The holiday season is here—and we can’t stop celebrating! Here come the snowy days and warm scarves, hot chocolate and good books, and fun holiday parties with friends and family. And, of course, it’s the season of sustainable gifts! I hope you enjoy The Ultimate Gift Guide: 8 Sustainable Gift Ideas For Everyone On Your List! Giving can be a beautiful way to show loved ones that you care about them, now and all year long.
Unfortunately, though, the holidays have become a consumer epidemic. The average American average American will spend $700 this holiday season, totaling to more than $465 billion in the U.S. Even worse, most of these goods end up returned, unused, thrown out, or forgotten about.
The holidays fuel buying, buying, buying—at the expense of the environment and your hard-earned dollars. There has to be another way to cut the waste!
And there is another way. Giving sustainably is the name of the game this 2021 holiday season.
What does giving sustainably mean?
“Sustainable” gift-giving has several parts to its definition:
- The gift is eco-friendly. It has a low impact on the environment with minimal chemicals and a low carbon footprint. Often, this also means the goods are made from natural materials and are managed for waste.
- It’s ethically sourced and made. During production, the workers and people in the surrounding community are considered for safety, wellness, and economic growth.
- It’s good for health. It’s not chock full of chemicals that will interrupt your wellness in any way.
- The gift is enduring. You want to give a gift that the recipient will use and love for seasons to come (unless it’s a consumable gift). That’s why we never recommend fast fashion as a gift option.
- It’s sustainable for your wallet. You want to protect your finances without blowing your entire annual budget in a single season.
All those definitions of “sustainable”
You can give the best gift, while keeping sustainability in mind.
What are the types of sustainable gifts?
There are 8 main types of sustainable gift giving you should consider giving this season. Not only are they low-impact on the environment, but they’re also super thoughtful and filled with love!
Below I give you the types of sustainable gifts—and some practical examples you can give to your friends and family this season!
Hint: Figure out your recipient’s primary love language. This can help you determine what kind of gift they will appreciate the most. The five love languages are words of affirmation (so the card will be their favorite part), a gift (a physical item), an act of service, quality time, or physical touch (like a hug). Give what your recipient wants to receive.
There’s something really fun and special about selecting an item your loved one will adore, wrapping it with care, and watching them rip it apart with glee. But there’s a lot of waste that can come with the gift giving process. If you give them a “new” gift, there’s a good chance it’s a cookie cutter gift from one of the big box stores. And even if the gift is high-quality and sustainable, it can be expensive to buy ethical gifts for everyone on your list.
That’s why secondhand gifts are the BEST solution for gift giving. They’re proven quality, novel and unique, super thoughtful, and best yet—sustainable! Check out the 5 reasons why secondhand items make the best gifts to learn more.
So how do you give a secondhand gift?
- Search your local thrift stores or vintage shops for cool, unique finds.
- Find a quality consignment shop like Current Boutique that offers professional cleaned, designer items from clothes to jewelry to bags and beyond. Pre-loved items deserve a little love this holiday season!
- My favorite part about giving a consignment gift is letting the recipient know where you got it. Add a little note about where you got it and how it’s sustainable. They’ll love learning just how unique and cool their item is!
2. Act of service
Not only is an act of service easy on your wallet, but your loved ones will also seriously appreciate it. Think of this like that coupon book you gave your mom when you were little (that basically said you would do your chores or cook a meal without making a fuss). It’s like that, but more adult.
But you don’t want to just take out the trash and say, “Merry Christmas.” You still want it to be thoughtful and meaningful to what the recipient truly wants to receive.
If their back has been hurting them, shovel their walkway or wash their car. If they’ve been stressed at work, make them king/queen for the day and don’t let them lift a finger. Or make them a five-course meal with their favorite healthy ingredients if they’ve been stressed at work.
A little act of kindness can go a long way - for friends and strangers alike!
Even better than just giving them an experience is doing it together! This quality time will mean the world to your friend, and you’ll both get to enjoy the spirit of the gift together.
Choose an experience that you both already love and share, or try something totally novel together! (P.S. New experiences help keep romance and desire alive in a relationship, so this might be a great option for you and your partner.)
Check Groupon to explore local experiences that you can get at a discount. This can be anything from a private helicopter ride over your city to an archery lesson to a “paint and wine” night to a comedy club or escape room. The possibilities are endless—and you’re sure to find something you and your friend will love (and that’s in your price range).
Or you can DIY an experience! Create a scavenger hunt around town that brings them to the local hot spots. Curate a spa day for them, or get them tickets to see their favorite sports team. The possibilities are endless!
4. Charity donation
Give a gift that gives back by making a donation in your friend’s name.
Give to a charity that supports a cause the recipient is passionate about. They’ll love that you thought of them, and supporting their cause is a direct support of your friend.
If you’re not sure what the recipient likes (if they’re a colleague or friend of a friend), then give to a charity that you are passionate about. They’ll feel a bond with you, they’ll appreciate the donation, and you’ll be spreading awareness about an organization that matters to you.
Want some ideas for awesome charity donation gifts?
Support animal rescues around the country… by buying chocolate! Rescue Chocolate is 100% vegan, 100% delicious, and gives 100% of its net profits to shelters and rescue organizations. You can give a gift and help save a pup at the same time.
World Wildlife Fund allows you to symbolically adopt an animal. This donation helps protect endangered animals and their habitats, so we can keep our world diverse and beautiful. With your donation, your recipient will get a plush toy, certificate, and kit to enjoy their adopted animal. There are so many species you can adopt; there’s a gift for everyone on your list!
Health and education
The International Rescue Committee offers “rescue gifts.” Your symbolic gift can provide a refugee survival kit, a year of school to a girl, emergency food for children, and so much more. This is a beautiful and meaningful gift that will touch the heart of any recipient.
Help fund small businesses all over the world by giving a Kiva gift certificate. Your recipient can choose to whom to lend their money, and when the loan is repaid, they can re-lend again and again. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving in a circle of sustainability.
The Unicef market offers two ways to give. Purchase an item from one of their artisans, which helps provide income and support for that artisan and their family. Or you can send an “inspired gift,” which sends lifesaving supplies to a child in the name of your recipient.
Children with cancer
Buy a St. Jude’s product, and the proceeds will go directly to funding research to save children’s lives. You can also give a “donation” gift, like donate a day of oxygen or a no-more-chemo party. This will pull on the heartstrings, and truly make a difference in the lives of a child and their family.
Toys for Tots
An awesome Christmastime charity, marine-run Toys for Tots provides gifts to children all over the country. You can make a toy donation in the name of your friend, or you can pay a monetary donation in their honor and Toys for Tots will send them a personalized card.
Remember this Jim Rohn quote: Only by giving can you receive more than you have.
No one can say “no” to a consumable gift. We can never get enough goodies - for your tummy or for self-care. “Consumables” is anything like food, coffee, tea, or body products - things that you enjoy until they’re gone.
If you love to cook or bake, consumables are an awesome, low-cost option to give your friends. People love receiving yummy treats that show you’ve put time, energy, and love into their gift.
If you’re a cook, consider making them a homemade meal and freezing it. They’ll love having a home-cooked meal that only takes a few minutes to reheat and enjoy. If you’re a baker, make them your specialty for them to snack on when the Christmas cookies are gone. Also check out these edible gift ideas by the Food Network for yummy treats that are easy to give.
Not big on baking or cooking? Give them
Body products are also a popular gift item, especially if you don’t know exactly what the recipient likes or wants. Plus, a lot of people won’t buy luxurious body products for themselves, so it’ll be an extra indulgence they’ll absolutely love. But make sure you’re buying ethical, fair trade, cruelty-free products to ensure sustainability and health.
Some of my favorite ethical skincare brands (that are also great for your skin) include:
I’m usually not a fan of giving “responsibility” (like you don’t want to give a dog or a turtle). But a small, easy-to-care-for plant is an awesome sustainable gift that will make your friend’s home a little brighter, airier, and healthier. Taking care of plants is actually good for your mental health and physical wellbeing, so gifting a plant is like gifting wellness to your friend!
We recommend giving a small plant, like a succulent or snake plant. It will freshen up their home without taking up a lot of room.
If your friend loves the local museum or has been dying to try out a new yoga studio, consider gifting them a membership for a set period of time. They’ll think of you every time they go, and they’ll love having access to a new and fun experience! Consider giving them a subscription that they are interested in but wouldn’t necessarily spend the money on themselves.
Subscription boxes like Causebox are also a cool idea, but some people don’t want to get “stuff” each month. So be wary of
You can upcycle or repurpose items you already have or have purchased secondhand to create something new. If you’re crafty, you can DIY just about any gift, from turning old concert tees into reusable shopping bags or transforming mason jars into holiday lanterns. Check out some awesome DIY sustainable gifts ideas here.
These were just some ideas to get you started. But a little research on Google and you can find other awesome companies and gifts out there that are great for the environment, the community, and your loved ones!
Want to give a “new” item?
If you’re going to buy a new item for your friend, why not choose something that’s sustainable and gives back to the community? There are a lot of products out there that help fund research, give a portion of profits to a foundation, or offer a one-for-one gift to someone in need for your purchase. Take a look at the company’s mission and commitments to find awesome products that will actually make a difference in the world.
There are also a lot of products that actually help their environment and community, like Current Boutique.
Here are some ideas for sustainable “new” items that your loved ones are sure to adore.
Pura Vida bracelets
Pura Vida creates gorgeous, simple jewelry—made by more than 800 artisans in Costa Rica, El Salvador, India, and beyond. Purchasing a bracelet helps provide an income and healthy work environment to individuals across the globe. Pura Vida is also committed to their communities and have donated over $1.9 million to more than 175 charities.
They even have a charity and awareness bracelet section. So you can buy a bracelet for a cause, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a relevant organization.
Socks by Thought
Giving socks isn’t a grandma thing anymore. A cute pair of patterned socks are so fun, cozy, and thoughtful—you can’t go wrong! These sustainable socks by Thought are made from organic cotton and bamboo, are sustainably sourced, and super high quality (and so soft, too). They offer a lot of cute patterns, and they even have sock gift boxes to make your gifting even easier.
Baby alpaca scarves by Fair Indigo
Everyone on your list will love warming up with a baby alpaca scarf from Fair Indigo. Alpaca is one of our favorite eco-friendly, sustainable winter materials. Alpaca wool is not only warm and comfortable, but it’s great for the planet too. Alpacas do minimal damage to their pastures, and they’re not harmed when their wool is shed—so there’s little damage to the environment. And baby alpaca wool is some of the softest material out there!
Plus, Fair Indigo has a commitment to sustainability, social impact, ethical production, and forever-fashion. You can feel good about buying their products—and wearing or gifting them!
Encircled is an awesome clothing line with a commitment to transparency, environmental consciousness, and fair labor and office practices. Not only do they function ethically throughout the production process, but they also make gorgeous + practical clothing.
Their goal is to offer clothes that can go from travel to work to sleep with ease. For example, one “scarf” can become a T-shirt, dress, and more—perfect for the person who over-packs or loves multi-function clothing. Their clothing is high-quality and weighty, so it’s sure to last for seasons to come! Your recipient will love how comfy, practical, and trendy these pieces are.
Check out these 6 sustainable fashion brands for more ideas on where to shop.
Sustainable gifts tips
- Focus on quality over quantity. One awesome gift is better (for you, the recipient, and the environment) than 10 just-okay gifts.
- Shop local whenever you can. Supporting neighborhood businesses helps your community’s
economy,while finding unique gifts that your recipient will love.
- Try to buy in-store rather than online. This will save a ton of packaging materials, so you waste a lot less.
- If you do buy online, reuse the shipping boxes to wrap your sustainable gifts.
- Use recyclable wrapping paper. Old newspaper is a cool way to recycle and give a vintage, minimalistic feel to your gifts. Check out these eco-friendly gift wrap ideas from Ecocult.
What sustainable gifts have you found this season? Share this article with your own tips and tricks for sustainable gifts and giving. We absolutely love getting advice from our Current Boutique community of awesome ladies, like you!