photo: flickr creative commons from asenat29

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‘Tis the season of last-minute trips to big box stores, frantic online shopping and parking space disputes, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a little bit of creativity to give gifts that don’t leave you feeling like a guilty consumer. The good news is you don’t need to break the bank to do it. Here are just a few of the many ways to keep your holiday gifting sustainable, ethical and economical.

Do It Yourself

Every year, a lot of us shrug off making our own DIY gifts, telling ourselves the usual tales of “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m just not crafty.” These simple DIY gifts are easy, affordable and, to be honest, they don’t require a lot of talent.

1. Seed bombs: Seed bombs are easy-to-make mixtures of seeds and soil often used by guerrilla gardeners to plant seeds in hard-to-reach places. They’re also a great gift for urban gardeners to plant in pots at home. Recipes are easily found online, some making use of ingredients found around at home like compost, egg cartons and teabags.

2. Mason jar snow globes: A mason jar, glitter, some small figurines and glycerine are all the basic ingredients you need to create your own snow globe.

3. Coffee sleeves: No sewing required! Just use the sleeve of an old sweater or even a sock to make simple re-usable coffee sleeves. Cut a three-inch section of the sock or sleeve. Then get creative, using a glue gun to add embellishments such as buttons or felt cut-outs.   

4. Upcycled candles: Upcycle your old candles into new ones by melting your old candles into a mason jar or vintage tea cup. You can buy pre-made wicks to add to your upcycled candles, or you can use cotton string.

5. Edibles: The possibilities are endless when it comes to making edibles to give as gifts. Candied nuts, baked goods (or the ingredients needed to make baked goods in mason jars), homemade salsas and sauces are all great and simple ideas.

Shop Locally Owned

If you really don’t have enough time or talent to DIY, supporting your community’s local economy is one way to make gifting feel good. Local bookstores, record shops, artisan markets and farmer’s markets offer unique and local items that you can’t find at your local mall. By buying locally made goods, you’re supporting small business owners, buying one-of-a-kind gifts and helping reduce environmental impact by buying goods that don’t need to be transported around the world

Shop Second Hand

One way to avoid excessive packaging and excessive prices is to shop second hand, buying from thrift stores, vintage shops and flea markets. You never know what you’re going to find at these places. Vintage books are one of my favourite things to both give and receive. Another simple idea is buying vintage teacups and gifting them along with homemade or locally purchased tea.


When you think about gifts you’d love to “re-gift,” you probably think about a tacky sweater or piece of jewellery. But re-gifting doesn’t have to be about giving away something you can’t stand. It can be about giving a favourite item a new life and a new home. Passing along a favourite book, album or heirloom can add a personalized touch to the holidays, and you don’t even have to leave your house to choose it.

Give to Charity

The truth is, a lot of us simply don’t need any more stuff, but there are a lot of non-profit organizations that desperately need help. Giving a donation in somebody else’s name can go a long way.

Wrap It Up

Going to the trouble of keeping holiday gifts sustainable doesn’t make much sense if you’re going to wrap items up in glossy or metallic wrapping. Here are some simple ways to keep your gift wrapping sustainable, too.

1. Reusable bags: Unlike a lot of wrapping paper, reusable bags can be used over and over again. Better yet, wrap your gifts in tote bags that are perfect for trips to the grocery store, farmer’s market or library.

2. Reused paper: Newspapers, magazines and even old maps can all double as gift wrapping. 

3. Present toppers: Instead of topping your gifts with store-bought bows, use things found in nature such as pinecones, sprigs of Evergreen or dried plants.

Happy holidays and happy shopping!

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Jessica is a graduate from Carleton University’s School of Journalism, where she fell in love with feature writing and independent media. She joined rabble as an intern in 2006 and she has also been published in newspapers and magazines in Ottawa and across the GTA. She edits children’s books by day and enjoys live music, good books and cozy restaurants by night.

Jessica Rose

Jessica Rose

Jessica is a graduate from Carleton University’s School of Journalism, where she fell in love with feature writing and independent media. She joined rabble as an intern in 2006 and she has also...