share my recipe for vegan vodka sauce! It may not be gift-worthy but it's the perfect warm pasta dish for winter and super easy to make Vegan Vodka Sauce:
Cut up a white onion and 3 cloves of garlic let it brown and simmer in olive oil (I’ll also throw in any veggies I have around)
After simmering, add in one can of tomato paste on medium heat until paste turns brick red
Add spices! (Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, onion and garlic powder…whatever you fancy)
Add 2oz of vodka on medium heat for a min or two
Add a can or 3/4 a can of coconut cream and cook on medium & stir for 5-10mins
Add some pasta water after your pasta has cooked! Let it cook in the sauce for 5 more mins
Can’t have savoury without finishing with sweet so also wanted to share a recipe I found for a super-rich and decadent chocolate cake (vegan, too!) if anyone’s looking for a dessert for their Christmas celebrations! I made it for Thanksgiving and while it may not be on par with Beth’s standards… It was gone in record time (48 hours) and no one in my family knew it was vegan."
– Erika, Transparency & Impact Analyst
DAY 20: LEARNING TRADITIONS
"My absolute favourite 'nuts' Christmas tradition - Krampus. Krampus pops up in Austria, Germany, Czechia, Slovenia and I’m sure a few other places. Krampus is a half-goat-half-devil kinda guy and is the counterpart to St Nicholas. Innocent enough, Krampus assists St Nicholas on the night of 5th December with sorting the good children from bad.
Well-behaved children are fortunate enough to get gifts of dried fruit and nuts (every kid’s dream) and those who have misbehaved are given a stick - I think the tradition is a “birch rod” but I’m told its usually just a stick…
My favourite thing about Krampus is HOW TERRIFYING HE IS. Part of his role is to scare children and he does so by being creepy af and dragging chains around.
In part of Austria and Germany there are now “Krampuslaufen” or Krampus Runs where people get drunk, get dressed up as Krampus and chase people through the streets. That’s not very Christmassy…"
– Beth, Product Manager
DAY 21: SOUP & SELF-CARE
"In my experience the Christmas holidays can also be a source of stress and anxiousness for many and after the year we’ve had and the recent announcements it wouldn’t be surprising. So my sustainable gift advice today is about being kind to yourself and doing one thing just for you every day. It could include things like:
Watching that 3 hour movie you’ve always wanted to watch but never took the time to (If you need ideas Marco has just restarted his cinema blog)
Going for a walk or a run, maybe giving yoga a try
Speaking up against your [insert relevant word here] uncle, or on the contrary giving yourself permission to not say anything this year
Reading one of the books Faisal & Paul recommended
Listening to some music (Ed shared some nice ones)
Doing any of the above with a nice glass of wine or any other drink you might fancy (maybe no wine with the run though)
Simply doing nothing, that’s allowed
For me, cooking is always that time when my head finally comes to rest so I thought I’d share one of the recipes I’ll be making this week. It’s super simple but very comforting and perfect for the season.
Celeriac soup For 2 people you’ll need:
1 medium celeriac
Vegetable stock (extra points if you made it yourself with veg peels)
Peel your celeriac and cut it up in rough cubes.
Slice the onion and fry it in a saucepan with tablespoon of olive oil.
Add your celeriac and cook for about 5-10 minutes stirring frequently.
Add your stock. I generally just cover the veg and adjust later if I want the soup to be more or less runny.
When your celeriac is cooked (you need to be able to easily stab it with a knife) blend the soup using a hand blender or a mixer.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and why not a bit of chili.
To toast the buckwheat place in a dry pan and cook for about 5 minutes, it should become brown and will start smelling nutty. Serve the soup with the capers, buckwheat & a dollop of olive oil on top. You could also add a spoon of cream or labneh to the soup. A couple of roasted hazelnuts would also replace the buckwheat very well."
"A good friend introduced me to making my own personal care products a few years ago and it turns out it’s incredibly easy - I’d urge everyone to try it! You can use the best of ingredients and choose your own favourite scents, plus you're avoiding nasties and saving on packaging. I now make my own deodorant, lip balm and body lotions and at Christmas I gift them to friends and family choosing the ingredients and scents that I think they'll love. My deodorant is just five simple ingredients - and it really works!
baking powder (2 tbsp)
arrowroot powder (3 tbsp)
organic coconut oil (3 tbsp)
organic shea butter (2.5 tbsp)
bergamot / any essential oil (I use 15 drops)
Mash it all together with a fork and transfer to shallow jars or tins so you can easily scoop it out with your fingers. Go about your day smelling like fresh, sweet citrus!"
– Alanna Curtin, Client Lead
DAY 23: SUBSCRIPTION DONATIONS
"I recently came across 'Art from Crisis'. It’s from the Crisis charity and so your donation supports ending homeless in the UK. You can sign up for a subscription and every month they’ll send you a unique A5 art card. Each one comes with a compelling insight into how the artwork was created, from someone who is experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It's a beautiful, heartwarming gift to receive every month in the post – and for a cause that's so very close to home."
– Sarah Fulton Vachon, Marketing
DAY 24: THE GIFT OF REFLECTION
"If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going.” - Maya Angelou
"The end of the year is a great time to look back at the past year and forwards to the next. Sometimes I make a little booklet for friends, family and my myself with tools for reflecting and setting intentions. My favourite format is free thanks to the team at Year Compass. You can download it here and share with friends: https://yearcompass.com/booklet/en-US-YearCompass-booklet-A5-printable.pdf
It’s been shown that writing things down enhances them in your memory, improving your ability to learn.
It can be fun to think of things you’d like to do and become in the year ahead. What mountain will you climb? What will you make? What friend do you want to make time for? How will you help others? What book will you read? (...And then you revisit your intentions a year later and see that you did 5 times more puzzles and 5 less mountain climbs)."