The holidays are a beautiful time of year to celebrate the winter and natural cycles of the Earth, loved ones, and fresh starts. It’s unfortunately also the most wasteful time of the year due to unethical gift-giving practices. During this season an extra 25 million tons of waste is produced, and due to cultural traditions, tens of millions of non-human animals are slaughtered for feasts. While there’s a lot that one can do to avoid contributing to this, a very influential act involves gift giving. Gifting people with zero waste, cruelty-free, vegan goodies and presents is not only the most ethical way to gift, but also is an opportunity to influence others. That person may or may not be vegan or doing their part for the planet, but being given a present of this nature does more than make them feel loved. It shows them kinder alternatives, and shows them products that are beautiful and exciting that don’t involve suffering or ecodestruction. This can change mindsets, but again, the bottom line is that it’s the ethical thing to do. Whether you celebrate Yule, Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, that’s important.
So, if you’re at a loss as to what to gift, where to buy from, or what to wrap with, here are some compassionate gift giving ideas for the holidays.
Where to buy from (if you’re not planning on making something)
Etsy– A great place to support local artisans, and they carbon-offset every shipment! Keep your eye out for shops that use zero-waste packaging. Etsy is a fantastic place to snag beautiful pottery, paintings, jewelry, and anything artsy and unique that you can think of!
The Quiet Botanist– While they have stunning products, their main thing is dried flowers. They’re stunning, and they make gorgeous gifts (or wrapping accents, but that comes later).
Eco Collective– This is a Seattle-based, woman-owned, zero-waste shop, and they have everything! They have lovely journals, candles, facial care, bulk items, and lots of pretty eco-friendly essentials to choose from.
Eco Roots– Another stunning zero-waste store, this place has lots of gourmet eco products, including body products, makeup, and beard kits!
Other zero waste shops- Favorites include Zero Waste Store, Wild Minimalist, Package Free Shop, Earth Hero, and Peace With the Wild.
Purusha People– This plant-based clothing shop features stunning yoga pieces and it’s all so unique. If you’re unsure about sizing, consider getting a digital gift card for someone.
Immaculate Vegan– This is the perfect spot to grab watches or other traditionally non-vegan luxury items!
House of Bean– A great spot for hippie clothing and comfortable adventure wear.
United by Blue– This sustainable shop has everything from camping gear to ethical candles, and it’s always restocking!
REI or Patagonia– These shops have used gear sections, but they also carry sustainable brands that are perfect for outdoors-loving people.
Modern Sprout– This is a great sustainable option for plant lovers, or people who want fresh herbs in their kitchen! Expect things like basil in jars, flowers in porcelain pots, and sustainably sourced seeds.
Mountain Rose Herbs– For people who love pampering and baths, this is a great place to snag bath herbs, oils, teas, and incense.
Sea Witch Botanicals– Another great spot to snag natural goods. They make incredible candles as well as element-inspired incense sticks!
Vegan Essentials– This is a large online vegan grocery store, and it’s the perfect spot to snag vegan goodies and treats for loved ones!
Check out your local shops, greenhouses/nurseries, co-ops, and winter markets!
Candles– It’s really easy to make soy candles (remember to use hemp or cotton wicks!), but if you want to buy one, that’s festive as well! They’re great for the winter, and for people who need to have relaxation time. Try to pick scents that remind you of them to make it extra thoughtful!
Bath salts– Making bath salts is really simple and fun, and only requires a few ingredients! You can make bath tea to go with it, to avoid clogging the drain. That said, there are plenty of beautiful salts that you can buy as well! Go with ones made with organic essential oils that have been ethically sourced.
Lip products, face masks, makeup, or other beauty products- There are plenty of zero waste and vegan recipes out there for these that you can craft yourself (make sure to know if there are any allergies that need to be taken into consideration), but there are also lots of lovely places to support that sell them as well! If the person you’re gifting them with often talks about wanting time for themselves or loves to be pampered, go with something like a face mask! If they like to wear makeup, they’ll love natural lip tints and eye shadow palettes!
Plants or herbs- Everyone could use a good plant, so this is a perfect gift for most anyone (be mindful of whether or not they have fur babies, and if they do, be careful not to get toxic plants). If your loved one loves to cook, consider getting them some hearty herbs that can have at their fingertips! If they have a green thumb, they’d love unique plants. Try getting them plants from regions they love, or if they love plants but have little time to take care of them, get them cacti or succulents.
Ethically made clothing- There are so many beautiful shops that sell this (and if you have a place in person near you, that’s obviously ideal). Look for organic materials, fair trade labor practices, and vegan practices. Consider things like vegan sweaters, comfortable loungewear, yoga clothing, or funky socks! Think about their hobbies and buy accordingly. If you’re unsure of sizing or think that would be an uncomfortable situation, but know they’d love the brand, lots of these places offer digital gift cards!
Zero waste essentials- Everyone could use more of these, so if you know of something specific that they don’t have or need more of, grab some for them!
Sustainable home decor– You can make them plant garlands or fill jars with dried flowers yourself, or you can buy things like thrifted colorful vases, porcelain oil diffusers, ethically sourced crystals, sea glass light catchers, or antique globes!
Used books- Preloved books are so great for book lovers. If they’re more into poetry or art, consider making a gift basket of local art and art books, or local vegan wine and poetry books. There are so many options here, that aren’t just traditional books.
Vegan treat baskets- This is a fun and creative idea, and is great for foodies! You can fill it up with local vegan goods like breads and spreads and jellies, or you can order gourmet creations like vegan cheese wheels and bruschetta. If they’re a big traveler, it’s fun to have its theme be their favorite destination. For example, if it’s Brazil, fill up the basket with fresh passion fruit and mangoes, vegan pao de queijo, guava juice, Fhom crackers, Native chocolate, Coroa coconut cookies, tapioca, and suco de cana! You can even add little accents to it like pre-loved maps of the area if it’s travel themed, locally made utensils, and flowers!
Cook them a meal, bake them a treat, clean their house for a month, do their laundry, or other acts of service- With Covid, make sure to only do this if you live with the person, but acts of service are great, non-materials gifts to give that are often overlooked.
How to package it
Tie dried flowers or pine branches around it or put on the package– Check out the quiet botanist for the most beautiful arrangements.
Repurposed gift bags and tissue paper- The most sustainable option is to use what you have!
Gift bags or wrapping paper made from recycled materials
Old newspapers- These can be made beautiful with twine and flowers!
Twine or repurposed ribbon
A blanket, table cloth, or shirt (use the sleeves to tie a bow)
(if it’s small) Mason jars
(if it’s small) Paint an empty box of tea and tie with a repurposed ribbon!
There you have it! Your guide to a sustainable, ethical, gift-giving season. Don’t forget to shop local, shop small, and use what you have when possible! Happy holidays!
Also by Emily: How To Become A More Interesting Person
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Photo: Emily Degn