The holiday season, speciality days and birthdays are often associated with excess. Too much food, drink, spending – you name it, we tend to go to the max. That is probably why the Christmas season is also called the silly season. If you are trying to reduce waste and go the eco-friendly root, these can be incredibly challenging.
Shops and online marketing are geared up to get us in the mood, whether it be Valentine, Mother or Fathers Day or Christmas.
However, as citizens of the planet, we are collectively faced with the need to change and rethink the old ways. This can be stressful if you don’t know where to start.
To ease the stress and keep the fun of gift buying, 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
These last few years have been exceptionally challenging for teachers worldwide (thanks pandemic!), 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 a 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. Of course, you usually have a limited budget and zero ideas about the person you must gift. But these are exciting times, and things are happening in the world that affects 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 – hehe.
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 that a lot of waste and non-eco-ness can happen in the kitchen. A big one is buying veggies from chain stores. Some crops that are grown are not sustainable and are doing serious damage to the environment. 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 at 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 moms in the area 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 speciality 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. So 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, you have no end of gifts you can get her. So 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 rapidly.
My friend Christina over at Natural Nerd has an amazing soap making course that you 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 to 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, 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 your 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 donate on their behalf.
The world has seen fires, floods, earthquakes and pandemics at 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 give something, but that does not impose or clutter.
Something edible is usually a good bet. They can either enjoy it themselves or share it with their loved ones. You could bake something or approach an artisanal supplier in your area. Homemade bread, condiments or desserts are so much better than store-bought.
Or you could try almond butter toffees!
10. Gifts for Fur Babies
Just like their human moms and dads, our pets feel the effect of our environmental woes. More than ever, our pets have to deal with diabetes, cancer, obesity and skin conditions, 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. In addition, many people are also starting to make healthy, wholesome snacks for your favourite animal.
Let’s Wrap It All Up
We cannot talk about gifts and not talk about wrapping. Sometimes an option is staring you in the face like a beautifully illustrated dishcloth (see @terryangelosart) or 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 nearby 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. If the gift is something they feel they won’t use, let them know 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 not harm; they come from the heart and have longevity.