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Give the Gift of Sustainability

If you’re anything like me, the act of giving gifts fills you with joy! I love the hunt of finding something perfect, the excitement of keeping it a secret, and the look on that person’s face when they open it!

But, this year, like many others around the world, I’m conscious that the gifts that may put smiles on loved-ones faces, may not be making the planet happy. We are in a state of climate emergency, and mindless Christmas shopping won’t help.

Now, as much as I’d love to say I’m simply not doing presents for anyone, or I’m only going to get experience gifts, the reality is I want to give gifts and my budget doesn’t allow for the expensive, experiential types. So, instead of going cold-turkey or bankrupting myself, I’m hitting the charity shops, going to local makers markets, giving crafting a go and generally being more aware of what I’m buying!

To help anyone else that may be feeling an overwhelming sense of eco-guilt this Christmas, we’ve put together five tips to more sustainably gift-giving.

  1. Second-hand
    I love a good rummage around charity shops, and I’m a sucker for vintage fares, so this year I started there. Charity shops are brimming with amazing pieces just looking for a new home. From BNWT (brand new with tags) items of clothing, unusual books, to funky statement jewellery, barely-used bags or quirky tea-sets, you never know what you’ll find! I’ve had great luck this year. So far I've found a mid-century mini film viewer in its original box for my artist brother, a second edition copy of Little Men for my literary loving friend and a box of female-character driven children’s books for my little cousin. My top-tip for second-hand gift buying: don’t go in with a set idea of what you want, let the thrifting-gods guide you. And shop around, charity shops have new stock daily, keep popping in when you pass. You never know when the perfect gift will pop up.
  2. Handmade
    I am the first to admit, I’m not very classically artistic. My drawings tend to resemble stick-people and, beyond fixing a seam, my sewing skills are non-existent. So the idea of handmaking gifts was a bit daunting. However, I am a good cook and avid baker so I decided to experiment with homemade fudge recipes. After the slightly-soft first batch, I had perfected the base and was ready to make them festive with cinnamon and ginger. I then cut it up into neat little chunks, wrapped them into bundles with tissue paper and added some ribbon! My top-tip for handmade gifts: think outside the box! Do what you’re good at: be that drawing, photography, cooking, singing or knitting. And if you’re still struggling, make a book of kind gestures (‘make a cup of tea’ or ‘do the dishes’) that your loved one can claim back throughout the year.
  3. Experiences or donations
    Okay, I know I said that experiential gifts can be expensive, but if you do have the money they can make great memories. Think about something that supports local economies. Why don’t you look at Alpaca Walking in the countryside, or afternoon-tea in an independent café? You’ll be surprised with the quirky experiences out there. Or, what about a donation to a charity in somebody’s name? If they’re passionate about a specific cause then they’ll appreciate you taking the time to care about it too. My top-tip for experience or donation-based gifts: make sure it is something the recipient cares about.
  4. Locally made and sourced
    Shopping locally is something we should be doing all year round, but in the run-up to Christmas, it becomes even easier! I’ve found many pop-up makers-markets in local pubs and town halls. They've stocked everything from handmade jewellery to artisan soaps. I’ve also found many local companies and makers on social media. Including the jewellery maker, I have ordered a beautiful, handmade ring for my mum from. My top-tip for buying locally made items: just do it! You’re more likely to get something truly personal from an independent shop, and who doesn’t love to be unique!
  5. Re-gifting
    Now bear with me here, when I say regifting I don’t mean it in the way you’re thinking. Don’t channel your great-aunt Gertrude (apologies to any aunt Gertrude’s out there who are excellent gift-givers) and give your loved ones the same bubble bath set that they gave you last year. I’m thinking more about books here! Why not pass along the best book you’ve read this year? Or, if you can't decide on one, make a gift that keeps on giving. People love book subscriptions, so why don’t you make one for a friend. Turn the best 12 books you’ve read into a monthly book subscription for a friend! My top tip for re-gifting: be thoughtful! Books make great presents, and it’s likely you’ll have some read ones lying around. So clear some space and share the joy of a great story!

So, there we have it, you have my tips to gift consciously this Christmas.

Now, grab a mulled wine and get ready for the next instalment of sustainable Christmas.

Elizabeth Hunston, Communications Coordinator, Earthwatch Europe


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