Give good! 10 Christmas gift ideas that won't cost the earth

Christmas retail sales in Australia are expected to grow 2.6% to nearly $53 billion this year. While it’s all too easy to pop into a chain store and smash out your shopping, don’t forget to support some of the small businesses around the country. 

We've rounded up 10 Christmas gifts from Aussie brands doing good things.

Brookie’s Gin Twin Pack

Cape Byron Distillery

Cape Byron Distillery has been taking Australian native foods to the world. Their Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin and Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin were awarded gold medals after being judged against more than 2000 international spirits in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirit Competition. Made in the traditional style of the English ‘Sloe’ gin, Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin is a first of its kind, showcasing the Davidson Plum, a rainforest fruit native to the subtropical region of Byron Bay. The pack includes a 350ml Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin, 350ml Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin and cocktail recipes.

Find it here for $80.00

Waverley Mills Travel Rug

Waverley Mills 

Every household should have a good picnic blanket. Waverley Mills in Tasmania is Australia’s oldest working textile mill. This old school travel rug is made from their recycled wool fibre which includes merino wool shearing waste, unused wool fibre, off-cuts and older blankets shredded, spun and blended together to make the recycled yarn. The yarn is then dyed and woven into the beautiful tartan design. 

Find it here for $199

Earth Greeting 2020 Artists Calendar


This gorgeous calendar features Australian flora and fauna illustrations. It’s printed carbon neutral in Australia with vegetable based inks using 100% post-consumer recycled paper and 10% of profits are donated to Aussie environmental groups.

Find it here for $29.95

Nightcap Ridge Gift Voucher

Nightcap Ridge

Send your friends or family on a sustainable weekend away. Purchase a two-night voucher for a friend and they will receive a third night free. Offer ends on December 20. Use code Nightcap2020 to book. The 70 acre off-grid property inside the Nightcap National Park offers a wonderful eco-experience for all ages.

Check the website for prices and availability.

Email Nightcap for a voucher.

Byron Bay Skincare Chai Bundle 

Byron Bay Skincare 

Byron Bay Skincare use all natural ingredients and they don’t test on animals. They’ve also planted nearly 6,000 trees through their ‘1 bottle 1 tree’ program which we think is awesome.

The Chai Bundle with Cinnamon + Spiced Chai includes a body wash and body soufflé.

Find it here for $26.95

Mennie Banksia Sock

Mennie Brand started in Byron Bay a couple of years ago and you can spot his socks on some of the hippest feet in Byron. 

You can take your old socks to their stall at the community markets and get a discount on a new pair. Then they wash your socks and, through local charity Liberation Larder, get them on the feet of those in need. If your socks are too icky, they donate a pair instead!

Get a pair here for $25

Five Oceans EcoFin

Five Oceans

Keen surfer in the family? Aussie company EcoFin, collaborated with shapers, material and hydro-dynamics experts to create the world’s first surfboard fin made from recycled plastic. Around 100 bottle caps, collected from beaches in Indonesia and Bali, go into one set of ecoFins.

Find it here for $75

Kitty Candle Co Bergamot Soy Candle

My Vegan Mart

Most candles, even the expensive ones, are made from paraffin wax, so you’re basically burning a fossil fuel inside your home. Handmade on the Gold Coast from renewable soy resources, these plant based, biodegradable candles are custom-blended with Australian essential oils.  

Find it here for $24.95

POD CO Taster Pack


The usual coffee pods take a gazillion years to break down in the environment so try these fully biodegradable and compostable pods which break down in around 90 days. The Taster Pack includes a 15-pack of each of our original specialty coffee blends which is 60 pods in total.

Find it here for $49.95

Little Company Facial

Little Company

I had a facial at Little Company earlier this year and it was the best! They have two locations in Byron Bay and Melbourne offering skincare treatments, facials and Light Room therapy. Their products are plant-based and organic and the building materials in their stunning Byron salon came from sustainably produced and non-toxic sources, ensuring visitors enjoy a completely natural space during their treatment.

Book a 1hr facial with 15min Light Therapy here for $209

Merry Christmas!

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Hang out in the hinterland during this weekend's Mud Trail

Suvira explains heat work during the firing process

We visited well-known ceramicist and sculptor Suvira McDonald who was gearing up for this weekend’s North Coast Mud Trail

Suvira’s studio in Goonengerry is set on a steep hill surrounded by rainforest. You wind down stairs to the circular, wooden studio which has big windows looking onto the sunny garden.

Suvira expects more than 400 art lovers through his doors during this weekend’s North Coast Mud Trail.

One of the many beautiful nooks in Suvira's studio

As one of the founding members of the Mud Trail in 2012, he’s thrilled the annual event has brought so much to the region. 

“When the Australian Ceramics Association said they wanted to do an open studio day across Australia, there were nine of us local potters who took part. We decided to promote ourselves collectively and it was an instant hit.

This year, more than 20 ceramic artists and sculptors are opening their studio doors for the Mud Trail which has you winding through the stunning scenery of the Byron hinterland.

“The increasing popularity of the Mud Trail really mirrors the huge surge in demand for the handmade.

“A few years ago, restaurants got sick of anonymous white plates. Now there is a strong dialogue between the potter and the chef in terms of how they want to present their food. It’s a similar story in the home, people are now much more likely now to have a handmade teapot or serving platter.

Suvira’s ceramics practice has a focus on domestic dinnerware as well as landscape interpretations and sculpture formed in low relief and free standing modalities.

The rough textures and earthy colours of Suvira's work

“Sculpture in low relief implies it’s a wall mounted concept, when it’s quite flattened whereas high relief is where there are protruding forms from the wall. However, as a sculpture it’s not like a painting, it has texture and undulation and the images protrude from the surface.

These pieces are reminiscent of an aerial view of the Australian landscape with its rugged shapes and earthy colours. Suvira begins work on a flat surface and then builds up the image before firing it in the kiln.

It is apparent Suvira enjoys the technical aspects of ceramics and the intricacies of construction, having been a teacher of ceramics and sculpture for 20 years at Southern Cross University. More recently, he has finished a long project involving the construction of a traditional anagama, Japanese-style wood fire kiln.

“Anagama in Japanese means excavated kiln. Traditionally the side of a hill was excavated and the kiln was built inside the hill and the earth was covered back over. When kilns heat up they expand and then when they cool they settle so unless the whole thing is compressed and held it will expand to a point of collapse.

“We’ve taken that kiln design and appropriated it in the West and have found other ways to contain the expansion with buttressing or metal frames," Suvira said. 

Suvira starts placing the pieces for firing at the back of the anagama and keeps placing items in until full. He will then light the wood fire and seal it up. To gauge the progress, Suvira uses little pyrometric cones  which measure ‘heat work’ - melting at a specific point and providing a more valuable indicator than a simple temperature reading.

Inside the Anagama - the brick walls on the inside are glazed from when the ash from the wood fire rises and melts on the wall  

Some of the results from this kiln were exhibited at ‘Smoke on the Water’ National Woodfire Conference 2017. His exhibition Vestigial Vessels was a solo showing of wood fired works at Makers Gallery Brisbane in 2018. Suvira also recently showcased his work at ‘Silhouette, the Body of Nature’ at Rochfort Gallery, North Sydney

Visit Studio Suvira this weekend at 3/300 Mafeking Rd, Goonengerry.

Mud Trail map.

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Lay off the glyphosate mate!

Pictured: Blair Beatie from 96 Bangalow

Why regenerative land management is key to healthy food and farmers

Just last month, Australia’s first glyphosate court case was confirmed. Michael Ogalirolo, a landscape gardener for 20 years, contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma. They argue his constant exposure to the glyphosate-based weed killer, Roundup, caused his disease.

The Origilolo lawsuit comes on the back of recent judgements in the United States where there have been three successful lawsuits against Monsanto/ Bayer for Roundup's role in causing cancer.

So why are cancer-causing chemicals still being used in food production?  

We talked to Blair Beattie from 96 Bangalow about regenerative land management and how it could help in removing chemicals from our food and water systems. 

“The challenge for farmers is generational, big corporations such as Monsanto have done a fantastic job at spellbinding people,” Blair said.

“We are already starting to see the effects of glyphosate and the issue is going to get more serious as the years go on because it’s in our food and all of our systems. It’s water soluble so it travels everywhere. We need to find better farming practices.

“I’m a huge glyphosate hater and it will never touch this property again. You don’t need it.

96 Bangalow is a small farm on 86 acres just outside of Bangalow and they want to become a best-practice example of regenerative living.

“An example of the difference between sustainable and regenerative would be if I asked a mate, ‘How’s your relationship?’ and they reply, ‘It’s sustainable’, you’d think it was a bit sad.

“Regenerative land management surpasses sustainable. It’s about giving more back, adding biodiversity, adding to the soil which ultimately adds to people’s lives rather than making them sick.

They started 18 months ago with food, healthy proteins and healthy vegetables, revitalising the land, soil amendments, creating high biology in their growing systems and regenerating the land at the same time.

“We’ve planted more than 1200 trees and we’ve got a riparian zone around the permanent creek that runs through it which is predominantly camphor and privit but we’re changing that.

The 96 Bangalow market garden is positioned a little different than most. The produce goes to restaurants such as Harvest and One Green Acre as well as health food stores. Most of what you’ll find is niche or unique products that have different flavour or nutrient profiles.

“The Okinawa spinach is one of our favourites which is a perennial you can use fresh or cooked. It’s high in antioxidants so it offers a little more nutrient bang for your buck.

"We also have succulents which is an emerging market for restaurants. Things like karkalla and sea purslane, sun rose and a few other varieties. We have salt bush is mixed in with warrigal greens as well as well as bower spinach, which is a native and you don’t see that often. 

On site there’s an innovation lab where well-known forager and food researcher, Peter Hardwick works with foraged and bush foods. Peter has more than 40 years of experience and also does the foraged food for Harvest.

“It’s kind of like ancient futures. A lot of the growing systems, especially syntropics, is based on how things have been growing for thousands of years and still are in Africa and Brazil today because they work.

"They’re symbiotic systems, where plantings help each other and feed each other, opening up different minerals and nutrients to other plants and the main thing is they’re high in biology and diversity of biology which means these wonderful funguses are making relationships with plants, offering nutrients, gaining sugars and carbon from them.

"Building those relationships under the ground is the basis for healthy and nutrient dense foods.

“Hopefully these court cases in Australia and the US will prompt a serious industry-wide assessment of the use of harmful chemicals in farming. Each day we’re proving that it’s easier to work with the land than work against it,” Blair said.


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Sustainable tourism takes off in the Northern Rivers with $7m project

There will be new ways to experience the region’s World Heritage-listed rainforests thanks to an exciting new trails project in our national parks.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will spend $7 million to develop sustainable recreation experiences in the Wollumbin, Mount Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks and Whian Whian State Conservation area.

The Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails Project will link Mount Jerusalem National Park and Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park with world class hiking trails and lookouts. There will also be an upgrade to the current visitor facilities at the Minyon Falls day use area.

This is expected it to boost the regional economy by attracting new visitors to local communities and encouraging them to stay longer.

A key part of the project is 4-day walk from near Uki to Minyon Falls, offering bushwalkers the ultimate rainforest experience. Bush camps will be built at two remote locations along the walking track network in both Mount Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks.

Taking a minimal impact approach, natural elements will determine the route reducing the need for extensive trail construction. Most of the multi-day walking track network will be of a Class 4 standard, which means the hiking tracks are best-suited to self-reliant bushwalkers with basic directional signage provided.

The network will however include higher grade walking tracks where required due to greater levels of foot traffic, such as the Boggy Creek Walk adjacent to the Minyon Falls day-use area.

Increasing demand for Aboriginal tourism experiences from both Australian and international visitors is driving a strong focus on Aboriginal culture and storytelling. Engaging interpretation, including opportunities for local Aboriginal-guided experiences, will be a key focus with the aim of immersing the walker in the natural and cultural landscape creating a strong connection and sense of place.

This project is certainly on trend, with nature-based tourism currently surging worldwide. According to an Ecotourism Australia report, there has been significant growth in the number of international visitors to Australia’s state and national parks and the potential of nature-based tourism is yet to be fully realised.

Globally, immersive experiences in nature are one of the fastest growth areas and Australia needs to continue to focus on tourism products and experiences that appeal to both international and domestic travellers, rather than relying on passive viewing of nature.

The Northern Rivers region is internationally renowned for its World Heritage-listed subtropical rainforests which are home to the highest concentration of marsupial, bird, snake and frog species in Australia. The region also holds large areas of wet and dry sclerophyll forest and pockets of sub-montane heath, which provide habitat for a large number of threatened plant and animal species such as the Albert’s lyrebird and Fleay’s barred frog.  

The $7.35 million project will be delivered in stages with completion expected in 2022. 

You can have your say on the plan with submissions closing on 11 March 2019.


New wedding venue and cottages in Byron hinterland

We speak to Fraser Duddy from Nightcap Ridge about their newly completed function space and cottages. 

Set inside the World Heritage-listed Nightcap National Park, Nightcap Ridge is an exciting new eco-destination right here in the Byron hinterland.

Construction of an event space and two luxury cottages is complete and they are available for bookings.

"With the help of a grant from Destination NSW, through their 2017-18 Regional Tourism Fund, we were able to take our plans to the next level and the result has been really impressive," Fraser said.   

The large Queenslander-style function space, The Argory, seats 100 and the open fire, vaulted ceilings and stylish interiors provide a glamorous yet versatile backdrop for any event. The Argory looks over the lily ponds which provide a beautiful spot to tie the knot in front of family and friends.

The view from The Argory over the lily ponds. 

There are two new accommodation options, Blue Fig Cottage and Rose Gum Cottages. Both have two bedrooms, an open fire, full kitchen and huge clawfoot bathtubs. 

The log fire in Blue Fig cottage.  

The Blue Fig cottage bathroom. 

"A fire pit sits alongside each cottage for guests to relax and enjoy a campfire under the stars. They can even order a stew or curry to cook on their fire.   

The large vegetable garden and orchard can be used to create a paddock-to-plate experience and mountain bikes are available to roam around the park and visit natural wonders such as Minyon Falls. 

In addition to the studio-style Logger’s Cottage, Nightcap Ridge can sleep groups of 10 across the three cottages making it perfect for group bookings.

"We are focused on delivering a world-class nature experience and good old fashioned service with a smile. More than 95 per cent of Nightcap Ridge guests have left a five star review so we must be doing something right! 

"We also do our best to be as sustainable as possible and share this ethos with our guests. Nightcap Ridge is totally off the grid, powered by solar. We reject single-use plastics, our food waste goes to the chooks, we’re beekeepers and plant a range of native bee, bird and butterfly-attracting plants," Fraser said. 

View Nightcap ridge on Facebook or Instagram.

Make an enquiry.