Christmas Gift-Giving Ideas for People Who Want Less Stuff

vegan gifts (image)

Shopping for a Loved-One Who Has (Just About) Everything

When shopping for someone who is difficult to buy for, it can be as easy as putting yourself in their shoes. When looking for something to buy them, ask yourself whether they need it, will love it, and will have no ethical objections to it.
If the answer to all three is “yes”, then it's an excellent gift. If it is not useful, awesome, and ethical, then they may not appreciate it, even if they are polite when they receive it.
If you're struggling to come up with a gift that meets all three criteria, here are some ideas to get you started:

Christmas Gift-Giving Ideas

1. A Charitable Donation

Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Ideas

If your loved one speaks passionately about any particular charities, then a charitable donation in their name may be a good idea.

There are many ways you can do this. You could simply donate a certain amount of money to a cause they approve of and include the certificate in their card.

Or you could buy them a subscription or sponsorship package, whereby they get access to grounds or events held by the charity. This also allows them to receive updates from a person, animal, or cause they have sponsored. This way they can be more in touch with their charity of choice and feel good by giving to those who truly need it

2. Something Biodegradable

People who are environmentally conscious appreciate receiving it biodegradable gifts. These are all great ideas:
You could even go a bit wacky and get them some edible gelatin dinnerware, or some hemp clothing. Try and provide six months to a year's worth, to make the present's impact last.

3. Something Reusable

Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Ideas

If the recipient is against all landfill waste and all consumerism, then an excellent swap for biodegradable goods is reusable goods. We use and dispose of countless different items every single day.
Take-out boxes, cardboard coffee cups, female sanitary products, tissues, baby nappies, etc., all have a reusable alternative. Talk to your loved one about how far they would be willing to go to save the planet, and consider any of the following swaps:

4. Something Digital

Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Ideas

Of course, the ultimate zero waste product is one made entirely of pixels. The digital world is very much a part of our daily lives, and practically everyone uses the internet every single day. So if you want to give a give with no carbon footprint and no landfill potential, give a digital gift.
Some great ideas for everyone include:
  • Music by their favorite artist
  • A digital copy of one or more movies
  • Digital games
  • Brain Training apps like Lumosity
  • A streaming service for music or movies
  • Add-ons or upgrades for games or gaming systems
  • A mobile phone contract
  • Mobile phone extras
  • A subscription to an online service
  • An app-store voucher
Or perhaps you could buy them some digital artwork from one of their favorite painters. Supporting an artist and presenting them with some meaningful commissioned art is a fantastic gift.
Finally, another great gift option is a device on which to use this media. An e-reader, or a tablet, or a streaming box may be a great way of gifting digital content now and in the future.

5. An Experience

Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Ideas

Another tremendous non-physical option is to gift an experience. Almost everyone has something they love doing. Some of these activities are free, but others may involve travel, materials, equipment hire, venue hire, etc.
So if your loved one has a hobby that is expensive, or something they have always wanted to try but could never afford to, you could buy them a session of it.

Examples of this include a holiday abroad, diving lessons, or a music festival. Or, if it is something cheaper, which they regularly indulge, you could buy them an annual subscription or membership. Examples of this include a gym, a museum, an arts group, or access to trails.

Or how about tickets to the movies, or a play? If you're not sure about the person's taste in entertainment, gift cards to a local theater will give them the choice to see whatever film the person wants. Some live performance venues also offer flexible gift card options.

6. A Plant or Animal

Not a great gift for someone young, inexperienced with living things, or who may not have the time or space. But if you have a loved one who already keeps, for example, fish, snails, or stick insects, you could consider adding an animal to their collection.
If they have green fingers, you could gift them a rose bush, or a small tree to grow on their own. If they have long talked about getting a pet, you could help them with the setup costs or the initial vet bills. Or if they already have pets, you could consider giving them something which their pets will use.

7. A Qualification

eco-friendly gift giving ideas

Some people are more interested in expanding their knowledge and achieving their goals.
So if your loved one is not big on physical gifts, a bit of a minimalist, or really into their work, then maybe a qualification would be a good option.
You don't need to look at putting down money to a degree, though! Expert instruction is available online, and most are short weekend courses. They will not cost you too much but could be a great start or addition to a career.
  • A first aid certificate
  • Cooking class
  • Drawing course
  • Web design
  • Baby massage
  • Songwriting
  • Language learning
Here are a few top-notch learning websites:

8. Nothing At All

Perhaps even after all this, you are feeling a little stuck. The person you are shopping for may be unhappy if you gift them a meaningless knick-knack, an ornament, or another piece of unethical clutter. But none of these environmentally aware gifts seem right for them either.
They already have all the biodegradable and reusable stuff they need… And you're not clued into any charities they want to support, and a plant or animal is out of the question. But, likewise, they have no digital goods, qualifications, or experiences they want either.
If you're stuck, remember: when it comes to someone who hates waste and consumerism, no gift is better than a bad gift. Just explain why you could not give them a gift, and they are sure to understand and respect your decision.

Shopping as An Environmentally Aware Gift-GIVER

So, now let's switch this around a bit. If you are shopping as an environmentally-aware gift giver, you may find your task is a bit more difficult. If you are someone who dislikes purchasing anything plastic (like me), you may be looking for gifts that don't sacrifice your own ethics.
If you want to make a less eco-conscious loved one happy, but not add to landfills, there are definitely ways of finding a middle ground.

A New Twist on Conventional Gifts

When it comes to gift giving, sometimes you have to reach a compromise. They have to accept what you can offer, or you have to give something you don't wholly approve of.
When it comes to matters of faith or fashion, these compromises may be hard, but possible. But you do not always need to make this compromise when it comes to being eco-friendly. Because there are eco-friendly versions of almost everything out there when you look around for them.
You can look at our first list of some great ideas that might make a fantastic gift for someone who is not as much of an environmentalist as yourself.
  • A gym enthusiast will love a full annual subscription
  • A gardener will have great fun with a selection of new seedlings
  • A new mother will appreciate some safe and eco-friendly baby toiletries
  • A student may have interest in online learning
You're still giving them what they want, just without compromising your values.

Something They Really Need

If you can't find something that has an eco-friendly alternative, or you believe they will not appreciate the alternative, you might need to compromise and get them something which isn't entirely aligned with your values.
A great way of doing this is to get them something they need or can't do for their self.
  • Some new tires on their bike
  • Tuition money for school
  • Your time – Offer to help them with shopping, cleaning, cutting grass, etc.,
  • Restore an old photograph book for them
  • Research their family history and compile the information
  • A membership to AAA is a great, practical gift for anyone that drives
  • Maid service – Who wouldn't like someone to do their cleaning?
  • Gift certificate for a personal care service like a manicure/pedicure
  • Gift certificate for handyman services
This way at least you know they will like and use your gift, and there's little waste involved.

Something They Will Get Some Milage Out Of

Another compromise that is not too hard to handle is to get them something they will use again, and again, and again.
It is one thing to say they should not drink so much take-out coffee… But if this is something they intend to continue doing, then getting them a reusable travel mug could help save the planet, and save them money.
Likewise, if you have people on your list who love fashion, give them some biodegradable clothing. Some companies make ethical and sustainable clothing and offer unlimited repairs.
Here are some clothing brands that are eco-friendly with stylish classics!
Or perhaps you could get them some items to extend the life of their household gadgets and goods. For example, dryer balls which soften clothes by pummeling them, or GreenBags or Bee's wrap that keep food fresher for longer.

Food and Drinks

Everybody loves food and drinks, and everyone has their favorites.
Food or drink gift is sometimes a great way of getting around giving gifts you don't agree with ethically. You could get your loves ones a luxurious, entirely ethical, gourmet food item. For instance, one year our accountant sent us a box of fresh dates from California. We enjoyed them so much, the following year we sent a box to our friends too! 
Or you could get them a gift card or certificate to their favorite restaurant. Or you could make them something yourself. Or you could give them an IOU for a meal out at their favorite place, or your favorite place, and go together and enjoy it.


eco-friendly gift giving ideas

So, you've gone through both lists, and you are still scratching your head. There is nothing at all that seems right, that they will like and you will be happy giving. But, at the same time, they're not the sort of person who will accept not getting a gift, or you will feel sorry for not giving them one.
It may sound cliché, but a money gift is rarely frowned upon. It might not be personal, but if nothing on these lists inspires you, there probably isn't a personal option for this gift-giving situation.

Wrapping it up in an Eco-Friendly Way

eco friendly gift giving ideas

Wrapping and presenting gifts can be an incredibly wasteful practice. A lot of wrapping materials have artificial dyes and plastics that make them non-biodegradable. If that's not bad enough, we then add all sorts of stickers, labels, and ribbons which will end up in the trash.
But we don't need to wrap gifts in a way that isn't eco-friendly. There are plenty of adorable, simple, and affordable ways of wrapping a gift without using wrapping paper, tape, and plastic bags.

1. Bare Naked Gifts

This might be a wise option if you are against the wastefulness of gift giving and do not want to perpetuate it one bit. There is no real reason why we wrap gifts up, other than perhaps the convenience that the receiver might look in your bag and see the gift before it is time. But all you need to do is keep is somewhere private or secret before presenting it, not wrap it up at all.

2. Biodegradable Paper

A cool option for people who like a wrapped gift but are not keen store-bought wrapping paper. You can buy biodegradable, eco-friendly wrapping paper online.
There are elaborate options or you could buy a plain wrapping paper and decorate it yourself. Either way, it's eco-friendlier.

3. Fabric Wrapping

If you are not keen on the idea of shopping online for your eco-friendly paper, you can always opt for fabric wrapping.
This is where you cut a length of fabric and carefully use it to wrap up your present, resulting in a beautiful, uniquely wrapped gift. You can even use this to support your local community by buying fabric from a local store, thrift shop, or small business owner. That way you are saving a lot of gas and time, and reducing your impact on marginalized communities abroad.

4. Getting Rid of Tape

Tape is a difficult one for many environmentally aware people. It is plastic, and the glue is made out of god only knows what.
Alternatives to tape, such as blue tack, or staples, are not always clear about their resource use, carbon footprint, or toxic impact on the planet. So what are we to do?
Well, before the invention of tape people usually did one thing when wrapping something: they tied it. Choose some natural twine, or some natural material ribbon, and use it to tie your parcel firmly together after covering it.

5. Bags and Boxes

If wrapping seems like an annoying hassle, then perhaps a bag or a box is more your gift-giving style. With a bag or a box, there is no paper, folding, tape, or neatness to worry about.
Of course, you will want to make sure that your bag or box is eco-friendly, but there are many options for this nowadays. You can get fully biodegradable gift bags and boxes, use a fabric tote bag or a reusable box.

6. Card Alternatives

Giving a gift usually involves giving a card, or at least sticking a label on the gift to let the person know it's theirs. Like with all paper products, you can always get a biodegradable, eco-friendly one made from reused paper. Or you could get creative and make your own reusable name tag with a message on it.

7. Reusing Your Wrapping

Finally, remember that there are always reusable options for everything. If you give your partner their gift in a cloth stocking, then you can use it again next year. If you use ribbon to wrap presents, you can bet they will reuse it somehow.

And when it comes to the wrapping your own gifts arrived in, make sure to recycle, use it for scrapbooking, or save it for re-giving, to prevent wastefulness.

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Written by Jackie Parker

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