We're open for Clearing
The University of Law ranks 10th in the UK for quality of teaching in National Student Survey 2024. Find out more


Alternative Gifts

With the popularity of ethical business models on the rise and millennials cherishing experiences over material goods, the popularity of alternative gifts and the businesses that supply them have flourished. A recent study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences rather than material objects.

By Elsa Tatam. Published 08 July 2019. Last updated 11 January 2023.

Lecturer and Programme Collaborative Coordinator at The University of Law Business School, Dr Sara Fisher said “We’ve seen a significant culture shift over the last few years that’s led to greater consumer scrutiny over what they’re buying, where it’s coming from and who benefits from their purchase. It’s becoming ever more the case that consumers’ votes (with their wallets) are actually having an impact on businesses and the way that they operate. This has resulted in an almost cyclical return to the days of old where people would buy handmade and locally sourced items from markets, fairs and independent specialist shops like butchers and grocers rather than the ‘big businesses’ that through the latter part of the 20th century were the cause of the demise of a lot of these small traders. The difference now, of course, is that you can find those locally-sourced and ethical products online, making anywhere in the world your local store.”

Today we’re looking at some businesses that have successfully embraced the world of alternative gift giving.

ZSL London Zoo - Adopt a sloth

You can adopt various animals at zoos across the globe but when it comes to ZSL London Zoo who can resist the cute sleepy faces of their sloths? Not only does your adoption fee help towards caring for the sloths in captivity but it also goes towards their conservation. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) field team visit the small isolated Caribbean island of the Republic of Panama, Escudo de Veraguas twice a year to monitor the number of pygmy sloths and to research their activity and habitat. They also work with local communities to educate people on the importance of protecting the environment and encourage sustainable living.

Virgin – Experience Days

Virgin Experience Days have been an experience market leader since their launch in 1988. Over that time they’ve expanded their catalogue of experiences dramatically as trends and customer expectations increase. If you thought their experiences were limited to weekend breaks and theatre visits you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Some of the more unusual options are the Games of Thrones location tour, an Only Fools and Horses dining experience, zombie outbreak days or a crime scene investigation day.

Oxfam – Support for a Refugee

Oxfam offer a range of charitable gifts ranging from £5 for a Fantastic Farm kit to help provide farmers in Ghana with livestock, up to £500 for the Safe Water for a Village kit, which goes towards drilling boreholes, installing handpumps, building toilets and promoting good hygiene in Zambia.

The £25 Support for a Refugee pack supports their Responding in an Emergency (RE) projects, helping to provide emergency food and clean, safe water during a crisis. Zaatari camp in Jordan is just one place where Oxfam is providing life-changing help for people forced to leave their homes during the Syrian conflict, who have already been through so much.

World Land Trust – Buy an Acre

The World Land Trust (WLT) was one of the first organisations in the world to focus specifically on the conservation of threatened habitats through land purchase. However, they do not WLT does not manage any of the areas it saves outside of the UK: the land is always purchased, protected and managed by local partner organisations or communities.

You can purchase quarter of an acre of woodland for £25 which will help in areas such as; Cloud forest in Mexico, Yungas Forest in Argentina, the rainforest in Ecuador, the dry forest in Ecuador and Beni Savanna in Bolivia. When you dedicate your donation to an individual they’ll receive a personalised gift pack along with the knowledge that your gift will go towards helping some of the most vulnerable woodland in the world.

Etsy – handmade items from across the globe

Etsy describes itself as ‘home to a universe of special, extraordinary items, from unique handcrafted pieces to vintage treasures.’ For those not quite ready to wave goodbye to the physical gift, Etsy is one of the most popular websites to find unique, handmade and often custom products. According to The Motley Fool, Etsy’s year-on-year growth from Q3 2017 to Q3 2018 was a whopping 41.3%. This just goes to highlight how people are stepping away from mass produced items and looking for the personal touch when gift giving.

With products suitable for all ages, nationalities, lifestyles and backgrounds, it’s not hard to see why Etsy has grown to dramatically in popularity over the last few years.