Yes, it’s yet another gift guide - but if you’re one of a growing number of people rethinking their consumption at Christmas then we think you’re going to like this one. Read on for our top tips for planet-minded gift-giving this year.
Rethinking how we give ‘stuff’
We know that we need to radically change our consumption habits to fight the climate crisis, and that includes learning to politely reject a culture of automatically giving people stuff at Christmas for the sake of it.
Further down this blog we’ve got loads of great ideas for non-physical gifts but many of us will still want to give some physical presents to our nearest and dearest, so let’s start by asking how we can do that in a way that’s a lot less wasteful and polluting.
Giving preloved gifts
Choosing secondhand gifts is a hugely impactful way to reduce your Christmas footprint, and it’s become much easier in the last couple of years thanks to our friends at Used and Loved. They’ve created a search engine that hunts through loads of different secondhand platforms, including ebay and vinted, to bring together preloved listings for you in one place. At Green Squirrel we use this LOADS. Hannah has found it especially helpful for buying second hand toys and games for the kids, while Becca found the Used and Loved gift guide really useful to get her started.
Do you feel weird about giving second hand gifts? You’re not alone – some people worry that the recipient of the gift will be offended or see the gift as less thoughtful. Worry no more – second hand gifting is growing in popularity every year; a 2021 poll found of UK adults who celebrate Christmas found that 62% consider the current climate crisis as an important factor when buying gifts and 23% planning to buy second hand items. We can each help reject the idea that new is better and normalise preloved.
With that in mind, here are our top tips for preloved giving…
- Be loud and proud about preloved! Include a little note explaining why you’re choosing to give second hand gifts, and don’t forget to let friends and family know that you love receiving pre-owned items. If you’re feeling really spicy (and you feel it would be received in good spirit) you could include a copy of a book about reducing consumption such as Consumed by Aja Barber or The Day The World Stops Shopping by J. B. McKinnon.
- Make it a group challenge. Would your family or colleague be up for a ‘buy nothing new Christmas?’
- Seek out the unique. Second hand gifts often have their own intriguing stories to tell; books with cryptic notes handwritten in the cover, handmade childrens jumpers, retro toys and vintage items you could never find today can make a really special gift. Or why not include a note explaining how you found the gift and why it made you think of them?
- Add your own touch. How about adding a handmade patch to a preloved item of clothing? Gifting a houseplant you propagated in a preloved pot? Knitting a snazzy new mini scarf for a preloved teddy? Or filling a cute vintage tin from the charity shop with homemade biscuits?
Giving homemade gifts
Don’t panic, we’re not suggesting that you go full Pinterest or elaborately handcraft every single gift you give, but taking some time for yourself to enjoy making something can be really satisfying and empowering. But what to make? Here are some suggestions from us…
Something to eat.
- There’s still time to make preserves that only need to mature for a few weeks. How about some posh bloody mary ketchup?
- Hannah loves to make biscotti as a Christmas gift as they’re really fun to make, last ages, and travel well in the post.
- Premixed dry ingredients in jars are simple to put together, like a pretty jar of couscous mix or a mug cake mix
Something to drink
Something to grow
- Make some pretty little origami packets and package up some seeds.
- Take a cutting from your favourite house plant
Something to make
- Becca loves to make her own mini craft kits for kids using things she already has, scraps she squirrels away or things she finds in charity shops and scrap stores. A few of her ideas include peg doll kits, flower crowns, paint your own bird box and a mini jewellery making kit – for teenage nieces she put together a bath bomb making kit.
Something to cherish
- Pick up some preloved baubles in a charity shop and used paint pens such as posca to draw or write on them.
- A notebook with your favourite recipes written out, with space for them to add their own.
- A homemade silly game or quiz. An annual favourite in the Green Squirrel family is a game of ‘Who Said It’ – we do this by looking back over a the last year of our WhatsApp group chat (there’s a lot of it!) and pulling out funny, odd, or out of context quotes. The challenge is to guess who said them – and why! This game always brings back brilliant memories from the past year.
Giving ethical and sustainable gifts
We fully acknowledge that both buying second hand or DIYing gifts can be time consuming.
If you’re buying new items then it’s getting easier and easier to support independent and ethical businesses – unfortunately it’s also becoming more common for companies to go heavy on the greenwashing; trying to persuade you that their product is a lot more sustainable than it really is. Here are a few things you could look for when shopping to help identify the shops and sellers who really are making the effort:
- Consider ditching Amazon altogether – and encouraging others to do the same. From tax avoidance and appalling worker rights to mountains of e-waste, here are ten reasons to say goodbye to Amazon for good.
- Be wary of vague claims, buzzwords, and tree planting. Instead look for specific examples of how a company is directly working to reduce their emissions, not just offset them.
- Shopping on Etsy? They’ve recently introduced new sustainability attributes to make it easier to filter by makers who are sourcing materials responsibly.
- Buying books or audio books? AbeBooks, Audible and Book Depository are also owned by Amazon. If you can’t find the book you need second hand then try bookshop.org to support independent bookshops or Xigxag for audiobooks.
- Consider buying from businesses that give back to communities or have a ‘buy one give one’ model.
Giving gifts that don’t involve ‘stuff’
Lots of us want to give a useful gift without generating more stuff. Here’s some inspiration to get you started…
Gift a subscription…
Gift an app. A decent app (or the premium version of a free app) can be super helpful for hobbies and interests! This Guardian article has step by step instructions on how to buy an app as a gift. What about…
Gift digital creative resources. A few years ago Becca gifted her musician partner some cool sound samples for use in his music – would someone in your life enjoy some digital sewing or knitting patterns or maybe an online painting class?
Gift to a good cause. Of course there are so many to choose from but a few that we like to suggest are…
- The Landworkers Alliance solidarity pot
- Client Earth
- Or invest in their community by donating to a place-based community project in your gift recipient’s local area. We obviously can’t help mentioning Railway Gardens here – you can make a donation on someone else’s behalf here or even buy a year’s Friends Of membership. To find an inspiring community project in the right area check out Carbon Copy’s map.
Plant a tree. We’re a little wary of tree planting schemes but – when done right as part of a planned rewilding scheme, tree planting is a beautiful gift for both people and planet. We recommend the National Trust’s scheme for UK tree planting or ReGrow Borneo for international tree planting.
Gift an experience. Theatre tickets, a trip to the trampoline park, GoApe, a future booking at a special restaurant or simply booking in some time together to bake, play xbox, watch a movie, go camping or whatever they love to do.
Help shift high consumption culture
Whatever our situation this Christmas we can each make a difference by living by our values and gently pushing for change. This year could you…
- Ask loved ones to reduce the number of gifts they buy for you, avoid amazon, or buy something non-physical?
- Suggest swapping out gifts for a new tradition. Board game night? Curry cook up? Film marathon?
- Ask that the workplace secret santa avoids joke and novelty gifts, or goes one step further and becomes a second hand/ home made/ re-gifted gift swap?
- Offer to share some alternative wrapping techniques with your family?