Day 2: Gift Giving

This Christmas, step away from the online stores, the malls, and “amazing sales.” Stop guessing what someone wants while browsing through a catalogue or walking down the store aisle hoping something pops out. Are you just buying it because you *think* they will like it, or because they actually want/need that item? And are you just buying something that *you* like and therefore assume they must like it, too?

The thing is, unwanted gifts create a cycle of waste and can actually harm are already struggling economy.

Check out this clip from Adam Ruins Everything to see the negative impact of frivolous gift giving:

Though gifts like these have good intentions, they’re a huge contributor to holiday waste and often leave the receiver feeling awkward. What do I do with this gift I don’t want? Do I re-gift it and risk them finding out? Do I hide it in a box in my garage for twenty years? Do I sell it on Ebay? Why add more stress to an already stressful season by giving and receiving gifts that no one really wants.

Most adults buy what they need when they need it, and have a difficult time coming up with items when their family and friends ask, “Hey, what do you want this year?” Here are some solutions.

Don’t Waste Gifts (or money):


  • So be specific and avoid mixed messages. That’s the first way to avoid wastefulness.
  • Avoid physical objects. If you’re not sure what someone wants, why guess? Get them a virtual gift card or even money. This may seem “thoughtless,” but everyone is always happy to have the power to get what they actually want themselves and not have to deal with returns.

Buy An Experience:

  • Even better? Buy them an experience. Of course, this doesn’t have to be purchased outright, you could easily plan a day trip or weekend trip, or even a nice vacation for someone.
  • Has someone shown interest in learning a new subject? From singing to foreign languages to carpentry to… film making, many classes are available online. Try or Rosetta Stone.
  • Buy a Groupon for two, and experience a night cooking class, art class, escape room, archery lessons, or other fun activity that could be a cherished memory forever.
  • Other experiences include movie tickets, amusement park passes, a ski trip, a camping trip, go wine tasting, the options are virtually limitless.

Buy art!

Artists have always been the front runners in exposing issues, local and global. Many artists today use only recycled materials to show the world how our trash habits have damaged our environment. Art can make a great gift if you know a person’s taste well.

Photo Source: @robos_adoraveis

But even if you don’t, these adorable robots, handmade by @robos_adoraveis out of recycled construction materials, are sure to win over even the most difficult of gift receivers.

Make Something:

  • Put the yarn and dry macaroni away, this ain’t pasta necklace time. We have the ability to make wonderful gifts that will be cherished by the receiver. What can you make? How about soaps, candles, or herb infused oils?
  • Bake something delicious like bread, cookies, cakes or pies (these are my favorite gifts…food!)
  • Make your best dish and give that away as a gift. This sounds a bit weird, but the greatest gift I have ever received was homemade vegetable soup. It was so unbelievably good I still think about it nine years later.

We asked our readers, “What was the greatest gift you’ve ever received?” And here were some of their amazing answers:

“My grandfather in law made me a leather wallet with my name stamped on it surrounded by roses.” – @zerowaste_cencal

“My favorite gift received was tickets to temporary museum exhibit.” -@conscious.sf.rose

“The best gift I received was a trip to a wolf sanctuary!” – @katjasana

Photo by @zerowaste.mama

“My good friend handmade these beautiful napkins. And gave us zero waste kits. An absolutely wonderful gift, that last year round. A gift to us and our Mother Earth!”


“My favorite gift was a handmade doll house – made by someone in our small town. My mom bought it from him to give to me.” – @craftimism

More Resources:

Vancouver Metro has the right idea in their Create Memories Not Garbage campaign, which as even more great tips to have a waste-free holiday!

Now, how do we wrap all these gifts? For sustainable wrapping tips, check out Day 3!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s