A sustainable gift is a gift to future generations


The trend of holiday gift giving often promotes the purchase of unnecessary items. It promotes purchase items that often turn into waste.

Have you ever thought about the resources that it takes to produce the item you are purchasing? The impact production is having on people around the world? Or what will happen to your item if it breaks (or you decide you no longer need it)?

“Too often the environment is seen as one small piece of the economy. But it’s not just one little thing, it’s what every single thing in our life depends on.” – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

We’ve got some gift ideas for you to help ensure that your gifts are sustainable ones. Here are our top 10:

1. Create a Memory
  • Make dinner: Determine what their favorite dinner is and cook it for them. Make it extra special by including a fancy drink, appetizer, and dessert.
  • Go for a walk: Is your gift to a parent or grandparent who sometimes feels like you don’t make enough time for them in your busy schedule? Something as simple as telling them you’ve carved time out of your busy schedule to go for a walk (or maybe even one walk a month for the next year) will likely mean quite a bit to them.
  • Play a game: Does your gift recipient have a favorite game they’re always trying to find someone to play it with? Maybe it’s a board game, sports game, or video game. Make a memory by spending quality time together playing the game.
2. Acts of Service
  • Wash their bike (or car if that’s their main mode of transportation): Commuting in winter months can leave bikes (and cars) pretty muddy. Consider taking time out of your schedule to do the cleaning for your gift recipient so they don’t have to.
  • Run an errand for them: Does your gift recipient dread running errands? Consider offering to do an errand (or multiple) for them. Alternatively, you could offer to accompany them to help make the “chores” feel like more fun. Enhance the day by offering to take them out for lunch or ice cream on “errand day.”
  • Shovel their snow: If your gift recipient is living in a house, snow clearing is likely part of their winter routine. Help them out by offering to assist with snow clearing throughout the winter (or just on the next big snowfall if you’re feeling constrained for time).
3. Gift to Charity
  • Does your gift recipient have a charity they care deeply about? Consider making a donation in the recipients name. Alternatively, make a donation through a charity gift catalogue to support low income families/individuals around the world.
4. Experiential Gift
  • Event tickets: Know of a concert, show, or sports game that your gift recipient is interested in attending? Purchase a ticket for them.
  • Restaurant gift card: Give the gift of food! Determine what their favorite restaurant is (or help them try a new local restaurant by giving them a gift card).
  • Escape room: What better way to experience friendship than to do an escape room together (unless you or your gift recipient is extremely competitive…then this may not be a good option for your friendship)?
  • Class: Is there a class or workshop that your gift recipient would be interested in attending? Maybe a language class, paint night, composting or gardening workshop, or yoga class. Make their registration your gift.
5. Consumables
  • What kind of items does your gift recipient use on a daily basis? Here are some ideas (bonus if you’re able to find local, packaging-free options):
    • Baking
    • Frozen meals (Instant Pot and Crock Pot recipes can make cooking supper so much easier for your gift recipient)
    • Wine (or another nice beverage if wine isn’t their thing)
    • Bar of soap (a great alternative to liquid soap to cut down on packaging)
    • Shampoo or conditioner bar (also a great alternative to liquid shampoo/condition to cut down on packaging)
    • Fair trade chocolate
    • Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate
6. Membership
  • Museum or art gallery
  • Society or club
  • Gym, pool, or yoga/pilates
7. Plants
  • Grow a plant or repot one of yours: Be sure to use a pot you already have, or one you’ve purchased second hand rather than purchasing a new one
  • Purchase from a greenhouse or friend: If you don’t have a green thumb, purchasing your plant from a greenhouse (or friend who does have that green thumb) is also an option
8. Subscription
  • Video or music streaming
  • e-Book or audiobook service
  • Magazine
  • CSA share
9. Repurpose/Upcycle
  • Give new life to something you already have, turning it into a special gift. Here are some ideas:
  • Be sure to try and use supplies you already have, or are able to buy second hand
10. Thrift
  • If there is a practical item your loved one wants, find it second hand instead of new

Additional Considerations

If purchasing a gift new, consider giving a gift that will keep on giving… to the environment! Check out some of these items which will save energy, resources and money. Your friends and the environment will thank you.
Low-Flow Showerheads
Older showerheads can use up to three times the amount of water as newer, high-efficiency versions.
LED Night Lights
They provide the right amount of light, run cool, and use a fraction of the electricity that conventional incandescent bulbs use.
Reusable Produce Bags
Many people have reusable shopping bags, but fewer have reusable produce bags. These are a great alternative to the single-use plastic bags that are found in grocery store produce sections.
Wind Up Flashlight
You never need to replace the battery! A hand crank provides the power.
Reusable straw, take-out cutlery set, sandwich bag, or water bottle/coffee cup
Help your gift recipient cut down on single-use plastic used when transporting food and drinks.
Eco-Friendly Personal Care Items
Look for soaps, shampoo and conditioners that are biodegradable, non-toxic and not tested on animals.
Gifts Not to Buy! Planet Friendly has accumulated a list of the top 5 least environmentally friendly gifts:

  • Perfume
  • Clothes that need dry cleaning
  • Battery operated toys, tech gifts
  • A new car
  • Television
Looking for a child focused sustainable gift giving guide? Click here.

Remember: Things that are hand-made for the recipient have a special significance. Along with the item you create having inherent joy or usefulness, the homemade gift also carries a message of thoughtfulness and care, which is what gift-giving is really all about.