For many, the pandemic sparked a rethinking of what “normal” was in The Great Before –– in the face of lockdowns and an inability to see loved ones, the mass consumption of things we don’t really need began to feel even more…unnecessary. And in a code red climate emergency, the re-evaluation of wasteful Holiday traditions is the one of the greatest gifts we can give our highly stressed planet this holiday season.

A new report says that up to 80 percent of items—and any plastic packaging they are wrapped in—will end up either in landfill, incineration or—at best—low quality recycling, often after a very short life. Read more

For those of you looking to bring some cheer to friends and family while reducing waste, here are some low-waste Holiday gift ideas to get you started.

1) Normalize Secondhand Gifts

Maybe your loved one has been pining over something specific and you want to bring them some Holiday cheer by fulfilling this wish. Giving physical gifts is not wrong, but there are ways to find things that are more sustainable and won’t break the bank. And that’s in the secondhand market.

You might be thinking — how can I get a preloved gift when all my favourite secondhand stomping grounds are closed due to lockdown? Don’t fret – in the age of the Internet, engaging in the secondhand market isn’t as hard as you might think. Here are my go-tos:

The great thing about most of these platforms is they have built-in search engines that make it easy to find the item you know your loved one wants (this is how I found a gift for my daughter this year when she asked for a specific unicorn toy). And in the age of COVID, arranging a physically distanced pickup/dropoff is relatively easy. Sometimes, it may even be possible to arrange the item you find to be shipped.

Let us know in the comments if you try it out!

The future of gifting is secondhand

2) Give consumables 

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with gifting low-waste consumable items, such as:

  • handmade soaps that use locally sourced ingredients
  • locally handcrafted beeswax or soy candles that come in jars or no packaging
  • handcrafted bath bombs or soaks that use wildcrafted and local ingredients
  • fairtrade or local teas, coffees or hot chocolates (if you live near a bulk store that is accepting reusable containers again, you can upcycle your own jars to put these items in making them package-free)
  • fairtrade chocolates or other locally made sweet treats

The easiest way to find local, handcrafted items is to attend artisan Holiday markets in your area that feature local vendors. If you live in an area that is still in lockdown and Holiday markets are not open for in-person shopping, you can still visit their websites where many of them have listed their vendors. Find what you’re looking for online and order directly from the maker or contact them to arrange a pick-up.

3) Make a gift 

Did you pick up a pandemic hobby like knitting, sewing, macrame, painting or some other crafty skillset? Time to put your new skills to the test and make your own gifts! There’s nothing more meaningful than putting time and effort into something to give your loved one a one-of-a-kind handmade object.

>> Here are some handmade gift ideas.

What you make doesn’t need to be complicated; it could be as simple as writing them a poem or a letter that details all the things you’ll do together when the pandemic is over, that you put inside a handmade card. The point is you are offering them something meaningful that comes from you, and this embodies the true spirit of gifting.

These gifts can even be delicious homemade consumables! One of my colleagues is making soups in jars for loved ones. Check out these recipes

Our Head of Digital prepared delicious ingredients for homemade soups in jars to give as Holiday gifts this year!

4) Give them an experience

Skip physical stuff altogether and consider giving them an experiential gift. This could be anything from an online class to a digital magazine subscription to tickets for an online film festival or concert (or in person as things begin opening up again! Local cinemas and cultural centres need our support!).

Because the pandemic has forced so many to pivot and put their services online, the range of unique experiences now available to us on the Internet has expanded.

Find something your loved one is interested in and search for a unique online experience to give them. This has the added benefit of letting you skip the long lines at the post office or trying to arrange an item to be picked up.

Around the world, a growing movement of people are saying NO to mass overconsumption and YES to a greener, sustainable way of accessing things and working together as a community to ensure everyone has their needs met. Read more

5) Wrap responsibly

According to Zero Waste Canada, Canadians generate 540,000 tonnes of waste from gift wrapping and shopping bags every year — that’s the equivalent of 100,000 elephants if you need a visual! And over the Holidays, our waste volume goes up by at least 25%.

If you are giving a physical gift, wrap it the wasteless way and employ one of these Zero Waste wrapping techniques to reduce unnecessary Holiday waste.

Please wrap responsibly.

6) Give them the gift of a new normal

If the pandemic has revealed anything to us, let it be this: all the stuff in the world cannot a meaningful life make. Knowing our loved ones are safe, healthy and cared for; being able to spend time with them; feeling confident in the future we are leaving for them…These are the things that have been pulled into sharp relief over the past 10 months. And going ‘back to normal’ isn’t going to make this a reality.

By now it is becoming ever more crystal clear to an increasing number of people that “normal” is a crisis. While shutting the door on 2020 and never looking back might bring a sense of comfort, it may only be so long before the next crisis comes knocking —- or just kicks the door right in, as will likely be the case as the increasing impacts of a warming world are felt around the globe.

It’s time for a new normal. It’s time to ensure everyone has access to the healthy, nutritious food they need to feed their families. It’s time to ensure everyone has comfortable housing that suits their needs. It’s time to close the gap between the ultra-rich who are consuming more than their fair share —- and the rest. And it’s time to get off fossil fuels and begin the transition to the clean energy infrastructure that will not only cool the climate, but will jumpstart the economy and create good paying green jobs.

This Holiday season, please consider supporting our green and just recovery work in honour of someone you love. Give the gift of a new normal by investing in a safe, healthy future for everyone’s loved ones. After all, we’re in this together.

Rainbow Warrior Open Boat in Melbourne

Greenpeace is a people-powered, science-based, and action-oriented organization that does not take money from corporations or governments. This means we rely on individual donations from generous people like you to carry out our work.

Take action

Greenpeace is unique because we are a 100% independent organization funded by the people, not corporations or governments. That means we have the freedom to speak out on the biggest environmental issues of our time, free from third party influence.

On 17 July 2020, European leaders met in Brussels to decide on a coronavirus recovery package, and civil society representatives handed over a petition, signed by over 1,300,000 Europeans, calling for taxpayers’ money to fund a just and green recovery, not polluters.