Black Friday :( Green Friday :) Some Sustainable Gift Ideas for Holiday Shopping

Growing up in my family, shopping may as well have been a basic need, along with food, water, coffee and vodka tonics. This is no exaggeration. As a child, I feel as though I spent more time in department stores than in my house or playing outside. The women in my family were literally always shopping. I remember car rides during the day where we would bounce back and forth between department stores and strip malls in search of the best deal.

Shopping as a Legacy

There isn’t a lot to do when you’re a kid in a clothing store. Except hope that you don’t have to try on any clothing while you’re there. But all in all the experiences of shopping when I was younger weren’t stellar. And that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy shopping now.

There is something about getting something new. Something that you’ll enjoy. Or know is going to fit that need you have, in you daily rituals. But when you’re buying things you don’t need or to feel better, then maybe we need to reassess our shopping habits.

And with the gift giving holidays right around the corner, what better time to take a look at our patterns than in the next few weeks? Some questions we could be asking are; who are we buying for? How many people are on our list? Do we have a go to brand, or type of gift or place? Are our gifting patterns sustainable? In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my gift giving experiences and what’s worked for me in the past. As well as what I’m looking into this season. Hopefully, we can find some sustainable and joy inspiring gifts while keeping the focus on what’s important. Not the new trend or “it” item, but the happiness of the person we’re getting the gift for.

Buy for the Personality, Not the Person

This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s worth mentioning when we choose what we’re buying for whom. What type of person are you buying for? Are they extroverted or are they a homebody? What are their hobbies? Their guilty pleasures? How close are you to this person? These are all elements worth exploring while selecting the gift that would best match their personality.

And then there’s the type of gift we usually give. Are you the type of person who likes to get gift cards? Our do you love buying clothes for your giftees? Do you like buying kitchen gadgets for people? Maybe the newest tech is your thing. There’s nothing wrong with any of these options, but there are only so many of any one thing that someone can reasonably own and use. Let’s take a look at some of the categories of gift giving.

The Foodie

I can say from experience that I have a kitchen full of tools. And if I were to lose 70% of them, I’d still be in pretty good shape. If someone you’re buying for loves to cook, why not instead of gifting another gadget that may go unused, find something that they enjoy daily. Like a special blend of coffee beans that’s organic and shade grown. Or if they’re tea drinkers, I was recently gifted this organic jasmine green, ginger peach tea from Kilogram Tea. There are also subscriptions you can purchase that sends a variety of teas to the person’s door each month.

This option could be used for any type of consumable the foodie in your life loves. It’s essentially something they would buy for themselves anyway, and it cuts back on the amount of objects the person will own. Saving those items from later being tossed in a landfill. Win win.

The Nondescript Gift

Gift cards are another perfectly good option. But what is the gift card for? Instead of buying something that will eventually take up space, why not think about something that will last in the form of a memory? Instead of a gift card to their favorite store or hobby shop, what about a certificate to a restaurant, or a live show. Giving experiences instead of items.

If you’re a fan of NPR, there’s a show called The Moth, where people get up on stage and tell their story. The show is fantastic to listen to on air or as a podcast. But they usually tell their stories in front of live audiences. Which means you can buy tickets for events that are happening near you. They’re held nationwide, so all you need to do is keep an eye out for an event that is coming your way.

Restaurants are another way to share an experience with your friend. Giving them a gift card to a restaurant that just opened, or maybe somewhere they wouldn’t normally go, is a great way to give a new experience over an object. This is something that will at least have a story once they’ve gone. And maybe the future site of where you and your friends will gather for a meal and some stories. Maybe before going to a live Moth show : )

The Fashionista

Buying clothing is a popular route to take when gift giving. But most people’s wardrobes are already filled to the brim with many articles that go unworn. And there are people like me who go clothes shopping mostly at thrift stores. Hoping to give some pieces of clothing a second shot at life. So what do we do for the fashion forward person in our lives?

When I buy new clothing, I mostly try to buy from a company that has pieces made from 100% organic cotton. This way, I don’t have to worry about my clothing ending up in a landfill, because even if it does, it will most likely compost before too long. And also I don’t have to worry about the garment releasing microfibers into the oceans and water ways as it’s washed, as I wrote about in my piece, “Is it better to buy organic cotton or recycled polyester“?

One place I’ve been buying clothing from is a company called Pact. They sell mostly the basics. Socks and underwear, while also selling bedding and bath linens. They use 100% organic cotton in their materials, and their clothing is comfortable, and reasonably priced. However, if you’re looking for something other than the basics, this article from Earth.org has a list of 16 sustainable clothing companies for shopping in 2021.

Gifting fashion can be a great way to get something special for a loved one. But remember that clothing is unique to each individual person’s style and personality. So make sure to have a chance to return whatever gift if it doesn’t quite match up to the person’s expectations.

The Techie

Buying sustainable technology is more difficult than I would have expected. I suppose this isn’t a huge surprise as they are coming out with new technology all the time. It can be difficult to find something that works with a person’s personal preference, phone carrier or other requirements they may have. Technology is becoming as personal as style.

But the sad truth is, there just isn’t a lot of options for buying sustainable technology. This article from UK blogger, The Sustainable Jungle, goes into detail about how the tech industry is behind the times in the sustainability department. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find some companies out there doing good work for the environment.

This article from the honest consumer, had a few recommendations for tech accessories. Ideas such as compostable phone cases and chargers made with recycled plastics. Again, pickings are slim but it’s a start.

I also came across a phone company making fair trade and sustainable phones, Fairphone. But unfortunately they are only offering their phones and other items to the European market. A company like this is just what the sustainable market in the US needs. Hopefully, with a little time and some foresight, there will be a company state side that will offer something comparable. I’ll be keeping an eye out and let you know if anything changes on this front.

Wrapping Up

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the spirit of gift giving. But if we’re just buying things because it’s a good deal or we already have something that’s thoughtful and something else ha caught your eye, giving can lose its meaning or thoughtfulness.

Be intentional with your gifts. Give yourself the time you need to make a decision based on your relationship to the giftee. We don’t need a whole bunch of stuff to remember how much we’re loved. Just a few well thought out objects that hold meaning to us.

Here are only a few ideas to get you started on your gift buying journey this season. Buy Me Once is another great source for inspiration in sustainable gift giving as well. So good luck with finding the right matches of gifts with people this season. And remember, don’t go overboard. Thanks for reading : ) peace

Image Credits: “Christmas Present Table after the gift giving” by Musicaloris is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 11/16/22

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