I almost feel guilty admitting this, but I love giving gifts. I love choosing them, wrapping them, and giving them. I always have. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve started to realize that it’s just far too much stuff.
Even looking past the idea of waste and resources, I don’t have anywhere to store gifts. My place is very small! Most people I know don’t want to receive unneeded things either. While the intention can be wonderful, often the item itself isn’t needed or wanted.
When it comes to kids, I honestly believe that too many gifts can backfire–proving overwhelming and teaching materialism.
In recent years, my family and I have started to give experience or low-waste gifts instead, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I often give a theatre and restaurant gift card for a “date night” to my parents and in-laws. For my mom’s birthday, we did a fancy afternoon tea service. And for the past few years, my sister has gifted me a night of a gourmet home-cooked meal. I also love supporting local attractions, companies, and organizations with these choices.
My son still receives some material gifts, simply because he needs more things: age-appropriate toys and books as he grows, clothing, and so on. But we keep it quite minimal.
The great thing is that you can still make an experience or low-waste gift exciting to give. Turn it into a scavenger hunt, add a personal note or poem, or give a low-waste option along with it (such as some baked goods with a family recipe collection). I still love gift giving, but I feel like I do it in a better way.
Here’s my grand list of gift ideas. Hopefully you’ll find it inspiring too!
- Classes: cooking, pottery, jewellery making, beekeeping, swimming lessons, yoga, calligraphy, sword fighting, bartending
- Theatre event: a comedy show, concert, opera, play, ballet, or other dance performance
- Escape room
- Restaurant — or fancy home-cooked meal
- Winery or brewery tour
- Coffee shop
- A local outdoorsy activity: skiing, kayaking, zip lining, hiking, whale watching…
- Psychic or tarot card reading
- Art gallery
- Spa or sauna visit
- A local farm/food tour
- Gym membership
- Indoor rock climbing
- Local walking tour: heritage houses, historical tours, ghost tours…
- Afternoon tea
- Sporting events
- A meditation course
- Professional organizer or home cleaning service
- Day at the beach
- Ice skating
- Movie theatre
- Mini golf
- Pub crawl
- Festival/convention/conference/lecture tickets
- Circus/trapeze school
- Amusement park tickets
- Photo shoot
- Cat cafe
- Sensory deprivation/float tank/salt cave
- Online magazine or newspaper subscription
- e-book, audio book, or online courses subscription
- Streaming or online music subscription
- Weekend away
- Cash for whatever they’re saving for (wedding, trip, school…)
- Hotel stay
- Volunteering day
And some of my favourite low-waste/Zero Waste gifts
- Flower or vegetable seeds; gardening supplies
- A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box subscription
- Weekly flowers from a local sustainable florist
- Locally made artisan products: candles, soap and body care, bulk teas, artisan foods, clothing, toys, knitting, the list goes on…
- Baked goods or other DIYs
- Board games
- Personalized coupons
- Personalized playlist
- Collection of favourite family recipes
- Family tree
- Recreation of a childhood photo
- Commissioned personalized artwork (for example, cartoon family portrait or family crest)
- Plants; succulent planter
- Camping/hiking gear
- Family photo book or scrapbook
- Gifts for Zero Waste living: reusable straws, cloth bulk bags, plastic-free scrub brushes, solid shampoo and conditioner, wool dryer balls, food wraps, bamboo toothbrush, etc
- Donation to a cause
Where to shop
Great gifts can be found all over, but these are some great places to start:
- Online (such as Etsy)
- Farmer’s markets, night markets, craft fairs
- Local boutiques and florists
- Bulk/refill stores
- Natural health retailers
A little note
I should mention that I’ve heard from a few people that some of the industries that go along with these gifts, such as the movie industry, can be quite high-waste and polluting, even if the gift itself isn’t. This is a very fair point, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Do you give experience gifts, or Zero Waste/low waste gifts?