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Green Gifts - Environmentally Friendly Gifts for All Occasions

Updated on August 26, 2019

Why Choose Green Gifts?

Green gifts can be inexpensive, thoughtful, and less harmful to the environment. Why spend money on expensive gifts when you can make, recycle, or find environmentally friendly gifts for all occasions?

Some people eschew gift giving completely. While that may be the greenest option, it may not be practical or ideal for everyone. If you would like to lessen your environmental impact, try any of the following green gift suggestions.

Green Gifts - Recycle

What do you typically do with gifts that you receive but for which you have no use? You could donate them, else, you could recycle them and "regift" them to others you think would enjoy, appreciate, or have a use for them. Don't re-gift blindly, and if you can't think of anyone who would want the item, then go ahead and donate it to a charitable organization.

As you receive gifts, note who gave you what for which occasion. That way, you won't accidentally re-gift the item to the original giver. And try not to give it to someone who was there when you opened the original gift.

You can also purchase recycled gifts from thrift stores, resale shops, or online (i.e. Craigslist, eBay, Amazon). Choose from new, unopened items to gently used goods. Make sure the items are clean and in good working condition. Examples of items to purchase from resale stores include: books, CD's, DVD's, housewares, china, small appliances, lamps, decorative items, paintings, frames, jewelry, clothing, purses, wallets, and shoes.

Green Gifts - Create

Making a gift for someone can be less expensive than purchasing one. And it's often considered more thoughtful, as you spent time thinking about the person and what s/he would like.

Personalized items that you can make include:

  • drawings/paintings (purchase a frame from a thrift store for your artwork)
  • jewelry
  • candles (include colors, scents, or items (shells, pine cones) that the person likes)
  • sewn or knit goods (scarves, mittens, hats, sweaters, blankets, afghans, pot holders, reusable tote bags for shopping)
  • cards (recycle cards you've received or use pictures from magazines)
  • baked goods (cookies, cakes, desserts)
  • home-cooked meal (treat the person to dinner, prepared by you!)
  • online photo album (the person can choose whether or not to print it out)
  • music playlist (or CD or mix tape)

Green Gifts - Enviromentally Friendly Materials

To green any of the items listed above, use recycled materials, organic cotton, hemp, bamboo knitting needles, soy-based candle wax, soy-based ink, PVC-free paints, vintage jewelry, or organic foods. Or give a plant.

When shopping for environmentally friendly gifts, avoid plastics, styrofoam, arsenic-laced glass, and paints with PVC.

Or avoid using materials. You can make a donation in the person's name to a green charity or organization that is important to the green gift recipient and notify them via e-mail or a recycled card.

Another idea is to give the person a green experience, such as green travel, a volunteer vacation, a kayak trip, indoor rock climbing, whitewater rafting, etc. Please see links below for more green experience gift ideas.

Green Gifts - Gift Cards

You could also purchase gift cards, many of which can be purchased online and emailed to the recipient, making this one of the greenest options. That way, the recipient can purchase whatever they like and doesn't have the hassle of trying to return, donate, or re-gift an item.

Green Gifts - Cards

A friend of mine recycles cards that she receives throughout the year. Sometime she will even cross out the occasion and text from when she received it and give it to another person. She may take an Easter card that she received in the mail, cross out the relevant items and turn it into a birthday card that she sends to someone else. We find it hilarious and look forward to receiving cards from her throughout the year. You never know what you are going to get!

Green Gifts - Wrap

Save boxes, ribbons, gift wrap (if possible) and tissue paper from gifts or packages throughout the year, which you can re-use when wrapping your own gifts. You can also use everyday items to create your own packing and wrapping materials, such as shoe boxes, newspapers, magazines, or junk mail.

Other creative wrapping items include:

  • purchase a purse or tote bag from a resale shop and place the gift inside--now the receiver gets two gifts!
  • if you live in an apartment or condominium building that has recycling facilities, ask the maintenance staff if you can look for boxes (this also comes in handy when moving).
  • make a blanket, afghan, or scarf (or purchase from a resale shop) and wrap the item--again, two gifts.
  • if the item is small and/or for handmade cards, recycle envelopes from junk mail and decorate them or create your own envelopes from paper you were planning to recycle, newspapers, or magazines.

Green Gifts - Organize

Note in an electronic worksheet or paper journal to whom the item should be given, and store the items in a box or closet until the next holiday or occasion arrives. You can use the same worksheet or journal in which you track the gifts you have received (as noted above, to assist you with re-gifting opportunities).

Be sure to keep items grouped either by person, occasion, or both. And remember where you stored all of the items purchased--if you think you may forget, track it in your worksheet or journal. You may also want to track when you plan to give them to the person--you can do that in the worksheet or journal or in an online or paper calendar.

If you are wrapping the items before storing them, label them with the intended recipient's name (and occasion, if the wrapping isn't specific).

For ideas on how to organize gift ideas and gifts purchased/given, please see the link in the resource section.

Green Gifts - When to Purchase?

To lower your expenses, take advantage of discounts and deals by purchasing seasonal gifts after the relevant holidays or seasons have passed.  As you shop throughout the year, pick up items that you think people would enjoy. Update your worksheet or journal and keep the item with others for that person, for a particular holiday or occasion, or in a place that you'll remember when the occasion arrives.

If you purchase throughout the year, you can take advantage of sales, discounts, free shipping or coupons. In addition, you can spread your spending across all of the months and even out your monthly expenditures.

Green Gift Occasions

Give green gifts for holidays and events throughout the year:

  • Birthdays
  • Thank you gifts
  • Hostess gifts
  • Anniversaries
  • Baby Showers
  • Bridal Showers
  • Weddings
  • Bachelor/bachelorette Parties
  • Valentine's Day
  • Administrative Professionals Day
  • Easter
  • Mother's Day
  • Father's Day
  • Sweetest Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Hanukkah
  • Kwanzaa

Fabric gift bags

Appleby Lane Reusable Fabric Gift Bags (Large Set, Red) Set of 3 bags, two 16x20 inch and one 12x16 inch
Appleby Lane Reusable Fabric Gift Bags (Large Set, Red) Set of 3 bags, two 16x20 inch and one 12x16 inch
In our family, we give holiday gifts in fabric bags and put post-it notes on them with funny clues as to the contents. Once the recipient has guessed based on the clue and opened the item, they pass the bag back to the gift giver to reuse next year. We've used some of the same fabric bags for over a decade, and they bring back lots of fun memories.

More Green Gift Ideas

Copyright 2011, 2018, 2019. All rights reserved.

© 2011 Delia Egan Schaffner


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