While gift-giving at this festive time of year is a tradition that dates back centuries, many of the products we give to each other contribute to the waste generated during the holiday period. So how can you find gifts that are thoughtful and personal, while at the same time being good for the environment? Here are our top gift ideas – and spoiler alert: none of them involve buying anything new!
1. Offer an unforgettable experience – that doesn’t cost the Earth
An experience is the perfect present, but make sure it’s not one that has a negative environmental impact. Check out the recipient’s nearest rural area for guided walks like bird watching, forest bathing or stargazing. Alternatively, offer a Covid-safe indoor experience like tickets to a museum, art gallery, or cinema, or even a voucher – perhaps for a local spa or yoga retreat, an indoor gardening or plant care class, or a restaurant that serves locally-sourced, seasonal dishes.
For a more personal touch, why not offer an ‘I owe you’ note for a home cooked meal or babysitting to allow parents a night off? You could also offer your unique talents – such as baking, crafting or DIY – for a truly memorable experience.
2. Don’t put a tree in your living room – plant one outside instead
Helping a brand-new forest grow: how about that as a present for your friend or family member? If you like the idea, donate to a tree planting scheme on their behalf – it’s a gift that will last longer than a lifetime! Plus, it will give both you and the recipient the ‘green glow’, or the good feeling of achieving something worthwhile for the planet. Just make sure you research the scheme beforehand to guarantee that it’s beneficial for the local environment.
Trees capture excess carbon in the air, so forests are natural air and water purifiers – in addition to being home to 60% of the world’s plants and animals. The EU aims to plant at least 3 billion trees across Europe by 2030 to help remove CO2 from the atmosphere and protect our wildlife.
So, contribute to the expansion of our forests – and help to green our rural areas, towns and cities – by giving the gift of a tree this year. Check out the EU tree counter now to find new trees near you!
3. Focus on pre-loved presents
Reusing what we already have is crucial to slowing down our festive consumerism. Did you know that the EU textile supply chain is the fifth highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, after housing, household waste, transport and food? If a garment is used for double the amount of time before it’s thrown away, more than 40% of those emissions can be avoided. And this applies to many other products too – the more we reuse materials, the more we can help fight climate change!
So this year, try regifted or re-used presents. You’ll avoid the carbon footprint of manufacturing and transporting a new item, and save precious raw materials like wood, paper, metals, and oil. Regifted presents can be extremely thoughtful and personal, while being a fraction of the cost of a brand-new item. Second-hand books, clothes, household decorations, electronics, or kitchen items can be found online and in your neighbourhood’s charity shops. The latter will also save you stress with delivery times while supporting local businesses!
What about kids? Re-used toys can make them very happy, and you could even swap toys and children’s clothes with your friends who are parents. Both can also be available via subscription services: a couple of months’ subscription on a clothes package or a voucher at a clothing rental company could be a great gift for an adult too! You can find great examples of such circular business models and gifts on the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform.
4. Breathe new life into worn-out or damaged items
But what if an item is broken and can’t be reused? You could still give something worn-out or damaged a new life. If you have an eye for sewing, look out for second-hand clothes and fabrics you could repurpose into a unique and personal cushion cover, blanket or garment. Or consider offering your talent as a gift, in the form of a self-designed voucher/coupon for fixing up your friend’s favourite item of clothing. Again, it also works for other products – you could offer to pay for repair or maintenance of your friend’s phone, laptop or bicycle, or promise to fix it yourself if you’ve got the skills!
There’s even a way to combine repair and buying new by choosing a present that gives waste a second chance. Online platforms offer products born from the concept of scraps reuse, with circular and local networks of producers and artisans joining forces to transform waste into new products. You can save materials from landfill while doing online shopping!
5. Give the gift of action through a Climate Pact pledge
Add something extra special to your gift – make a Climate Pact Pledge to act for our planet together with your gift recipient. For example, you could pledge to cycle to work together and offer your friend a membership to a city bike scheme; or gift an outing to a vegetarian restaurant combined with you both pledging to eat more plants. You could offer them a repurposed, zero-waste cookbook, and you could both pledge to cut food waste. Why not also consider scouting charity shops for a vintage jumper or cardigan, and give it in addition to you both pledging to turn the heating down by a degree or two?
Once you start to think beyond material presents, there’s an incredible range of original, planet-saving gift ideas you could offer this winter.
- Publication date
- 10 December 2021