Wholesome Ways To Give Back This Christmas 2022

By Kathryn Steane
8th Dec 2022

Two friends exchange gifts.

It's no secret we love Christmas and all the glitz and glam that comes with it, from beautifully wrapped gifts beneath pretty trees to swanky end-of-year parties with fancy food and drink. However, we also know that, as the Grinch himself discovered, 'Christmas means a little bit more'.

It's about spending time with loved ones, creating special memories and most important—helping out those less fortunate than ourselves. With that said, here are some simple ways you can give a little something back this festive season—who knows, maybe your heart will even grow a few sizes bigger, just as the Grinch's did...

Adopt A Sunflower, And Bring A Smile To A Sick Child

What could be better than putting a smile on the face of a sick child this Christmas (or any time of year, let's be honest)? You're right, absolutely nothing. That said, you'll wanna get behind this epic cause from Auckland start-up, Delicious Revolution (founded by Levi Brinsdon-Hall), who in partnership with the Starship Foundation is offering you the chance to adopt a sunflower for just $10, which will be planted in the hospital grounds around Greenlane Clinical Centre—bringing a dose of cheer to patients, staff, and the wider community (cute!). Delicious is planning to sow a whopping 20,000 sunnies across four different gardens at the hospital—where many Starship children receive treatment—alongside wildflowers and herbs, which you, the public, can actually help out with across the first three weekends of December, between 10 am-3 pm. Your $10 donation will go towards giving the sunflowers some all-important TLC, while a portion will also go towards the Starship Foundation. The sunflowers are expected to bloom between February and April next year, during which time Delicious Revolution will host a number of 'thank you' experiences for their supporters, including BBQs amongst the flowers with guest chefs, free weekly bouquets, and live music performances.

Smash These Chantal Organics x Bread & Butter Christmas Charity Cookies

Any opportunity to fill our bellies while supporting a worthy cause, and we're all in. Enter the legends at Chantal Organics and Bread & Butter, who have joined forces for a second time to bring us some delish limited-edition Christmas Charity Cookies, with 100% of the proceeds going to Auckland City Mission. Award-winning suppliers of sustainable and organic products, Chantal Organics have provided the ingredients, which baking royalty, Bread & Butter have then whipped into moreish coconut and chocolate shortbread. Find these treats online or in-store at Bread & Butter Grey Lynn, at Farro, and at Eco Store in Freeman's Bay. $16 per bag.

Gift A Cleaner Coastline With Sustainable Coastlines

How's this for a mind-blow... in the week following Christmas, us Kiwis produce a whopping 50,000 tonnes of rubbish (think packaging, wrapping paper, ribbons, cards). That said, you might want to consider giving environmentally-minded friends and family a 'donation gift' this year that allows local charity, Sustainable Coastlines to remove sackfuls of litter from beaches and rivers on their behalf. Options start from $20 for 10 litres of rubbish.

The entrance to the gorgeous World Vision Smiles pop up shop in Newmarket.Visit The World Vision Smiles Pop-Up Shop

Open exclusively for the festive season is a New Zealand first—a store where customers will literally walk out with nothing but a smile. We're talking about the magical World Vision Smiles Pop-Up Shop, located at 240 Broadway in Newmarket, which sells items for children and families in desperate need in places like Afghanistan, India and Uganda. Think school supplies, mosquito nets, emergency food and sewing machines, starting from as little as $10 (mere pocket money for making an actual difference in someone's life, right?). And we stand corrected—you WILL get a little something to take away, in the form of a card with your chosen gift printed on it, which wouldn't go amiss in a loved one's stocking. If you're unable to get along to the actual store, you can make a purchase online (though we strongly recommend heading there in person—this spot has been specially designed by Grand Designs NZ host, Tom Webster, and his wife Anna and is stunning).

Adopt An Animal With World Wide Fund For Nature

Not many gifts will bring about the warm fuzzies more this Christmas than an animal adoption through WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). The world's largest independent conservation organisation is giving you the chance to help some of the world's most precious species, both here and abroad and including penguins, tigers, albatrosses, and dolphins, with a symbolic donation that will contribute to protecting both them and their habitat. Donations can be made for as little as one month and come with a downloadable pack featuring a personalised adoption certificate and fact sheet (the warm fuzzies you'll get for free).

Give A Gorgeous Eat My Lunch Gift Box

Many of you will be familiar with Eat My Lunch thanks to their amazing work feeding Kiwi kids in need. Using a unique Buy One Give One model, every time you buy one of their lunches, grazing boxes or other delicious products, they gift a lunch to a child who might otherwise go without (they've clocked up more than 1,800,000 lunches to date!). Now the team have also added gift boxes to the menu, including some rad festive-themed options and even a vegan and gluten-friendly box. Stacked with quality goodies from award-winning local brands (think Ārepa, Ethique, Little Bird Organics, AF Drinks and Remarkable Chocolate Co. to name but a few), these beautifully-presented boxes would sure make a nice gift come Chrissy morning. And the best part? Depending on which gift box you buy (they range from $30-$200), you'll be gifting Kiwi kids in need anywhere from two to eight lunches—that's Nice List-approved, for sure. Delivery available nationwide.

Two people underwater tending to a coral garden, which makes a great gift for ocean-lovers.Adopt Coral On Behalf Of Your Loved Ones With Coral Gardeners

For a super cool and outta-the-box way to give back this Christmas, check out the adopt-a-coral initiative run by Coral Gardeners. Dedicated to restoring damaged reefs in the islands of Tahiti, these young eco-warriors grow and plant coral on your (or your friend's and family's) behalf, to bring life back to the ocean. Choose from one of 10 'super' specimens, which the recipient will receive personalised updates about, along with their very own adoption card. Who knows, maybe one day they'll even get to pay their piece of coral a visit.

Get On Board With The Warehouse's Be The Joy Campaign

As a kid, all you want for Christmas are toys, right? However for some families, even just one doll, car or teddy can be a big ask at this time of year and that's where The Warehouse comes in, with their annual Be The Joy campaign. In association with Variety—the Children's Charity and Women's Refuge—they're hoping to give more than 20,000 Kiwis a toy this year and that's certainly something we're keen to get on board with, hbu? All you have to do is purchase a $5 Be The Joy gift tag from any The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming or Torpedo7 store or online, and The Warehouse Group will turn it into a $20 gift for a child who might otherwise go without. Alternatively, you can donate a new, unwrapped pressie in-store or add a $1, $2 or $10 donation to your purchase—and you can do all of these good deeds right up until December 20.

Māori mermaid protecting the plant card from Oxfam, one of the best ways to give back this Christmas.Shop Up A Storm With Oxfam

The award for the most creative way to give back this Christmas goes to Oxfam, with meaningful gift ideas that are completely outside the box (and as such, don't come in one). This well-known charity/development organisation offers a great range of alternative pressies through its Unwrapped range, whereby you choose a gift card representing a particular issue, which is then given to your loved one while the physical present is sent to the person/s in need.

If you're in the mood for splashing some cash, choose the Rocket Science option ($121), which helps bring clean drinking water to the people of Papua New Guinea; or for something a little cheaper but with equally sweet sentiment, consider Bee Merry ($26), which helps families in countries like Vanuatu earn a steady, sustainable income from beekeeping.

Our personal favourite, however, has to be the hilariously named The Best Crap ($20)—send someone this card, bearing the words “I got you the best crap” and you'll be helping people in developing nations grow crops with the ultimate fertiliser.

However, if that's not quite to your taste, consider buying a more traditional gift like the beautiful, ethically-made homewares and clothing, or delish FairTrade goodies such as chocolate and coffee. Naturally, money from your purchase will go toward supporting the charity and its work with these artisans.

Make A Contribution To Your Local City Mission

City missions are a shining light for many people at this time of the year, helping to provide those in need with the means to enjoy a special Christmas. Assist these awesome organisations in spreading some holiday cheer by making a simple donation, be it in the form of money, food, or gifts to put under the tree (full Auckland details here, Wellington details here, and Christchurch details here).

Donate To Ronald McDonald House's Annual Christmas Appeal

Top of our to-give list this year is Ronald McDonald House Charities, which is on a mission to make sure that no child misses out on the magic of Christmas (because let's face it, this is one holiday that really is all about the kids). By donating to their annual holiday appeal, you're giving families with little ones in hospital and away from home the ultimate Christmas gift (time together!) by covering the cost of accommodation for them to stay at Ronald McDonald House over the festive season, as well as meals and more.

Give To The Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal

In the 29 years since it started, the annual Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal—a partnership with long-running charity, The Salvation Army—has handed out more than half a million Christmas presents to Kiwis in need, earning itself the title of New Zealand's largest and longest-running gift appeal.

The premise for this one's simple—buy a present of your choice, and leave it under the Christmas tree in-store (alternatively, you can drop it at the Click & Collect station). In a true show of Christmas spirit, the gift doesn't even have to be purchased from Kmart (though let's be honest, it probably will be); however, the company does encourage practical presents that last beyond the festive season, as well as those for teenagers and older boys (the groups it struggles most to get gifts for).

This year, the retail giant is also accepting cash contributions in-store or online which go directly to The Salvation Army, making the spirit of giving even easier. Oh, and all you last-minute shoppers out there needn't worry—Kmart will be accepting these offers of help right up until Christmas Eve. Get giving.

Restaurant Association gift vouchers which is a great way to support hospo this Christmas.Gift A Meal Out (And Support Hospo)

Hospo's had a rough couple of years (understatement!), so with that in mind, why not gift the foodie in your life to one or more of the Restaurant Association's Gift Vouchers this Christmas, redeemable at more than 1500 hospitality businesses nationwide? Vouchers start from $20 (perfect for smashing back a few coffees), through to $100 (ideal for a meal somewhere spesh).

Buy A Westpac Rescue Rashie

Help do your bit to keep our beaches safer this summer by buying a Westpac Rescue Rashie. These clever shirts are available in sizes two to eight and unzip to reveal clear and concise CPR instructions for parents and caregivers, should their littlies get into trouble around the water (incredibly, only 18% of us would feel confident performing CPR if required). Plus 100% of the $25 purchase price will go directly to Westpac Rescue Choppers, who are on hand to assist with emergency situations over the festive season and beyond.

Donate To The Christmas Joy Store

The Kindness Collective is bringing the feels, big-time this Christmas with a very special toy and treat shop that will operate throughout December. The Christmas Joy Store gives parents and caregivers in need the ability to shop for Christmas presents and food for their children, for absolutely free (because newsflash: over 50,000 Kiwi kids wake up on Christmas morning to not even a single pressie). Check out how to donate to this amazing cause, and other initiatives run by The Kindness Collective (including those for Women's Refuge and early childhood education centres), here.

A box full of children's books surrounded by tinsel. Give The Gift Of Reading With Kiwi Christmas Books

There's something magical about books, and something even more magical about Christmas-time. The team at Kiwi Christmas Books have joined the dots so-to-speak, and are seeking donations so they can give underprivileged kids the gift of reading this festive season. There's a tonne of ways to help, from donating books, to giving your loved ones their cute gift cards (for $25, the recipient gets a lovely card, while a child in need gets a beautiful book to unwrap on Christmas morning).

Stock Up On Stocking Stuffers From Project Jonah

Okay, so we know that sea creatures don't celebrate Christmas but the people that love them certainly do! Yes, your animal-obsessed friends and family will be stoked with a little something from Project Jonah (a voluntary organisation that helps New Zealand's marine life through rescue, action and protection programmes) in their stocking this year, from caps and clothing to ID cards (so you know what's what when you're out on the water) and even a marine mammal medic course. Help support this awesome organisation by shopping here.

Help Out Everybody Eats

Here at Urban List, we spend a lot of time writing about new openings and the latest and greatest foodie fads, but we also know there's a huge amount of food waste and food poverty happening, right here in New Zealand. So what better way to fire up those warm fuzzies this festive season than by helping out the incredible team at Everybody Eats, a charity that serves chef-prepared, pay-as-you-feel food that would otherwise be destined for the bin, at their two restaurants in Auckland and Wellington. All they want for Christmas is to keep up the good work, and you can help them by jumping online and making a donation, giving gift cards to family and friends (every $10 spent feeds two people in need), signing up to volunteer at one of their locations and more. The bottom line? Feed bellies this Christmas, not bins.

Keep the good vibes going and take in the best Christmas lights Auckland has to offer. 

Image credit: Jackie S, World Vision Smiles, Coral Gardeners, Oxfam, The Restaurant Association, Kiwi Christmas Books.

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