• Desiree

R’s of Green Gifting: Practical Ideas for Sustainable Gifts

Updated: Jul 16


Welcome back! Our last blog gave us an introduction to a green gifting path and ways to gift sustainably. With an understanding of the environmental impact of gifting, the next step would be to share some practical ideas for those sustainable gifts.


Presents have become the most tangible way humans establish and build relationships. Seeing someone's eyes light up when they receive a gift you know they would love, gives us a feeling of excitement. A dose of dopamine hits, and that’s probably why gift-giving (or the need to make people happy) can be addictive.


There has been a recent shift in gifting as more people prefer giving and receiving experiences instead of tangible presents. The anticipation of experience-based purchases are more enjoyable than material ones. The excitement of waiting for an event combined with the memories gained, create a deeper impact.


So bring more happiness into the life of your loved ones with Part Two of our Three-Part Green Gifting Series. Read on for our list of practical, yet meaningful, gift ideas that don't break the bank and don’t need to cost the Earth.


RETHINK

‘If we want to move towards a low-polluting, sustainable society, we need to get consumers to think about their purchases.’ ― David Suzuki

Whenever we purchase something, we need to think about how our consumption habits impact the environment, and understand that our resources are finite. Rethinking our choices as consumers, curbs our need to obtain material goods. Asking whether an item is a need or a want, or if there's an excess of packaging makes us realize that every single decision is important to keeping the health of our planet.

Take a different approach to gifting, and trade tangible gifts for experiences, workshops, classes, memberships and activities, which foster community and learning. It might be tricky to choose the right gift for the right person, so ask the recipient, or their family and close friends, for a list of activities they would enjoy doing. With a number of workshops popping up, gifting ideas are excitingly endless, like this candle-making workshop from Milk Jar Candle Co. in Calgary, Alberta. It is a great way to learn scent-blending and candle making, while using clean-burning, renewable resources, like coconut soy wax and natural wood wicks.


Here are a number of other ways to help rethink how you gift:

  • Shopping sustainably, with the intent to preserve the environment, is one way to be more conscious about your consumption

  • Explore other uses or ways that materials, items or gifts can be used.

  • Replace tangible gifts, such as tickets to a concert, event or show, museums, master classes, workshops, memberships, indoor activities and outdoor experiences

  • Give the gift of quality time. Go on a picnic, a hiking date, an evening at the movies, playing board games at home, or plan simple staycations.

  • Pampering is another experience that is always well-received but not really something people buy for themselves. Massages, spa days, bathhouses, facials, saunas and steam rooms, or even an hour in a float tank can be great, innovative gifts.

  • Create DIY products, such as bath salts, candles, jewelry and crocheted/knitted plush items. With so many tutorial videos online, the only thing you have to decide on is what to make.

  • Create a homemade gift coupon booklet, which lets the recipient redeem coupons for a number of different things, including free hugs anytime or a one-time professional house cleaning service. It gives the recipient the power to use whichever coupon or service they feel like redeeming at any given time.

  • Pay for services like housekeeping, babysitting, dog-walking, car maintenance or hire a private chef, which makes for unexpected yet beneficial gifts, to help lighten their workload at home.

  • Excite the palate with unique and memorable Canadian dining experiences like these listed here and here.

  • Offer to purchase groceries from these zero-waste stores across the country, They provide a variety of necessities from bulk food items to bath products that are good for you and good for the planet.

Rethink gift-giving by thinking outside the box, while encouraging waste reduction. There are so many aspects that we, as a society, can improve on. It all starts with being open to change and truly thinking about the impact of our choices.


RECOMMEND

‘My number one recommendation is to invest in people.’ ― Paul Romer

Recommending gifts and taking recommendations can be bordering on unconventional gifting. If we normalize creating a wish list for special occasions, it will make life easier for both sides. No more feigning excitement over an unwanted gift, and no more agonizing for days or weeks trying to find the perfect gift.


Here are a few ideas on how you can recommend greener gifting practices setting an example for your family and friends:

  • Ask for products that use less packaging, and insist on natural, handmade materials and reusable products. Avoid items like bubble wraps, cellophane and foam packaging

  • When hosting a gathering, choose reusable dinnerware over disposable ones. Toronto-based Go Out @ Home can help to set up your dining spread with their pre-designed table setting collections.

  • Hint for experience gifts rather than material ones like test-driving a fancy car to reuniting old friends

  • Recommend low-waste gift options like:

  • Electronic gift cards from their favourite store.

  • Get creative and make a scrapbook of memories, a photo album, or a piece of art

  • If you’re good at writing, create and/or dedicate a poem, story or song for your loved one.

  • Make a donation under the recipient’s name, to a charity of their choice.

  • Go paperless and personalize then send your greeting cards and invitations online from companies like Free eCards, or our American counterparts Greenvelope.

Gift-giving has always been part of building relationships. Recommending great, innovative and sustainable gift ideas is what we at Good Earth Gifting, aim to do.


REPURPOSE

‘It’s not about what it is; it’s about what it can become.’ ― Dr. Seuss

Creativity is making something marvellous out of things that are dilapidated and ready to be discarded. Repurposing transforms an item and finds another use for it, not originally intended by the creator. Quite simply, it is taking one thing and using it as something else. Unleash your inner craftsperson and use scrap materials to create unique, one-of-a-kind gifts that add beauty to your own space or someone you love. Before disposing of any item or household furniture, consider the ways in which they could be repurposed.


Below are brilliant crafts and ideas on how you can turn trash into treasures:

  • Old maps and comic books can be used as wrapping paper.

  • Repurpose old clothes and scraps of fabric like denim, fleece, cotton into soft items around the house like robes, quilts, pillowcases and bathroom mats.

  • If you’re hosting a meal at home, serve your baked treats on these DIY cake stands and dessert tiers, made with repurposed items.

  • Use mason and other glass jars as pantry organizers or a container to give out your goodies in.

  • Turn different types of cans into wall art.

  • Cut up old socks and winter accessories, and sew them into plush toys like these adorable sock animals.

  • Start a repurposing project with the family. They're a fun way to spend quality time while learning new skills.

  • Literally, anything can be turned into something, even toilet paper rolls can be made into mandala wall art.

Repurposing and upcycling have become a lifestyle trend in the past couple of years, proving the importance of sustainable living. In fact, the British Columbia Institute of Technology offers a course called the Upcycled Design Project, which teaches students to repurpose materials into beautiful and functional furniture designs.


Why not try your hand at creating your next gift?


REPLANT

‘Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.’ ― Robert Louis Stevenson

Did you know interacting with plants and trees can make people happier, healthier, and calmer? Or that they put you in a better mood? Plants purify and eliminate harmful toxins in the air and have been shown to reduce stress and improve concentration and productivity by up to 15 percent. It makes the perfect addition to any home or workspace.


Due to deforestation and the continual increase of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, replanting trees in areas affected by unsustainable harvesting should be more important than ever.

Indoor plants are one of the most beneficial gifts to give, as every small contribution to reforestation counts. Gift your loved ones a succulent, potted herb garden or choose from an endless array of plants!


Here are a few ideas that really stood out to us:

  • Bouquets of flowers wilt relatively quickly. Succulents and Terrariums last for much longer and are relatively easy to take care of. This DIY Paint & Plant Gift Box from Geoponics would be the perfect succulent or tropical plant starter kit.

  • Lucky Bamboo is said to bring good fortune to those that own them, especially if these are given as gifts. They are known as being resilient; their tough stalks can survive in water or soil, and in a variety of light conditions.

  • Plant a tree with Tentree's Seed-Paper Greeting Cards or Botanical Paperworks, made from recycled post-consumer paper. 2,500,000 trees are chopped down every year to make greeting cards. These are no-waste, biodegradable eco-paper greeting cards that compost when planted, allowing the recipients to plant the seed and grow it themselves.

  • Give the gift of microgreens at home with an all-inclusive microgreen kit from Bare Market

  • Give a Tribute Tree Certificate with Tree Canada, where you can dedicate a planted tree on behalf of someone deserving.

  • Create a decorative garden, indoor hydroponic or wall planters with PVC pipes, metal pails and hanging canvas shoe organizers. Great DIY ideas and/or tutorials can be seen here.

Plants are timeless gifts that are perfect for any occasion. A well-tended houseplant or garden is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving.


REDIRECT

‘It’s easier to get rid of things when you’re giving them to someone who can use them.’ ― Gretchen Rubin

Before throwing out some items in the house, think about how these items may be useful to someone else. Redirecting items that would have otherwise gone to the landfill is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint.

Create new family traditions by changing up some gift-giving practices. Here are some ideas on how to give your items a second home:


GIFT AUCTION

  • Create a memorable family tradition by doing a blind auction, where everyone bids on the gift without seeing its contents. The person with the highest bid gets to keep the gift. Make it exciting by allowing the gift to be stolen, after it has been opened and the contents are revealed.

  • For adults, organize a casino-style game night, where participants can use their ‘winnings’ to bid on gifts – opened or unopened.

  • Do a cash auction but set up basic guidelines beforehand. Establish bid limits for each item, whether use fake money or have a $5 cash in.

PURGE and DONATE CLOTHING ITEMS AND ACCESSORIES

  • Purge your closet and cabinets for anything you’ve outgrown in size and design. The reward for this would be a capsule wardrobe or at least clothing items you'll actually wear.

  • Create an inventory, and grab 4 large bags labelled with ‘keep’, ‘repair’, ‘donate’ or ‘throw’. Be strict and set rules for whatever you are keeping or whatever is going back in the closet or cabinet.

  • Donate to a cause that you know is meaningful to your recipient. Have a conversation with them to see what causes are near and dear to their heart.

  • Call your local shelters, seniors' homes and children's hospitals to see if some of your items can be donated or what items they need. Purge responsibly. Don’t add to the ‘dumped donations


Thoughtful gift-giving takes time and energy but can be more fulfilling and kinder to those who need it the most.


RESTORE

‘Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.’ ― Alice Walker

Successful restoration generates a wide range of benefits. Restoration is the act of repairing or renewing something. Examples could be revamping vintage accessories and designer goods, repairing antique furniture, or retouching tarnished family heirlooms and jewellery.

By doing so, you not only restore the beauty of these treasures, but you also help the environment by saving them from landfills.


Here are some gift ideas where you can restore, revamp, repair or retouch for your antique-loving friend:

  • Offer to restore heavily tarnished, silver-plated items like cutlery sets, jewellery and charms to their original shine

  • Shop at thrift shops and yard sales. Giving vintage items a second life requires more time than going to a regular retail store, but definitely worth taking a trip. There are antique furniture, books, chic accessories and designer goods, refurbished electronics to name a few. Remember, cost does not equate to value. Non-profit organizations like Goodwill and The Salvation Army donate over 80% of their profits to aid various charities.

  • Check out antique shops in your local area like The Old House Revival Company in Winnipeg, where they sell salvaged items and antique furniture.

  • Offer to restore your giftee's fine jewellery or family heirlooms by bringing them to specialized jewellers. Vancouver-based MJ Jewellers repairs and redesigns jewellery by extending its wearability while preserving its key elements.

  • Companies like Book and Paper Conservation Services in London, Ontario are known to preserve important documents. This can be a unique gift by bringing back an old photograph or diary.

  • Repair, do not replace. In our busy world, it is more convenient to buy something new versus repairing them. If you have the skills to do repairs at home (i.e. plumbing, electrical, construction etc), offer these services to family and friends in need. If not, in-home services are available to be booked from sites like this.

Restoring an old, meaningful item can mean way more to the person you're gifting than something brand new. It requires time and effort and in the end, can be more valuable than the money spent.


So before buying a new item, remember that whatever you throw away ends up in a landfill somewhere. Every new item made already has an environmental impact before it even gets into our hands! Choose presence over presents. Stay tuned for the last of our R’s of Green Gifting trilogy, featuring innovative and out-of-the-box ideas on sustainable gifting. Curious to find out? Check back next week for our latest tips, tricks and ideas to reinvent or disrupt gifting.


Have you done or given any of the suggestions above? Let us know in the comments below!