‘Tis the season to be shopping... but this year, the climate crisis weighs heavily on our minds. Global emissions from retail are set to double by 2050, but a counter-movement is emerging as events like Buy Nothing Day and White Monday become more popular.
A boom in zero-waste products has inspired a flurry of gift guides that suggest bamboo toothbrushes and reusable cups. While these items can reduce waste, they still bear resource and manufacturing costs for our overburdened planet.
Rather than buying new items, we can choose to stop shopping altogether or reuse existing products in a creative way through the circular economy. So, if you have decided to take the plunge and stop buying so much stuff, here are some gift ideas that don’t require shopping.
Memories, not things
Sometimes considered a cop-out, an “experience gift” can be thoughtful and good for the planet if done right. Explore your city or town by choosing a dinner, spa break or theatre. Or think outside the box and find a workshop, language class or walking tour. Staying local doesn’t just reduce travel emissions, it’s a great way to find appreciation for where you live.
Swap til you drop
Why not find something that you don’t want and give it away? The benefits are plenty; it’s free, zero waste and clears out clutter. Organize a swap party with friends and exchange unwanted items. The Ecosia team does this for our Christmas party each year, with unexpected and often entertaining results.
Do it yourself
Making your own gifts can seem daunting, but it could also be a chance to refine or try a new skill. Pick something you are good at or enjoy; it could be writing a poem, curating a Spotify playlist, knitting a scarf, making homemade truffles or infusing your own gin. Most importantly, have fun and be realistic with yourself about your time and resources.
Make do and lend
Borrow, don’t buy. Many communities have started their own grassroots borrowing sites, where everyday items are available for people as required. Examples include London’s Library of Things, where you can borrow a pasta maker or home speakers, or Oregon’s Sacramento Public Library, which stocks a projector and a ukulele. Many cities have one, so do some research and see if you can lend a friend a unique item.
Donate to a cause
Donate to a non-profit that supports a cause your loved one is passionate about; whether it’s a homeless charity or environmental conservation organization. Clothing brand Patagonia has launched a campaign that matches donations to grassroots activism groups. And if you’d like to help plant more trees, many of Ecosia’s tree-planting partners accept donations, too. Check out a list of them here.
And if you must shop…
Get it secondhand. From fashion to tech, there are many good options out there; look for thrift clothing on Depop and eBay, and try CEX for electronics that come with a warranty. You could also buy items that are made from scrap or recycled materials.
Have an idea for a shopping-free gift? Let us know in the comments below!