It is November already, another holiday season is upon us and I have seen people already talking about presents and shopping lists. Gift giving is not exclusive to Christmas, all year round we face the dilemma about presents and what to give.

Giving and receiving gifts is a custom that is linked to our relationships; we give presents to show our love and affection for people on special occasions. Some people really care about receiving gift, author Gary Chapman even defines this as one of the five love languages, as people really value the effort behind selecting and giving a gift.

There is much to say about these customs and traditions, but this time I just want to focus on some general gift ideas, given that a frequent reader of my blog suggested me to write a post about this subject and I thought: perfect timing!

Give experiences!

Experiences are an excellent gift idea and it is probably my preferred option. I touched on this one last week on my post about less stuff and more happiness. The novelty and variety of new experiences give us happiness, Why don’t we spread that joy with others?

  • Usually experiences have less impact on the planet than manufacturing physical objects and all the resources that are needed (of course depending on the experience too)
  • Experiences will remain on someone’s memories for long time.
  • They can tell stories about the time they experienced xyz thanks to your present.
  • They will probably learn something from the experience, perhaps even something about themselves, which may be more valuable than a material possession gathering dust around the house.

These are my favourite examples of vouchers I have given to my husband in the past: a class to learn growing mushrooms at home, a ticket to see Neil deGrasse Tyson live and a tree climbing experience. Really these days you can find hundreds of options and activities to choose for all the interests and budgets.

Not sure what could it be? Consider things like tickets for events (concerts, ballet, theatre, opera, sport game, parties), to visit places (art galleries, museum, drive-in movie theatre, aquariums, farms), courses (dancing, pasta-making and many other cooking options, sewing, gardening, languages), activities (rollerblading, ice skating, horse riding, escape rooms), dining experiences, spa and beauty treatment vouchers and so much more.

For more ideas, these days there are heaps of websites that offer only experiences (similar to Red Balloon or Adrenaline). The other day I even discovered one dedicated to experiences for kids here in Australia (My Best Gift). So options are really endless…

Thoughtful and greener gifts

If experiences is not your thing and you prefer to give something tangible to your loved ones then here there are some options to consider:

1. Reusable items

Since I launched this project “Greener Identity”, I have been more open about my green lifestyle with friends, I went from having a personal quest to share it with more people around me. Because of this, I have been more inclined to give them reusable items. Why? Because beyond the act of giving, with these objects I am also sending a message, a proposition, an invitation to give this a go, to embrace these green changes and to be part of the movement.

I have given reusable water bottles, foldable shopping bags, produce bags, safety razors, cutlery & cutlery cases, stainless steel straws and face pads. I’ll be honest, at the beginning I wasn’t too sure if it would be a good idea, I didn’t know if they would like and use this type of presents, but then I thought: “It is exactly the same with any present you give!!!”

When we give we don’t know if the person will like it or not, regardless of the object and how much we love it. All we know is that this person will appreciate the fact that we took time, effort and money to pick something for them and it is a way to show our affection.

Reusable water bottle

Reusable water bottle I gave to my friend Cristina

Well, so far I think it has been great. Friends have been receptive and I have seen them using many of these items. Some have even developed new habits thanks to these objects, so I couldn’t be happier!

2. Home-made/artisan edible presents

Sourdough bread, chutneys, Dijon mustard, jam, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, preserved fruit…hmmm I am getting hungry!!!. That’s the beauty of edible gifts, everyone eats and enjoys most of these products, so these gifts are usually very useful and appreciated.

I love the idea of home-made because to I feel that to some extent they are even more valuable as the giver put extra time and effort on preparing something.

If home-made is not an option, local artisan items are generally a very good choice. They are usually made with seasonal and local ingredients and these products are way more unique than mass produced items you can find in the supermarkets. On top of that, when we buy from these small businesses we are supporting a local family which is a great thing. Select items that come in glass and paper, simple is better.

3. Plants/Flowers

This option of course depends on the person who receives the gift, but many people love flowers and plants, including me. I feel they have a calming effect but at the same time they can bring a lot of happy vibes to any environment.

The presence of plants has been associated with positive results like increased happiness and wellbeing. For instance, ScienceDaily reported in this article results from a study done in University of Exeter, that concluded: “‘Green’ offices with plants make staff happier and more productive than ‘lean’ designs stripped of greenery”

Flowers usually bring similar relaxing effects. According to this research article: “Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviours and even memory for both males and females”

My only advice if you choose to give plants is to be mindful of the maintenance required. Once a friend gave me a beautiful orchid, it was amazing! It had several flowers and it came in a beautiful pot. When I checked the little tag to read the care instructions, it said I had to apply fertiliser every two weeks and also had very special water requirements. Of course the plant didn’t last much! Pick low-maintenance plants that people can keep and appreciate.

Peace Lily - Indoor plant

Peace Lily – Indoor plant

If you choose to give flowers, please buy local. Recently a flowers grower left hundreds of tulips in a busy lane of Melbourne city as they were “not quite good to sell” and they would have been thrown out. He wanted to raise awareness about the fact that this industry is under a lot of pressure due to imported flowers. It was a good reminder for people to buy Local flowers.

4. Local hand-made gifts

Related to point #2, handmade local gifts are also a good option. They are so unique, full of love and creativity. They usually offer great quality compared to some cheap mass-produced items and again we are supporting someone directly.

It is important to think local as there are many crafts made overseas and shipped halfway around the world using fuel and releasing more carbon dioxide. I sometimes have mixed feelings because I have seen that that some imported handmade items come from projects that support communities in developing countries and that’s a different story.

Pick products made with natural fibres and sustainable materials and little packaging. Local craft markets are a great source of inspiration as you can find handmade: clothing,  jewellery, soaps, wooden toys, decorations, soy candles, natural beauty products and so much more.

If you don’t have access to these type of crafts, check, so many handmade products there, but ensure you use the filter to select items in your city, otherwise they’ll list you products all over the world!

Handmade cutlery case

Handmade cutlery cases I bought for some friends

5. Vintage presents

These days you can find many pre-loved items in great condition. Some time ago I wrote a blog post about why buying second-hand clothes is a good strategy but it applies to everything.

When we buy second-hand we are getting something that otherwise could end up in landfill, reducing the demand on new manufactured products and reducing the impact on the planet, did I mention we save money too?

If you want something unique you can go to a vintage market/shop. I am sure you’ll find some treasures there. Otherwise, again Etsy is a good repository of vintage products.

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” ― Anna Lappé

That’s it for today, I hope you have had some inspiration here. Please share with friends and family. Let me know in the comments below, What type of presents are you giving your loved ones? Did you grab any good idea from this list?

Thanks for reading