Green Shopping: Gifts with Eco-conscience

Green shopping covers different alternatives to shop for gifts with a lesser negative impact on the planet.

Gifts can mean a lot without costing the Planet:

gifts from the heart, homemade gifts, experiences, donations, or eco gifts / green gifts to help your loved ones help wildlife.


At Christmas time in particular, or at any fair occasion for shopping like birthdays, Valentine’s day (if you’re into that), mother’s day, father’s day, (grandma’s day, grandpa’s day, how many more are there?), Easter etc. some of us are taken by an uncontrollable frenzy of consuming and happy shop-till-you-drop fever.

And some are not.

Some of us are taken instead by the dilemma of not wanting to consume too much and yet, the guilt of not having presents for our loved ones.

christmas-gifts

Is a happy and eco-friendly Christmas possible?

Does green shopping exist?

First, presents are not an indicator for love: “the more you buy me, the more you love me” and even less a surrogate for love: “I couldn’t spend enough time with you this year but I covered you in expensive gifts”. This is a culture that is promoted by, obviously, retailers and we shouldn’t buy it anymore (haha!).

So in this page, you will find alternative ways of giving, or green shopping, that don’t necessarily include being part of the consumerism culture.

Not all ideas will suit all your loved ones – some might be more or less open to greener, more ethical, homemade, or non-physical gifts. But there is something for absolutely every taste below!

Is Consumerism Bad?

Raise the awareness!

What's even better than green shopping? No shopping!

Take part in the “Buy Nothing New Month” in October.

Think of alternatives to consumerism: fix broken things, swap, borrow from friends and neighbours, rent it for a day...

And ask yourself simple questions: Do I really need this? How often will I use it? How long will I use it? Where will it go when I don’t want it anymore?

What is exactly consumerism? It’s a culture (or maybe “cult” is a better world?) that encourages us to buy, buy always more, always more often, for always more occasions.

Consumerism is a way to make you feel that:

  • If you buy more, you will be happier,
  • The more you have, (the more money you paid for it, the more often you buy a new one), the more important and successful you are in society,
  • To prove that you love someone you have to buy (Valentine ’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas)

Sometimes you have to buy only because fashion has changed! There is nothing wrong with the jacket or phone you bought last year, but you are manipulated to think it’s out of fashion and you should get the newer model. Don’t you worry, it is all about manipulation (see below, Planned Obsolescence).

What’s the problem with that, you think (maybe)? Aren’t you just supporting the economy?

The problem with consumerism is that we now consume more than the Earth produces. We also produce more waste than the Earth can absorb.

At the moment, we need one and a half Earth to survive.

That’s, in a nutshell, the problem. We only have one Earth.

Each year, scientists calculate what day we officially have consume all the resources it take the Earth one whole year to produce. This is called “Earth Overshoot Day”. Each year, that day comes earlier in the year 9it's in August currently...).

We consume our limited resources quicker every year.

This is what is called not being sustainable. And a system that is not sustainable is going to crash one day. Any day.

 

So, we proved that consumerism is actually bad, very bad, for us humans and all the rest of the animals.

Isn't that enough?

Adding Insult to Injury: Planned Obsolescence

As if the fact we consume more than the Earth can produce was not enough, clever (I'm cynical here) humans beings invented planned obsolescence.

It all came from a light bulb, apparently. How ironical – light bulbs are usually synonymous of a real good idea.

Planned obsolescence seems like the worst idea humans ever had. I suppose, there is a lot of competition there...

One day a group of light bulb company CEOs met with a problem: their light bulbs were lasting too many hours, which meant people were not buying them often enough, which meant they were making less money. How terrible.

Then they had this idea: they only needed to make light bulbs of lesser quality!

And planned obsolescence was born.

If you’d like to know more on planned obsolescence, you can watch for free on the net the excellent documentary:

“The Light Bulb Conspiracy – The Untold Story of Planned Obsolescence”

by Cosima Dannoritzer.

Some engineer recently said: “The brightest students used to be head hunted to discover how to make things last longer, now the best students are employed to make sure they won’t last too long”.

Do you know that your nice little printer sitting next to your computer right now could have a chip to make it stop working after a certain number of pages printed? If you install a free software from the net to somehow deactivate the chip, your printer starts working again.

Another nice way planned obsolescence works is by having created “fashion”, and advertising relentlessly that you need to keep up with fashion. That way of making people uncomfortable if they wear outdated clothes, drive an old car (but not old enough to be vintage), answer a old design mobile, etc.

So we not only consume more than what the Earth can produce, but we are pushed on purpose to consume even more, because what we buy breaks very quick (and can never, ever be fixed!) or by shaming us, making us feel somehow inadequate when we don’t consume enough.


Strong with this knowledge of Earth depletion and advertising manipulation, we look for alternatives... And we found green shopping!

"I’m beginning to suspect that the new commercial lifestyle [...] is actually a hidden form of retardation [...] that is making us sick, anti-social, increasingly vain, ecologically indifferent and, perhaps, more and more malleable for the controlling faction of our society"

Peter Joseph

in:

Culture In Decline: Consumption Vanity Disorder

Green Shopping: A Gift from the Heart

This green shopping alternative works best with very close loved ones... Children to parents and grand-parents, lovers, best friends, sisters...

This is the simplest gift of all and such a precious one.

You don’t need a lot, a pen and a blank page, or a set of colour pens and a blank page if kids are involved. Obviously if you like craft and have imagination, you can get as fancy as you like!

Just sit down in a relaxing place that you like, or gather the kids around their art and craft table.

Think of the person you love whose birthday or other important occasion is coming, and write.

  • You can write about what they mean to you, how much you love them, hopes you have for their future, experiences you would like to share with them...
  • Kids can draw story about the person they love, things they really like doing with this special person, or invent adventures they would want to share in the future.
  • Or a poem, a song, a story if you have these talents...

This is a special gift because very often we don’t say enough to the important persons of our lives that we love them, we admire them, they inspire us, make us brave, happy, make us push our boundaries. That much of what we are and have achieved was thanks to them...

And being loved, respected, admired, is the most powerful feeling in the world. Being told so the greatest gift.

 

One thing will make you notice that we don’t say enough the positive thoughts we have about the people we love: obituaries.

Have you ever heard a bad obituary? Each and every obituary you can find describe all the great things about that person that was lost. Are only good people dying?

Or is it that you can always find many great things to say about any person, and above all about someone that has a special place in your heart?

Yet we seem to wait till they are no longer here to hear it before we tell them! (Or also, we say it at weddings... Still, it’s only one day in a life!)

Take the opportunity of a special day and say it!

Green Shopping: A Homemade Gift

If you have a talent, this is the green shopping idea for you!

Painting, drawing, pottery, embroidery, quilt making, knitting, crochet, clothe or jewellery making, pinhole artwork: use what you are good at!

Homemade stuffed animals as a new-baby gift. Toooo cute! Credits: Deb Olive

If you have time and enjoy discovering new ideas and making things yourself, there are millions of websites that take you, step by step, through many very cute looking homemade gifts.

Here are ideas for a few gifts you can make yourself:

  • A cookie pre-mix

In a nice glass jar, lay out the exact amount of flour, sugar, choc chips, walnuts, oats etc. Print the cookie recipe and glue it at the back. You can also put the ingredients in a brown paper bag and decorate with ribbons etc.

  • Or even something more exotic like an assortment of spices, measured out to make a beautiful curry, mulled wine or cider (always print the recipe nicely and attach to the gift),
  • Bake or cook something nice

Cookies, shortbread, savoury twists, chocolate, caramels, toffee, marzipan animals, Christmas pudding, jams, relish - anything  that keeps a little! Put it in a nice homemade paper bag or box, decorate with homemade tags and ribbons.

Make marzipan animals and other figurines and offer them on a plate or in a box, a winner activity for the kids too!

  • Make some cocoa mix for hot chocolate

As for the cookie mix, but mix the ingredients in a nice glass jar instead of layering them.

There are lots of recipes available (always with a base of high quality fair trade cocoa and brown sugar), some of which involving chunk of real chocolate, cinnamon and small marshmallows!

Yum!!

  • Make your own infused alcohol (vodka, rum) or crème de liqueur,
  • Funky magnets: bottle caps magnets with pictures inside the cap or button magnets,
  • Homemade soap, hand cream, sugar scrub, bath salt,
  • A family secret or favourite recipe book,
  • Mini succulent plant garden,
  • Decorative gifts made of natural material: shells, pine cones, sticks, drift wood, polish glass from the beach...
  • Bookmarks made of pictures, origami, fabrics or even paint chip...
  • Photo display,
  • Hair clips with pens, or noodles, or candies...
homemade-gift

Homemade gifts: homemade hair clips (including popcorn, colour pens, dried lemon rings), homemade rings (felt and beads) and homemade necklaces (felt, melted metal and beads)...

  • Coaster and place mat,
  • Candle...

But really, just do a quick internet search and you will find millions of ideas, some very simple and many really good looking.

An added benefit of homemade gifts is that you can personalise your gift!

Also, many ideas you can involve your kids to create the gift, which means a fun family activity!

PS: If you think you have too little talent for the ideas above, there are still things you can make such as a book of pictures of shared memories or a CD of favourite songs.

green-shopping-shortbread

My favourite Christmas gift from a special friend this year! Homemade shortbread - it did help that they were the best shortbread I had ever ate!

Green Shopping: A Gift of Experiences

These are very exciting gifts!

Use this green shopping alternative if you think a homemade gift sounds too “cheap”, if you don’t feel gifted enough or if your loved one is hard to please.

Here are just some ideas for cool experience gifts:

  • Concerts and festival tickets – that works for all ages!
  • Theatre play or sport event tickets,
  • Massage,
  • Spa,
  • Beauty day: facial, manicure, hair cut...
  • Cooking class,
  • Music class,
  • Craft course: painting, pottery, scrap booking...
  • Sport lessons: climbing, tennis, surf!
  • Sky-dive jump,
  • Yacht cruise (day trip or longer!),
  • Animal watching:

- whale watching on a boat,

- visit to the local wildlife sanctuary,

If you visit the local sanctuary, you are directly supporting the rescue, care and release of wildlife. That’s a double winner!

- trip to the local National Park,

- or for a big special occasion, safari!

  • Take your love one to something they said they’d like to do, one day: Make it today!
whale-watching
whale-watching
whale-watching

Whale watching for humpback whales: two curious whale coming to the boat and doing some "people watching":...

And a very personal, lovely green shopping idea:  make little cards with things you will do with your loved ones in the next few months:

  • For your partner: “cook you breakfast and bring it to bed”, “candlestick dinner”, “make you a bubble bath with candles and music”, “a torrid night (Oh-lala!)”, “half hour massage”, “day without chores”...
  • For your kids: “built a kite and fly it with you”, “make a special cake with lots of icing and decorations”, “cook your favourite meal”, “go picnic”, “dance in the rain”, “take you and your best friends to the beach / swimming pool / tennis court (or anything nice around where you live)”, "weekend camping"...
  • For your friend: “coffee break at your favourite coffee shop”, “a walk on the beach”, “high tea”, “mind your kids for an evening”, “help you with [insert something your friend has always trouble with and you could help: computer skills, tax (only for a really, really good friend!), cleaning up a cluttered spare room, sorting out old photos into albums...]”...

Green Shopping: A Gift of a Better World

This is maybe the most extreme / unusual alternative of green shopping.

Reserve it for loved ones with an open mind and a cause they really care for, for ones that have absolutely everything they want and tell you so over and over again, or ones that are quite home buddies and you can’t picture at a concert or bungee-jumping...

Then there is a whole series of gift cards that you can give to a person as a token for making the world a better place.

If you want your gift to directly help wildlife, choose the good action to be wildlife focused:

  • Support a sanctuary,
  • “Adopt” a wild animal (see more below),
  • Donate to the local Nature Reserve,
  • Buy and protect some pristine land (through Wildlife Organisation).

 

Oxfam has very cute and humorous gift cards, which help you support great causes and offer clean water, literacy class, women shelters, orphanages, or even pigs, cows, chickens and goats to people all around the world!


Search the net for more opportunities like a gift of honey for life (bees, bee hive and training in beekeeping) from Heifer International or of bicycles to African villagers.


More simply, you can make a donation to any cause you know the loved person cares about. (Wildlife protection for instance!!!)

Then write a nice birthday card and add a little handmade receipt such as “In the honour of your birthday, I increased tigers’ protection” or the gift card send by the non-for-profit organisations if they provided one.

For kids, you can also adopt an animal in danger: give money to a non-for-profit organisation to support their actions for one wild species. You can opt for an organisation that sends a soft toy of the animal you help protect, along with some information.

The WWF has lots of animals to adopt, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International offers adoption packages for gorillas that live in the wild, from babies to mum and silver backs: adopt them and follow their adventure in the wild!

Green Shopping: A Second-hand Gift

This is probably a very under used green shopping idea, maybe because people feel a second-hand item doesn't make for a nice gift?

Don’t think second-hand only means old things no one wants anymore... There are very fancy vintage, antiques and collectable second-hand shops!

If you find pre-loved gifts, that means:

  • The creation of your gift didn’t mean more pollution, more waste, more exhaustion of resources and energy,
  • You didn’t buy something new produced on the other side of the world that needed transport: more energy and pollution avoided,
  • You are giving an object a longer life, keeping it out of the landfill for longer!

Also, supporting your local second-hand shop is giving back to your community and sometimes to a good cause too – good actions that do not directly benefit wildlife but can have rippling effects.

"Everything I buy is vintage."
Lucy Liu


"Vintage is not only glorious and stylish, it's also the way forward in terms of recycling. Whenever I go into great vintage stores, I wonder why we ever buy new things."
Thandie Newton

If actresses buy second-hand, surely no one can say it's not a fashionable gift!

Green Shopping: A Green Gift

If you are after a brand new physical gift, there is still hope!

This green shopping idea allows you to buy a gift that will decrease your loved one’s impact on the Planet, and make him / her more environmentally friendly!

lorax-quote

The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

A few ideas:

  • A set of reusable utensils so they never have to use plastic ones again! (See why going plastic free is a good idea for wildlife)
  • A bamboo picnic set – to go even further! Comes with plates, bowls, cups, knives, forks and spoons, all in bamboo.
  • In the same line, a reusable coffee mug, reusable lunch box and containers, reusable water bottle (because we need to reuse as much as we can!),
  • A nest box for wild animals or a local pot plant to add to their wild garden,
  • A solar battery charger so they can charge a wide range of portable electronics thanks to the sun, 
  • Another awesome bike gift to help people do more cycling despite difficulties (such as hills or not enough energy): the Copenhagen Wheel,

The Copenhagen Wheel stores the energy when you brake and give it back to you when you start getting tired! Too cool!

  • A batteryless torch,
  • A kitchen garden to grow spices and / or veggies – it looks gorgeous too! They are all ready to go at micro-green kits.
  • A funky smart phone protection – because so many people break their phone by dropping it and then need a new one, that’s a lot of waste.
  • Books on how to become greener... Or to present ecological concepts in a fun way to kids - Love Dr. Seuss!

An alternative is to get a year subscription to a nice Nature magazine.

green-book
green-book
green-book-for-kids
green-book

You still haven't find the perfect eco friendly gift?

You can turn to simply nice green gifts - don't miss the opportunity to share why this eco-consciousness is important for wildlife:

  • Gifts made of recycled material: hand bag, toiletry bag, wallet, jewellery, even toy.

(Because it's important to recycle.)

  • Stationery, notebooks and greeting cards made of elephant poo from the Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company – surely even if they didn’t need stationary that will bring a laugh! Or a disgusted look?

(Protects pristine forests.)

  • Clothes made of organic and natural fibres.

(Decreases pollution.)

  • Water-powered shower radio.

(Saves energy.)

  • Solar remote control car for a kid (or not!).

(Batteries are highly polluting.)

  • Solar LED candle...

(A lot of candles are made with unsustainable palm oil.)

You have given a double gift: a present and knowledge!

recycled-bag

Finally, you can find a large variety of gifts that support your favourite conservation organisation and favourite endangered animal: from soap to clothing, blankets to bags, water bottles to stuffed animals, jewelery to books and CDs...

Just head out to your favorite non-for-profit organisation and browse their online shop.

For example...

You get the idea...

Green Shopping: A Gift from Local Artists

This green shopping idea is perfect for the sophisticated loved ones of your life, and their love for beautiful and unique objects.

Buying local is always better as it creates less pollution by transport – think of where most of the goods you had below last year’s Christmas tree came from.... China? Bangladesh?

Buying from local artists and craftspersons also mean you are supporting your local community – that’s always nice – and creativity. These things might not directly help wildlife but may make the world a slightly better place, which can have ripple effects. 

Some Artworks – often focusing on the beauty of Nature and wild animals – even contribute to wildlife protection directly by giving part of the profit to preserve our wilderness.

For example, Lucy Trippett’s pictures!

Lucy-Trippett-Art

Lucy Trippett's Art

Green Shopping: A Gift of Good Food

Use this green shopping alternative for the sweet tooth and food lovers of your life...

Obviously the more the food you offer is local, organic and homemade the greener your gift will be!

Good food is a better option for a an eco gift because we all need to eat, and if you pick your gifts well you can support local growers, small local businesses, organic or fair trade.

locally-made-hamper

Locally made hamper by the Straddie Sister. Yummy!

Look for fancy food that your loved one might not by themselves:

  • Fair trade fancy chocolate,
  • Locally made preserves, jams, picles, relish,
  • Local candies or honey...

An easy way of making this gift happen is to simply go to your closer organic / health food store and to collect some of the delicious food available. Put it all in a nice basket or a card box (decorated by yourself!) and you are done!

Baskets of treats work actually very well for baby showers too: something nice to spoil the mum to be!

Green Shopping: How to Wrap a Green Gift?

Now that you are proud of your green shopping, don't spoil it by buying a new gift wrap!

You can wrap all your gift with craft paper, last year wrappers, recycled material or reusable gift bags.

Add a nice flower from your garden for a bit of fanciness!

Finally, you should also make a nice crafted card to go with your homemade gift!


We all love the act of giving – it’s a gift to us as much as to our loved ones.

Yet with so much of the Earth resources and energy consumed, and so much pollution and waste a by-product of our goods, we need to find ways to more sustainable gifts.

And along the way we might found that eco friendly gifts, made of love and experiences or triggering way-of-life changes, can also enrich our lives more than plain consumerism.