The festive season is often associated with excess. Too much food, drink, spending – you name it we tend to go to the max. Probably why it’s also referred to as the silly season. If you are trying to reduce on waste and go the eco-friendly root, this can be an incredibly challenging time.

Shops and online marketing are already gearing up and getting us into the mood. Even with the many restrictions we are facing this year, it seems the looming holidays aren’t going to let up.  

However, this is a year like no other, as citizens of the planet we are collectively faced with the need for change and to rethink the old ways. This can be a little stressful if you don’t know where to start. 

To ease the stress, and make the festive season fun, here are some eco-friendly, low-waste, low-cost gift ideas for you to spoil your loved ones with.

There are some links to local providers here in South Africa, but there are bound to be like minded businesses in your area.

1. Teacher Gifts

This has been an exceptional year for teachers worldwide and a year end gift is not only a great idea, but an opportunity to express our gratitude. But, as much as they appreciate it, I’m pretty sure they have rooms filled with mugs, pens, books etc. labelled “Best Teacher”.

Why not consider giving them an herb plant for their windowsill. Rosemary and Basil are hardy plants and easy to grow, not to mention great additions to many recipes.  

If you are wanting some of these edible gifts and all the things that go with it check out:

2. Co-worker Gifts

I have yet to know of someone who gets excited about year-end co-worker gifts. You usually have a limited budget and zero idea about the person you must gift.  But these are exciting times and there are things happening in the world that affect everyone. Like reducing the number of plastic packets in the world.  

Reusable shopping bags are anything but boring. You can get highly creative here and if you are handy with a crochet needle or sewing machine you can go wild. Flamboyant Flamingos on one, motorcycles on another, prickly pears for Sue in accounting – hehehe. 

Hop on over to these stores for not just re-usable shoppers, but a shop full of plastic free, earth friendly goodies.

3. Foodie Gifts 

I know, this is where the herbs are supposed to go – right?  

People who love being in the kitchen and are trying to go low waste eco-friendly will tell you, there is a lot of waste and non-eco-ness that can happen in the kitchen. A big one is buying veggies from chain stores. The way some of these crops are grown are simply not sustainable and are doing serious damage to the environment. Added to that the amount of ‘ugly’ produce that gets dumped even though there is nothing wrong with it, is criminal. 

With that in mind, consider gifting a week/month supply of organic veggies from your local co-op or farm to table supplier. If you aren’t doing this for yourself already, you may be surprised at how reasonable the pricing is and how amazing it is to get fresh, organic veggies delivered to your doorstep with no unnecessary plastic or wrapping – Priceless! 

Our friends  Real Food Connection and Fresh Box have some awesome deals.

FRESH BOX have gone the extra step and built in food donations into their offering. For every fresh box you purchase you are helping feed an underprivileged child.  

4. Kids Gifts 

Kids grow up so quickly and their tastes change just as fast. Before you spring for the latest and greatest, see if there are moms in the area that are keen to do a swap. Most kids have an abundance of toys that have hardly been used or never for that matter. They end up just lying at the back of the cupboard. A duplicate tea set, tractor, puzzle etc.  

There are also specialty stores that cater for plastic free toys that can be kept as family heirlooms. 

Get thrifty and start looking around for sturdy, timeless gifts that your kids will appreciate and cherish, even when they’re adults.

These toy stores have no shortage of awesome gifts.

5. Gifts for Him 

Gone are the boring old days of giving soap-on-a-rope. Whether he shaves every day or is looking after a well-manicured beard there are stunning options available for the men in your life.

Shop personal care essentials and accessories that won’t break the bank. Metal razor kits are not only trendy, but they also do away with disposable plastic razors, and we’re all about low-waste gifts that you can use for years and years.

For all of your plastic-free personal grooming needs, check out:

6. Gifts for Her 

If the lady in your life is an eco-warrior then you have no end of gifts you can get her. Why not purchase an online course she can access at any time. Courses that were previously only available in person and in other countries are now moving online at a rapid pace.  

My friend Christina over at Natural Nerd has an amazing soap making course that you simply cannot miss out on.

 7. The Zero Waste Eco Warrior Starter Pack 

Many people simply aren’t aware of what’s available to them. They might be thinking of getting started with less plastic but aren’t sure how to go about it. Why not put together a pack of eco essentials that they might be hesitant to try or don’t even know exist. This may not seem like a glamorous gift, but it is always fun to try new things. 

Consider a kit with: 

  • Bamboo toothbrush (bamboo sourced from sustainable crops and not packaged in a plastic bubble pack) 
  • Toothpaste pellets (no plastic tubes, just chew the pellet, wet your toothbrush and brush) 
  • Bar soap (no plastic bottles, no plastic wrappers, and no strange ingredients)  
  • Soap bag (to collect all the left-over soap bits and use them to the very end – no waste!) 
  • Eco-Earbuds (made from renewable bamboo & cotton crops) 
  • Essential Oil blend (used instead of perfume or for health benefits) 
  • Face cloth (made from organic & sustainable cotton) 

To find your perfect comb0 try any of these stores:

8. Gifts for clients 

Before rushing off to purchase gimmicky gifts for you clients, consider donating to charities on their behalf and sending them a heartfelt card or email telling them about the charity and your decision. Or give them a list of charities they can choose from and you make the donation on their behalf. 

The world has seen fires, floods, earthquakes and pandemics in unprecedented levels over the past few years. 

There is undoubtedly a need near you or somewhere in the world. 

Here is a list of charity organization in South Africa that you can choose from:

9. Gifts for the person that has everything 

We all have someone like this in our lives. They have everything they need or want and aren’t really keen on getting anything more. In this case you want to be able to give something, but that does not impose or clutter.  

Something edible is usually a good bet. They can either enjoy it themselves or share with their loved ones. You could bake something or approach an artisanal supplier in your area. Homemade breads, condiments or desserts are so much better than store bought. 

Or you could try almond butter toffee’s! 

 10. Gifts for Fur Babies 

Just like their human moms and dads our pets are feeling the effect of our environmental woes. More than ever our pets are having to deal with diabetes, cancerobesity and skin conditions, just to name a few. 

Before buying that cute plastic chew toy or stocking up on plastic poop bags. There are now a host of environmentally friendly, compostable options. There are also many people starting to make healthy wholesome snacks for your favorite animal. 

Let’s Wrap It All Up

We cannot talk about gifts and not talk about the wrapping. Sometimes an option is staring you in the face like a beautifully illustrated dishcloth (see @terryangelosartor a t-shirt, but sometimes we need a little inspiration. Pinterest is probably the best place to go for this. I suggest typing in DIY Eco Friendly Gift Wrap, I also suggest you have enough food and water near by because this is a rabbit hole like no other. You could be lost for days!

Also consider telling the person receiving the gift that your purpose is all about avoiding waste and adding value. Let them know that if the gift is something they feel they wont use, they are welcome to pass it on to someone who will – no hard feelings.

The takeaway is this – yes the gifts may not be flashy and ‘trendy’ but they come from the heart and count. They count because they do no harm, they come from the heart and have longevity.

I wish you all a blessed festive period, no matter how you choose to celebrate it.