Sustainable gift guide: how to give presents that are not discarded at the next Marie Kondo purge

Updated: May 11, 2020

Are you looking for sustainable presents for your loved ones? Finding presents can be fun, but also challenging. Especially if you want to find sustainable presents! This guide is meant to make giving sustainable presents a bit easier.

Image: Vintage treasures from antier.collected, book This is a Good Guide by Marieke Eyskoot, perfume 'mon vetiver' by Essential Parfums.

Be a mindful giver

“Buy less, choose well, make it last.” Vivienne Westwoods famous words also apply to gifting. Think about what you buy. Will that special someone love and use your present? I know this can be hard to imagine sometimes. A good way to avoid spending money on gifts that end up in the 'discart' pile at the next Marie Kondo purge is to ask people what they want. It's that simple and easy. This applies to yourself as well, think about what you really want and tell people. I always keep a wishlist on my phone and I add things the whole year round so if Christmas or my birthday comes, I know what to ask for.

Be mindful about where your presents come from. A lot of products are available at different webshops or physical stores around the world. Avoid buying something from a webshop with its warehouse on a different continent. If you are looking for a certain item go to the website of the brand itself and see if they have a list of stockists. These are most often listed per country. If not, Google is your friend. Type in the product and brand name together with the name of your country to find local results. Or you can try to find a similar product that is available in your country. Use your local language in Google to be send to local websites. Another option is of course to shop local in stores in your home city or country.

If you buy presents, you will probably like to wrap them. Avoid plastic wrapping paper and plastic ribbons and reuse wrapping paper if at all possible. A great option is to use fabric wrapping. This comes from the Japanese tradition called Furoshiki. Fabric wrappings can be used over and over and they look really cool too. You can make them yourself from leftover fabrics or buy them. I know lush sells pretty crazy ones.

Watch how to Furoshiki your presents her:

Keeping all of the above in mind, here are my tips for sustainable presents:

1. Buy from sustainable brands

Let’s start with the obvious. There are many brands and companies that are doing a terrific job to be as sustainable as possible. But, which ones are they and how to find them? A few of my favorites online webshops for sustainable products are: Bon + Vie (founded by a friend of mine, you can be sure the products are at the highest level of sustainability), Rêve en Vert, The Collection One, Rhumaa, Honest basics, Mádara cosmetics, Naadam, Waar, Pela, Essential Parfums.

My sister Lisa Eggen and me have developed an extensive sustainable shopping guide. The guide is packed with sustainable fashion brands and shops that sell high-quality and stylish products. We included a very useful practical section about what to look for when you want to minimize your impact as a shopper.

The guide is available as a crowdfunding perk at Blano, the sustainable and vegan bag brand founded by my sister and aided by me in the development of the bags that are made from apple leather (I am obviously biased, but the bags and wallets are amazing and very sustainable. They make awesome presents as well, so check them out). If you purchase this guide you support a sustainable brand to launch and learn loads about sustainable shopping! You could also give the guide as a gift to someone who wants to become a more sustainable shopper.

2. Buy from small brands

If you buy from a small brand or company an actual person is doing a happy dance. You do not only make the person you are buying it for happy, but also the person you are buying it from. Trust me, that's a great feeling.

I would even suggest to avoid the super large retailers altogether. Go for small or medium sized companies in stead, give them a chance to thrive. There are so many great initiatives. Support the ones with the story, mission or product that appeals to you. Remember, each one of your purchases is a vote for the kind of world that you want to live in.

The brands I mentioned before aren't big, but you can also think about supporting artists or artisans. You will get something really special and potentially one of a kind!

These images are from friends of mine who are artists. Their work make great gifts: paintings by I am nien, wall-hanging and Christmas cards from Annienke - who also happens to make the best cat-toys ever. The silk scarf is from my own zero-waste collection. I still have burnt orange and black, so if you are interested send me a message in the form below this article.

3. Buy vintage!

I know that giving someone something secondhand is still a bit taboo, but vintage presents can be so beautiful!! Plus the environmental impact is virtually non-existing as you are giving something a second life. Look for treasures in secondhand shops or online secondhand marketplaces. There are also online curated vintage shops like antier.collected and Auguste vintage that make it much easier to find cool items.

Images courtesy of antier.collected

4. Give (secondhand) books

I thinks books are a great present as you give the gift of knowledge. Give somebody food for though about sustainability to spread awareness. Great reads are: This is a Good Guide, From What is to What If, Rise and Resist.

Books don’t have to be new! Secondhand books are widely available and are often in great condition. Or why not give away a book that you have finished?

5. Give an experience

A lot of people are moving away from ownership of things towards a lifestyle based on experiences. In order to not mess up somebodies newly Marie Kondo’d minimalist home you could give someone an experience. Personally, I would be extremely happy to be gifted a voucher for a massage, spa visit or a facial treatment.

Also awesome: tickets for a summer festival to have something to look forward to.

Other options could be a singing lesson or dance class, a drawing course, knitting or sewing lessons or a pottery workshop for two (who would not want to be like Patrick Swayze & Demi Moore in Ghost).

6. Give nothing

This might not sound very festive, but giving nothing is the most sustainable thing to do. Bear in mind that some people might not even want to receive any gifts. If this goes for you, it would be good to let your friends and family know to avoid receiving presents that you did not want. The money saved by not buying gifts could be spend on a big festive dinner or on a holiday getaway to a beautiful destination in your home country with your friends or family.

7. The gift of giving

To take it one step further, a great holiday gesture is to give something to someone that really needs it. There are many charities that can help you there. Oxfam Novib has a great selection of gifts, for example drinking water or a goat. How cool is it to know that somewhere in the world you made somebody really happy by giving them a goat! Now they can drink the milk or sell it to make a living. You can in turn customize a card for the person you are giving the gift of giving. At WWF you can give an adoption set for an animal like a rhino, elephant and panda.

Think about starting your own tradition: help to reverse climate change with your family by planting trees. Make a tradition of giving back by 'offsetting' your carbon emission at the end of the year. You can 'buy' trees at charities that will be planted somewhere in the world. Or start a fundraiser at work to plant trees or for your favorite charity.

Want to give a tangible present and