More than ever, we typically find ourselves confronted with endless prompts to buy a million things in December. In response to this time of year’s extra dose of consumerism, we’d love to offer some of our favourite sustainable gift ideas – and I’d love to hear about yours, too, of course! [This post contains promotion since it mentions brands, but it isn’t sponsored.]
A couple years ago, Malte and I started our own little tradition of omitting Christmas gifts in favour of what we call “a year of dates”: we each plan 6 little dates for the new year so that we’ll have one for every month. It’s a tradition we enjoy tremendously, and giving something that will make for a lovely time spent together is one of our favourite options we come back to again and again for other people, too. It can be as inexpensive as you make it (or free, even!), you can centre it around what you and the recipient(s) really enjoy doing, it’ll make for lasting memories, and who doesn’t love something to look forward to? From our experience, it’s always helpful to invest a little bit of pre-planning so that actually spending that time together doesn’t come with any stress or scheduling issues, e.g. by including a couple of specific time & date suggestions or by blocking the day the gift is supposed to happen well in advance so you can buy tickets, make reservations etc. We’re determined to keep better track of our year of dates this year so that we can share about the dates we ended up going on at the end of 2019, but here are some ideas for things we loved giving in the past: visiting an exhibition, a ballet, theatre or opera performance or a concert together, organising an outdoor activity such as a bike or canoe day trip, recreating a favourite dinner from a vacation at home, getting (professional) family photos taken (which you can then also have printed and framed!), anything spa or relaxation related, or taking a class to learn something new together.
Fix or upgrade something instead of buying new things
Several years ago, my watch stopped working. It was a gift from my parents for my 21st birthday and is one of the belongings that’s really dear to me, but somehow, I never managed to have it repaired. When we finally took it to the jeweler a few weeks ago, actually quite a few things needed fixing and they showed us some beautiful watchband options, so my mother-in-law suggested that she’d have my watch fixed and upgraded for me for Christmas. In past years, she would often give me jewellery for birthdays and other occasions, and I thought this was such a lovely take on it. Something that constantly seems to need fixing in our household are shoes, which may or may not be a direct result of my rather aggressive walk, and I think starting next year, I’ll get our shoes in need repaired for the 6th of December instead of a traditional pair of sweets filled boots. And there are so many other upgrade or fixing ideas to give! Depending on what your strong suits are, you can either take care of it yourself, or you can of course always take their favourite belongings to the appropriate expert. It may not sound as glamourous at first, but everyone appreciates things that work the way they’re supposed to or a nice little upgrade for something they use a lot, right?
Give something personal or of emotional value
Similar to the idea of giving time, this is an option I love for how you can really put a lot of thought and love into your gifts (without having to spend a fortune). Be it framed photos or creating photo albums (something I really want to make more time for!), saying yes to something the recipient has been wanting to do for a long time, honouring a memory, or passing on something you already own that holds a lot of meaning, there are endless ways of giving something of great personal value. This year, we arranged for new photos to be taken with our dear friend Melinda and plan to frame and gift a couple of our family’s favourite photos. And amongst my own most treasured belongings, for instance, are the family jewelry pieces my mama and mother-in-law gave me over the years, some of which belonged to Malte and my grandparents, and seeing my cousin wear our grandmother’s ring (that I originally inherited but never wore and gave to her) as her wedding band just makes me happy every time I see her.
Gift something handmade
Speaking of gifts with personal or emotional value, what about making something yourself? Just earlier this week, I compiled some of my favourite gift knitting tips & tricks over here, and I can’t remember a year when we didn’t have several handknit gifts under the tree. Other little gifts we love making include herb, garlic or chili infused oils, pillow slips or tea towels, and candles. On the receiving end, opening something someone created always feels extra special (like this stunning drawing of Cleo and Siri my friend Caro made), right?
Consider something the recipient really needs
There seems to be the idea that it’s more desirable or romantic to receive or give “something we want” instead of “something we need”, but what’s wrong with wishing for or gifting something that’s been missing for a while and that will really be used a lot? Malte needs a few new basics such as T-shirts and underwear, so when his and my mama asked about gift ideas for him, I happily shared about this void in the closet, along with a few of our favourite fair fashion brands for underwear, e.g. Hess Natur or erlich textil. You might disagree with me on this one, but I strongly believe in asking what someone actually needs and will cherish over desperately trying to come up with a surprise, just for the secret’s sake.
If you wanna buy something new, choose the company you buy from carefully
Buying something that has previously been used isn’t an idea everyone loves, but I’d say it’s always worth to consider the option and in some cases, used might actually be better. If this isn’t for you or if it doesn’t work for what you plan to gift, I’d love to encourage you to buy from a company that you really want to invest your money in. The ever-growing number of sustainably, fair and ethically producing companies makes it easy to find great options for gift classics such as jewelry, beauty, candles and more (above a few personal favourites from Revivo Candela, Lovely Day and pikfine as well as an Ein Guter Plan notebook I was given), and when in doubt, I would recommend to plan with plenty of time so that you’ll be able to find something you really want to buy instead of having to rely on what can be delivered with express shipping.