Christmas Special: Last Minute Tips for Successful Low-Waste Christmas Presents

By Paula Lorenz

It’s that time of the year again and while some people already have all their gifts neatly wrapped up, there are surely many who are still looking for a last minute gift. I personally am one of the former, well-prepared but notoriously pragmatic as a giftee. I appreciate gifts that are nice and useful and my nightmare is clutter that ends up never being used. Christmas is the time of the year where many of those who celebrate it are frantically wondering about what to gift and often end up with a generic gift that the giftee might not even like. Infamous examples of this are pieces of decoration, perfumes or clothes that are not to the taste of those that receive it. My guess is, if we put together all those unwanted gifts we would end up with quite a large mountain of waste. A lot of items that, albeit gifted with good intentions, have had an environmental impact just by being produced at all. So what can we do if we are not sure about what to gift? I want to share with you my list of thoughtful presents for (almost) everyone, which, at the very least, will not cause too much waste if they end up not being the desired gift.

1. Experience Vouchers

Why not gift a service or experience instead of a thing? My personal go-to-option for any occasion: gifting vouchers for a relaxing massage or a day at a spa. You can buy vouchers either locally or on the internet. If you want to go paperless you could even send it via email. Depending on your budget for the individual person, you can either pay for a whole experience or gift a specific amount. This gift option has always worked for me and the feedback was great every time.

2. Nicer Versions of Staples People Buy Anyway

Another option is to buy something that people would buy anyway, but don’t always treat themselves to the more expensive version of. Good examples of this are olive oil, wine, artisan chocolate or coffee. Just pop into a local delicatessen shop and see what they have in your intended price range, they probably will wrap it up nicely too, if you ask (for free!). If you don’t know the giftee personally, I would advise against gifting wine (or any alcohol), as you don’t know if this person actually drinks alcohol. I found that you can never go wrong with a nice bottle of Italian olive oil though, and if you want, you could also pair it with a bottle of balsamic vinegar, for example. I once received this pairing as a present, sourced from a small family farm in Italy, and I was very happy about it.

3. Second Hand Clothes Vouchers

A common Christmas theme is people gifting items of clothing, like jumpers, or socks. Often times, the giftees are not really keen on the (well-intended) presents though, so they end up in the drawers, never to be seen again. It’s quite a waste. Instead, a nice and more environmentally friendly option could be to gift a voucher for a second hand clothing shop, locally or online (online stores usually have a bigger selection). This way, the giftee can chose something to their taste, with a flair of sustainability. I know that some people still have reservations about buying second hand clothes, but my personal experience (and those of the people I recommended it to) has been really positive so far.

4. E-Books and E-Audiobooks

A great option for people who like to read is to get them a voucher for an e-book or an e-audiobook. This way the giftees can chose what they want to read themselves, kind of like the modern version of the traditional book gift, sans the guesswork about what the person actually likes to read . The recipient does not actually need an e-reader (like a Kindle) for this, they can simply download an e-reader app on one of their existing devices like a smartphone, tablet or laptop and then they are ready to go.

5. Digital Subscriptions

This is a gift I actually make myself every year: a subscription to a newspaper or magazine. Depending on the budget you can chose between anything from just a few issues up to a yearly subscription. The advantage of a digital subscription is that you can often access articles earlier and, most of the time, they are also cheaper. Since many papers and current affairs magazines have slight political biases though, the success of this gift really depends on how well you know the giftee.

6. Personalised Donations

And finally, for the socially or philanthropically inclined (or modest people who don’t want anything for themselves), a great option is to make a donation in their name to an organisation which cause they support. A fun variation of this (and one that is often given to children), can be a sponsorship for a particular pet at a shelter, for example.

Whatever you decide for, I wish you very happy holidays!