Your Guide to Sustainable Gift Giving
Gift giving season is fast approaching. In this month’s blog, Plastic Free YYC and myself have teamed up to offer our best tips to help you be kind to the environment, your wallet, and the local economy!
Look for gently used items or gifts in your home you never bothered to use. A friend might just need it! As the old adage goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” There is no shame in re-gifting your belonging if a loved one can put them to better use:
• Novels and recipe books
• Children’s toys
• Kitchen gadgets
2) Make your own
Giving homemade gifts is also about giving the attention and care you put into creating it. There is no good reason to break the bank when giving gifts:
• Harness your skills, like knitting, painting or woodworking.
•Bake sourdough buns or cookies with the handwritten recipe.
•Deliver gifts in a decorated, recycled or repurposed container to add flair, click here for more ideas.
•Print a favourite picture and frame it.
•Repair a coveted broken item and wrap it back up.
•Create a play list of meaningful songs.
•Make your own gift wrap from scrap fabric or newspaper. Click here for more ideas.
3) Buy secondhand
Great treasures are found in secondhand stores. For example, an adorable music box from a secondhand store could become a child’s favourite possession.
• Choose locally-owned consignment and thrift stores.
• Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, and your own friend network are good places to look.
• Find small pieces of furniture at garage sales and refinish.
• Buy second hand clothing items and alter them to fit the receiver.
• Make new jewelry from dismantled vintage items found in thrift stores, click here for ideas.
• Used books, especially limited edition hard covers, make great gifts too.
• Secondhand or consignment sporting equipment will make a child just as happy as new. Find bicycles, skates, skis and more. Try Two Wheel View for bicycles and Switching Gear YYC for all other sporting equipment and clothing.
4) Buy local
Local businesses have convenient gifts. Buying local is a great way to support the economy, and you don’t need to travel far or pay for shipping costs.
• Invest in a shared experience, like a massage or music lesson.
• Search for shops in your area that specialize in local made items
• Check out Zero Waste Directory, belocal.org or Calgary Dollars for more ideas in the Calgary area.
• Shop online from local artists and retailers. Many offer free pickup or delivery options with personalized service that you would never receive at a big box retailer.
• Where possible choose a local operated delivery provider such as Access Courier Calgary.
• Gift certificates from local shops are also appreciated.
• When purchasing from local places be sure to tell everyone. Help promote them by liking their pages on social media, making comments and posting pictures and tagging them.
5) Give “green” gifts
Give gifts that make it easy for the recipient to live a low-waste lifestyle. Think of sustainable items that can be used and reused often, like beeswax food wraps, unpackaged locally made bar soap, or cloth produce bags. Items upcycled into new stuff or made from recycled materials are also a great option. If they are made locally, even better:
• Reusable mason jar accessories make use of of old jars and promote a reduction of packaging waste.
• Bar Soaps are zero waste and make great gifts.
• Bags and accessories made from seatbelts and other recycled materials divert waste from the landfill.
• 3D printed recycled plastic planters are both beautiful and environmentally friendly. Put a plant in it to make it extra special.
• Beer bottle glasses are a great example of upcycling. Talented glass blowers heat the bottles in a kiln and open up the necks to make the perfect tall drinking glass to enjoy for years to come.
• Recycled skateboards make gorgeous accessories and jewelry. Local made too!
• Even foods can be upcycled. Check out these delicious cookies made from spent grains sourced from local breweries.
6) Recycled, zero waste and more - Canada
If you have a gift idea that you can’t find in Calgary, look for items or experiences available across Canada, preferably made with high recycled content, are zero waste or support a sustainable way of living. Shop Local Canada is a great place to start looking!
• For recycled clothing made in Canada try Unigalli Clothing Co.
• For reusable fabric beeswax bowl covers try Your Green Kitchen also available locally here.
• Buy music from Canadian artists.
• Buy memberships or donations in a friend or family members name for a
• Canadian charity or club that promotes sustainable practices and offers sound conservation solutions such as Velo Canada Bikes or Water First.
• For environmentally friendly holiday packages, you don’t have to go far, try Glamping Hub.
• Buy Canadian wine and beer instead of imported. Most liquor stores clearly mark where items are from.
• Source crafting supplies manufactured in Canada, preferably with recycled content or made from natural and biodegradable materials such as wool.
7) Fair trade gifts - Global
That gift can’t be found in Canada, either? Search for items that are fair trade.
• Coffee and tea aren’t grown in Canada, so look for fair trade and shade-grown varieties, many local coffee roasters source fair-trade beans, just ask.
• Chocolate also does not grow in Canada. Look for items that made by farmers paid a living wage and do not use child labour.
• The clothing industry is notorious for taking advantage of workers. Look for brands that are manufactured in first world countries or guarantee safe and fair manufacturing in their factories. Every garment must include where it was manufactured on its label.
• Body care products often use ingredients made in other countries. Find out if they are using sustainable practices or organic ingredients.
• Mining for gemstones and precious metals, like diamonds or gold, can be very environmentally damaging. Source items from companies that tell you how and where they sourced them from.
• When purchasing foreign made crafts and art, such as handwoven baskets, be sure to ask if it is fair trade. There are number of importers that specialize in women operated collectives. These are always a good bet.
• Spices and oils make nice gifts too but make sure the contents are pure and from reputable manufacturers.
• Gift giving should be fun and thoughtful. I just love finding that perfect one-of-a-kind item at a craft sale for my Mom or at local clothing shop my husband. So, one final piece of advise, wherever you decide to shop, don't do it on Amazon. For a great second opinion, read why Tuck Ross doesn't shop an Amazon anymore. Choose to support your local, small businesses this holiday season : )
Plastic-Free YYC is a local non-profit focused on reducing plastic pollution. They run initiatives and events such as the Zero Waste Festival, and work with businesses and government to advocate for a plastic-free city.
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