Holiday gift guide

Practical, plant friendly and (almost) plastic free

This article appears in the Toronto Vegetarian Association‘s December 2020 issue of Lifelines magazine.

gift wrapped in a red tea towel and grey ribbon

This year might have us feeling socially distant from family, friends and colleagues, but hopefully not in spirit! A jar of homemade granola could be the way to your loved ones’ hearts. Or maybe you’ve perfected your sourdough skills.

Despite these unusual times, there are plenty of thoughtful, affordable and sustainable gifts that people will actually use. So whether you venture out to the store or purchase from the comfort of your couch, here are some ideas for consuming consciously. Consider these questions:

How can I buy less, but better?

The issue of what’s truly essential is perhaps more relevant now than ever before. Instead of stuff that will clutter someone’s home, opt for giving an experience or activity. If you do choose to buy a physical item, seek out good-quality, well-made gifts that will last.

Can I make it myself?

Try cooking, baking, crafting, sewing, repurposing or upcycling.

Can I find it secondhand?

Gone is the stigma against used goods. Hit the thrift shops, flea markets, yard sales, consignment stores, swap groups, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Kijiji, Etsy or eBay.

Can I find it locally?

Now may be the best time to support small, local businesses. I like this reminder by Toronto designer @avemariabell.designs: #shoplocal because Toronto needs you more than Amazon.

Experiences (in-person or virtual)

  • Charitable donations (the options are endless)
    • Adopt an animal, child or landscape
    • Animal protection groups
    • Arts and culture organizations
    • Environmental protection groups
    • Food banks
    • Health care organizations
    • Human rights groups
    • Racial and social justice groups
    • Tree-planting initiatives
  • Classes: art; cooking; dancing; languages; music; fitness; skating, etc.
  • Gift cards: restaurants
  • Memberships: Bikeshare; cinemas; museums
  • Pampering: massages; spa treatments
  • Subscriptions: TV, movie and music streaming services; magazines; newspapers
  • Tickets: comedy; concerts; films
  • Tours: botanical gardens; conservatories; wineries

On the go

  • Reusable face mask; hand sanitizer; moisturizer
  • Reusable water bottle; coffee cup
  • Reusable produce bags
  • Reusable, cotton tote bags
  • Reusable cutlery and serviettes
  • Reusable snack bags

Eating and drinking

  • Bulk grocery items presented in simple glass jars: coffee; tea; cocoa; spices; seasoning salts; chocolate; candy, popcorn kernels; crackers; oats; nuts; raisins; seeds; lentils; beans; baking ingredients; soup ingredients;
  • Olive oil and vinegar; marinated olives; artichokes; sundried tomatoes
  • Sauces (e.g., pesto); spreads (e.g., jams); nut butters
  • Wine and spirits
  • Gift cards: grocery and delivery services

Lounging at home or staycationing

  • Aromatherapy; candles; essential oils; incense;
  • Bath salts; suds; bombs
  • French coffee press; stovetop moka pot (no filters or plastic pods needed!); tea strainer
  • Plants; planters
  • Secondhand books; e-books
  • Secondhand board games; card games; puzzles

Home organization, cleaning and grooming

  • Bamboo toothbrushes; non-plastic floss
  • Bar soap; shampoo and conditioner bars
  • Body butters; lotions; scrubs
  • Brushes for cleaning dishes; bottles; pots; vegetables
  • Food wraps; bowl covers
  • Reusable dish cloths; un-paper towels
  • Reusable facial rounds
  • Shave soaps; brushes
  • Safety razor and blades
  • Stainless steel food containers
  • Stainless steel straw; straw brush
  • Wood chopping board, spatula, salad tongs
  • Wood soap dish
  • Wool dryer balls

The gift wrapping

Whenever I receive a gift, I save the wrapping (the paper, ribbon and bows) that could be used again. I also like to wrap presents in a lovely vintage scarf or fabric, which itself makes a nice gift.

three gifts

Pictured above, left to right:
Kraft paper and twine plus old holiday cards cut up into gift tags. The foliage was picked from a bush in the park. A festive red tea towel cinched with an old grey ribbon.

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