‘Tis The Season To Be Giving – Sustainable Giving in 4 Steps

We’re coming up to Christmas…and festivities mean giving but:

  • giving what? and
  • what the broader environmental and social implications of our giving?

If we look at the some of the basics of living sustainably, there are what are called the 3 Rs.  In order of importance, they are:

  • Reduce
  • Re-use (or Re-purpose)
  • Recycle

Really, though, it’s all about one R: Rethink


We can rethink our gift-giving so that the gifts we give not only make a difference to our recipient’s life but also to the planet and possibly to other people as well. We can do that by ensuring that our gifts make a real difference  and – if we happen to buy an actual thing to give – are environmentally friendly and fair trade.

There is a huge range of books to help the recipient learn to sustain themself and books to help them learn ways to live more sustainably and help the planet.  Some ideas are at here.

Lots of charities have gifts that can give twice.  As well as giving to the person you’re giving to, you are giving in a way that helps others as well.  Your favourite charity is bound to have them listed on their website or in a catalogue.


Gift-giving doesn’t mean you actually have to give lots of stuff.  (Do you and the gift recipients have more than enough stuff already? ;))

There are lots of gifts of aren’t stuff at all so they have no packaging… or the resources associated with producing physical things.

Try giving warm fuzzies (these are my favourite!)…for example:

  • a whole raft of gifts that make a huge, long-term difference to people in need…from places like caregifts.org.au or through Oxfam unwrapped – these are usually given fun titles too!
  • the gift of power for homes or villagers in the developing countries.  One way you can do that is through the Alternative Technology Association.

Giving gifts such as these are really, really easy:

  • you buy a gift to help community out of poverty and
  • you get a card to give to your special someone you giving the gift to

You can buy them online or you can buy them by phone, by mail order, or some charities have shops that you can go in and buy the cards.

These gifts are invariably low impact environmentally and high impact socially.  (And, as well as the warm feeling you get, quite often these gifts are tax-deductible, so that’s an extra bonus for you!)

You could also give an experience, such as:

  • classes in something that they always wanted to try
  • a camping or diving holiday – great for re-connecting with nature!
  • a membership, perhaps to a science centre, gallery or zoo…or maybe even an environmental group


What do you have that you don’t use but would be appreciated by someone else? So many of us have gifts that we been given that we have never used.  You could pass them on to someone who would really appreciate them…and free yourself of clutter, save you money and reduce a bit of our environmental impact as well.  Just be careful that you don’t give that give back to the person who gave it to you ;)!

And what could you turn into a new gift?  Home-made gifts are always welcome because they are unique and made with love.  This is a chance to use time-honoured skills such as gardening, cooking and craftwork.


Did you know that Christmas time (or other major festivities depending on where you living in the world) generate huge extra quantities of waste?  Apparently Americans generate 25% more waste at Christmas time…so it is really important to re-think what waste you might be creating at this special time.

Check what your physical presents, wrapping, cards and other paraphernalia are made from…and whether they can be recycled at the end of their life where your gift recipient lives.

  • Hint: avoid metallic (shiny) plastic wrapping paper and shrink wrap like the plague – they can’t be recycled.

How will your gift-giving be more sustainable?  Share your commitments in the Reply box below.

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!