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Sustainable Gift Guide for a Holiday Season Unlike Any Other

By on September 14th, 2020 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Be it end-of-the-year holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries, the joy of giving makes these occasions all the more special. We all want to see that spark in someone’s eyes when we hit the awesome gift jackpot.

But gifting has its downsides as well. It’s estimated that during the holiday season, the amount of waste produced increases by 25%. That’s a lot of extra plastic, food waste, and other trash that ends up in landfills and harms the environment. 

So how can you bring joy not only to your friends and family but the planet as well? 

Revamping our holiday traditions with sustainability in mind could be the answer. Sustainability means mindful use of the planet’s limited resources, including such aspects as:

  • Transparent, responsible production to reduce carbon emissions and waste
  • Replacing single-use and non-degradable products with long-lasting items
  • Choosing slow fashion over fast fashion
  • Using eco-friendly, organic materials
  • Supporting local businesses, social enterprises, and charities

Here’s a sustainable gift guide to help you create an eco-friendly holiday season.

Choose responsible production

At Printful, we’re also focusing on sustainability. Although there’s still a long way to go, we’ve made it one of our goals to become more environmentally friendly.

Printful is a made-to-order service—we only make the products that are actually bought. This is a step towards more sustainable fashion production, as nearly 85% of all textiles made by the retail industry ends up in landfills. 

This year, we tested numerous plastic packaging alternatives and saved 5620.58 kg of plastic. We also added 7 eco-friendly products to our catalog. We’ve opened several facilities across the globe to fulfill orders closer to our customers and reduce carbon emissions from logistics. 

We use water-based inks for our main printing method—DTG (direct-to-garment)—and environmentally friendly Epson inks for posters. You can find out more about the steps we’re taking in our sustainability and responsibility page.

Pick eco-friendly materials

Choose gifts made of organic, ethically sourced, and biodegradable materials. Organic cotton farming leaves a lower environmental impact than conventional cotton farming and supports the livelihood of farmers. Biodegradable materials decompose faster and leave no trace on the planet after breaking down. 

We also offer products made by Bella+Canvas—a brand known for transparent, eco-conscious manufacturing. They use 7x less water than other retail companies, and use green energy wherever possible. They’ve also perfected their manufacturing to recycle any excess fabric.

Combine eco-friendly materials and production with evergreen designs. A tee used only once is a waste of resources, so make sure your gifts bring added value and feature designs you can wear all year long. Upload pictures, use witty quotes, or add your own artwork to make the gifts more special. 

Here are some of the eco-friendly products we offer: 

Biodegradable iPhone Case Unisex Organic T-Shirt Large Eco Tote

To find more ideas, check out our eco-friendly collection of clothing and accessories, and read our blog on sustainable gift wrapping to make your gifts 100% eco-conscious.

Support zero waste living

The zero waste movement aims to redesign the way we use products by repairing instead of replacing, repurposing instead of throwing away, buying items with biodegradable or no packaging, and leading a minimalist lifestyle, so that no waste ends up in landfills. 

Support the zero waste movement and encourage your friends to do the same by giving them eco-friendly solutions to everyday problems. One of my personal favorites is Bee’s Wrap—a reusable and recyclable alternative to plastic wrap, made of organic cotton and beeswax. 

Use these zero waste gift ideas to support greener living:

Although not all of these products are made of biodegradable, zero waste materials, they’re sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics and other harmful waste.

Choose items that your giftee needs and is the most likely to use on a daily basis. And if you’re not sure, ask! If you get the person something they won’t enjoy using, your gift will lose its zero waste purpose and end up in a landfill anyway. 

Gift a memorable experience

A memorable experience is one of the most valuable gifts you can give—after all, who can put a price on memories? 

But it can be tricky to choose the right gift—if you’re not sure, ask the giftee or their friends what activities they’ll enjoy, so that your time and effort don’t go to waste. 

To help you get started, here are a few examples we thought of:

  • concert/show tickets
  • courses
  • master-classes
  • adventures
  • massages
  • gift cards

Hunt for secondhand treasures

Giving  vintage items a second life requires more time than going to a conventional retail store, but it’s well worth the effort. 

Secondhand shops are full of the unexpected. You can find antique furniture and books, vintage accessories and designer goods, refurbished electronics, and plenty of other treasures inside.

An antique chair you find in a small vintage shop will feel more special than anything bought in a regular store—your friends and family will appreciate the time and effort you put into it. If your friends and family aren’t on board with the secondhand trend yet, go for items that aren’t too antique or vintage to show them that secondhand doesn’t equal old and shabby.

Check out these online secondhand shops for ideas:

I advise going to secondhand shops with an open mind—you never know what you might come across.

Make your own eco-friendly gifts

To be more sustainable (and avoid the holiday shopping stress!) make your own Christmas gifts from scratch. 

You can find plenty of easy and original DIY ideas online. Creating handcrafted gifts can also become a pre-holiday activity together with your family or friends. 

Last year, I wanted to try something new for the Holidays, so after a little soul searching on Google, I decided to experiment with soap. 

I went the easy way and bought a ready-made soap base. Then I melted and mixed it with scented oils, and added a decorative, dried peppermint leaf while it was cooling off. The process was easier than I expected, and it turned out to be a great, low-cost gift. 

One of my colleagues gets ready for the holidays well in advance by making jam every summer. It makes a cute gift, especially if you store the jam in dainty little jars, cover the lid with wrapping paper, and decorate it with ribbon.

These websites offer instructions for various easy DIY projects:

There’s a lot of possibilities, but remember to plan enough time in advance—especially if you’re trying a new craft for the first time. 

Show love to small businesses

This year, it’s especially important to support local, small businesses—the independent entrepreneurs are facing tough times. A lot of them have had to close their doors for a while, and many might not reopen. 

Support the local businesses by choosing them over nationwide chains. Find out if they sell gift cards, offer delivery services, or have an online shop you can explore before the holidays. 

If you don’t know any local entrepreneurs, ask your friends and family for recommendations and pass the torch by recommending the places to others! You can also use apps like Yelp and other online resources to find local restaurants and stores.

You can also support your local vendors from the comfort of your own home by following, sharing, and commenting on their social media. To find out more, watch Printful’s video on “How to Support Small Businesses for Free“.

Support social enterprises and charities

To become more responsible towards the planet and your community, choose to do your Christmas shopping from a social enterprise or at a charity sale. 

Social enterprises offer much needed support to vulnerable members of the society by providing workplaces and donating. Supporting social businesses and charities is an amazing way of giving back to the community during the hHolidays. 

Each year in my neighborhood, there’s a winter sale organized by a local senior’s home, where you can buy various handmade products, including knitted socks and gloves, jewelry, and culinary goods.

You can search for a similar sale in your community, do your shopping at a social enterprise, or simply donate to a good cause. 

Your turn

Now that you’re armed with a whole lot of ideas for an eco-friendly festive season, it’s time to start preparing! 

Whether you choose organic, zero waste, experience-based, DIY, or secondhand gifts—do your research well in advance to avoid the holiday rush and enjoy the process of finding  the best sustainable gifts for your friends, family, and loved ones.

Grēte enjoys all things creative—on the rare occasion when she isn't writing, she's either playing the violin or planning her next animation.

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