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Sustainable gifts
worth unwrapping

Words: Cecily Layzell

Illustrations: Sine Jensen

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Spread cheer this holiday season with thoughtful gifts for friends and family that are also mindful of the environment.

Giving and receiving gifts is one of life’s pleasures. But do we really need – or want – all that stuff? With the intense pressure to consume at this time of year, can happy holidays also be sustainable holidays? We think so! Here’s our guide to choosing the perfect present while minimising the impact on the planet – whoever’s on your gift list.

For the serenity seekers

Everyone can use a bit of pampering, especially around the holidays which – let’s be honest – can be stressful. Know someone who’s feeling the strain? Gifts that melt away tension are sure to go down well. The US-based Siblings offers sustainably-produced, low-waste coconut blend wax candles with a difference. The candles come in a compostable refill bag so there are no throwaways. Just microwave or heat the wax in boiling water and fill a jar or upcycled container you think the recipient will like. In Europe, Jungle Culture fills reclaimed coconut shells with subtly scented, vegan-friendly soya wax for a fully biodegradable option. 

Double the relaxation with some clean cosmetics. The luxurious Lavender Spa Set from Andrea’s Organic Market comes in plastic-free packaging and smells divine. There’s also a growing number of companies that guarantee the products inside the packaging are free from plastic, including harmful microplastics. Look for the Zero Plastic Inside logo and check out Sustainably Lazy’s excellent round-up of beauty brands that are microplastic-free.

For the scrap savers of the world

Those who love food (and hate waste) will get a buzz out of reusable beeswax wraps, which are both stylish and practical. Beeswax wraps are typically made from organic cotton fabric that has been infused with beeswax or plant-based alternatives such as tree resin or soya wax. The pliable covers are a great alternative to single-use plastic wrap and aluminium foil for keeping leftovers fresh, wrapping up bread and cheese, and packing snacks on the go. Various prints and sizes are available, but a hand-made wrap can add a personal touch to your gift. Wraps can be reused for up to a year and composted when they wear out.

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For the nature lovers

Nature lovers don’t usually need an excuse to stop and smell the roses. So why not give them more of what they love? Whether they have a window box, garden or favourite walking route that could use some colour, seed bombs are an unusual gift that keeps on giving. As the name suggests, seed bombs are little balls of flower seeds mixed with clay and sometimes compost. First popularised by guerrilla gardeners, seed bombs are designed to be simple to grow. Just soak them in water and toss into soil in a pot, border or vacant lot, then watch the flowers bloom. And where there are flowers, insects and birds are sure to follow. This is another gift you can easily make yourself, but we like the fun factor of Kabloom’s grenade design and the chocolate-box elegance of Blossombs. Look for local suppliers that sell seed bombs with seeds native to your area.

For the creative types

As all scribes and scribblers know, there’s something about putting pen to paper that digital notetaking can’t beat. Recycled, chemical-free and other eco-friendly notebooks are gaining ground, but the notebooks from MOYU go a step further. Not only are they beautifully designed, but no trees are cut down to produce them. In fact, no wood-based products are used at all. Instead, the notebooks use stone paper, a glossy tearproof and waterproof paper made from calcium carbonate mixed with a small amount of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Calcium carbonate is one of the most common substances in nature as well as a by-product of the building industry. Although HDPE is a (recyclable) plastic, MOYU notebooks have an additional feature that the producers say still makes them more sustainable than products from the traditional paper industry, which accounts for some 7% of global carbon emissions: the notebooks come with a pen with erasable ink. Once the pages are full, they can be wiped clean with a damp cloth and refilled up to 500 times. MOYU also plants a tree in Kenya for every notebook sold.

For the people who have everything

We all know someone who’s hard to buy for. If you’re struggling for ideas, giving an experience rather than a physical gift can open up a world of possibilities – and cut down on the mounds of wrapping paper and unwanted items that get tossed come January. You can gift everything from spa treatments and days out to concert tickets and a meal at a favourite restaurant. There are also plenty of experience-based options that will appeal to children. Donating to a cause that’s important to the recipient is another great way to ensure your gift is remembered well into the new year.

We’re able to tell stories like this because of people like you. Join others from around the world in supporting Imagine5’s mission towards a sustainable future. Become a member, or donate what you can. Find out more here

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