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  • Writer's pictureAlex

Sustainable Gifting Part 1: Ideas for low waste, eco-friendly gifts

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

As I dive further into homesteading and slow living, one thing is clear – holidays and celebrations do not have to be filled with excessive consumerism and waste. Stores are so overwhelmed with returns after the holiday rush that they are more likely to throw out the returned items than restock it for future use. That horrifies me as someone who tries very hard personally to reduce waste at home. I focus on recycling, repurposing, and reusing when I can. The thought of returning an unwanted gift only to make it end up in the landfill, or worse, does not sit well with me. It doesn’t have to be this way though! We can shop more locally, sustainably, and intentionally to reduce waste while still giving really nice gifts.

So, how do we navigate gift giving more mindfully? First of all, it is important to know your audience. Giving a gift to someone that they won’t like defeats the whole purpose of gift giving. You may laugh at this and think – why would anyone give a gift that someone wouldn’t like? However, I have seen this happen with families, friends, co-workers, and more. One way to avoid giving and receiving unwanted gifts is to provide a list. I personally don’t feel like lists are tacky at all – in fact it is the exact opposite. By gifting someone a gift they specifically asked for and wanted, you will automatically reduce waste and feel good about giving them something that will be put to good use. Getting input from other friends/family on the recipient’s interests is another way to ensure a successful gift is given.

If you aren’t sure what someone will like and don’t have a list handy, lean on consumable and clutter free gifts like roasted nuts and chocolates, artisanal spreads and crackers, plants, or soaps and candles. These gifts can be used up and enjoyed, without any leftover clutter hanging around. The great part about consumable gifts is that you can find many locally grown or small batch gifts that everyone would enjoy! I have a few pictures of some gifts I’ve put together in the past. Ideas include: breakfast baskets with jelly, pancake mix, and local maple syrup, a bottle of wine from a local vineyard paired with cheese and crackers, or handmade soaps shaped like trees. Shopping small and local means reducing our carbon footprint and avoiding extra packaging and fillers/additives.

Gifting experiences is another great way to show someone you care. Quality time is hard to come by these days, so being able to do something together with a friend or family ends up being so much more memorable than a wrapped trinket. Some examples include: a group lunch instead of gift exchange, tickets to a museum or sports game, or a seasonal farm visit like apple picking or goat yoga.

Lastly, if you have a hobby that brings you joy – gift your hobby! Sewing, knitting, woodworking, and canning are all ways to give gifts made with love. Handmade gifts are so special because someone took the time to plan, design, and execute a gift just for you! My husband is into woodworking and we’ve made some heartfelt signs in the past for gifts. I am big into canning and love gifting applesauce and jams. Other people are into knitting sweaters or scarves, or making toys for kids. Handmade gifts are always a sustainable option – especially if you use locally or ethically sourced products or reuse materials you have around the house. For example, the candles I made this year were made out of recycled peanut butter or jelly jars and all the apples I use for canning came from local farms.

If you do end up with a gift you don’t have use for but know someone else who will, re-gifting gifts or gifting second hand gifts is an excellent way to reduce waste, reduce clutter in your own home, and give items a second life. Let’s take books for example. Why do books always have to be brand new for it to be perceived as a proper gift? Let’s normalize gifting gently used items or unwanted unused gifts as a way to reduce waste, avoid overspending, and live more sustainably.

I hope you found this gift guide helpful and that it also helps reduce any guilt associated with regifting or gifting handmade. Giving a gift is supposed to bring joy. Let’s continue to honor this tradition with the planet and our wallets in mind. Eco-friendly and sustainable gifts are a great way to support local and small businesses, save money, and reduce waste.

Stay tuned for part 2 on sustainable gift wrapping!

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