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December 2, 2019 —

Three Alternative Gift Ideas for a Conscious Christmas

A festive retreat at the Lost Garden Retreat in Suffolk introduces the idea of meaningful, sustainable and beautiful alternative gift options
Verity Gaida


Sophie Carefull
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At this time of year it’s all too easy to get caught up in the frenzy of ‘buy buy buy’. Our inboxes are stuffed with marketing emails and our social media feeds are a continual stream of sales posts. Even our own family and friends can create pressure to buy the ‘perfect’ gift, quickly making it impossible to do so.

Taking note of the excessive waste and thoughtless consumerism of Christmas, Olivia Tripp, founder of Weekend:IN, recently hosted a festive retreat in the beautiful setting of Lost Garden Retreat in Suffolk. The aim was to introduce the idea of meaningful, sustainable and beautiful alternative gift options. Writer and life coach Verity Gaida popped along on behalf of 91 to find out more. Below are a few of the tips she picked up during the retreat, as well as a few new-to-us independent brands to discover and make gift-gifting a pleasure this year.


Tackling the excessive waste of Christmas – both the literal packaging and unwanted gifts – giving an experience to someone you love will ensure your present stays with them far beyond Christmas morning. There are any number of workshops, classes and days out you can treat someone to, but for an experience which lasts forever, we love the ring carving kit from The Workbench.


The first of its kind in the world, The Workbench Box gives you the opportunity to create a ring you love from your own home. Letterbox sized, the box contains everything you need to mould your own ring, including two wax ring casts (one to practice, one to perfect) and access to online tutorials. The ultimate in mindful crafting, we found ourselves totally engrossed in gently carving and scraping away at the wax cast to form a complete one-off ring. The hardest part of the process was choosing which style to go with, but thankfully the brand has lots of boards on Pinterest and Instagram to inspire. Once you’re happy with your creation, pop it into the ring box and pre-paid envelope and send it back to the lovely Katie and Kirstie at The Workbench. They work their magic to turn your wax ring into the real thing, casting it in silver and sending your bespoke ring back to you, ready to wear for a lifetime and with the boast-worthy acclamation that you designed it yourself. The perfect, personalised present. There’s even a box designed specifically for wedding bands if you want to give a really special gift…


There’s a reason journaling has gained in popularity so much in the past few years. The act of writing your thoughts down into a physical book will always win over quickly typing a note into your phone. It forces you to slow down, connect with your thoughts and clear your mind. Putting pen to paper is a truly mindful way to spend time and makes the perfect gift for someone in need of unravelling their mind a little.


I was already aware of the Positive Planner before going to the retreat so it was a genuine treat to be gifted their gorgeous new Positive Planner Bullet Journal. Taking all the best bits of the original gratitude journal and the individuality of bullet journalling, this inspiring book is a really important tool in giving time to yourself. Ali, one of the founders, spoke passionately about prioritising mental health through journaling and creativity. She led a workshop on brush lettering and time flowed as we slowly recreated the beautiful cursive templates in the journal, labelling our months all ready for a more creative 2020.


If you’ve ever saved an Instagram post of a luxury glamping destination, it’s probable you’ve already come across Canopy & Stars. An environmentally conscious company dedicated to selecting the most inspiring places to stay in the great outdoors, they have a multitude of tents, yurts, shepherds huts, tree houses and more to stay in for those in search of ‘a life more wild’.


The Lost Garden Retreat in Suffolk is one such place, and where the Weekend:IN retreat was held. The four incredible safari tents are dotted around a lake in the furthest grounds of Hintlesham Hall, near Ipswich. To call it camping, or even glamping, would be a serious understatement: this is 5* luxury in unique, glamorous accommodation. Each tent sleeps 6 in 3 separate rooms, has a bathroom to rival most hotels and most importantly, a cosy log burner to read in front of.

As we shun jetting abroad in favour of a more carbon-neutral, closer-to-home vacation, places such as these are the kind of unforgettable gift which help us connect back with nature, and in turn, with ourselves. If you buy a voucher for Canopy & Stars, not only will they throw in an extra £50 when you spend over £150, but you’re also gifting so much more than a holiday. You’re gifting the anticipation of counting down the days until your break, the uninterrupted time together whilst away and the memories to look back on. Way better than the latest tech gadget that will be downgraded within six months.

More independent brands for a conscious Christmas


100 Acres Apothecary – Beautiful smelling products made in the English countryside using natural botanicals and essential oils.’ The rose, geranium and sweet orange body wash smells divine.


Bedfolk – Responsibly made cotton bedding, the beds were all made up with Bedfolk linen & everyone commented on how absolutely gorgeous the sheets were to sleep in.


Joe’s Tea Co – I’ve been drinking the Christmas Chai Rooibos blend ever since the retreat and it tastes delicious. Organic herbal infusion goodness.


Kinshipped – Sustainable luxury gifting basics. Vegetable inks on uncoated and recycled stock, their design are minimal and beautiful (and quite hard to part with. You may want to keep their wrapping paper and cards for yourself).


Abel & Cole – for something a little different, why not gift a food box to someone? You could buy a seasonal soup or smoothie recipe box – exactly the thing most people need on January 1st to get the year started right. And, of course, it’s all organic.

*All items/brands mentioned were very kindly gifted, but the reviews are our own. Thank you so much to everyone involved.

Event photography: Sophie Carefull

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