Editor’s note: This Plastic-Free Christmas Guide is published as a two-part series. We recommend you read Part I for ideas on hosting a plastic-free party and plastic-free Xmas decorating.
Packaging. It’s the hardest thing to avoid when going plastic-free and one of the most ubiquitous forms of single use plastic. Most major companies ship their products in plastic as well, so even if your gift comes in a cardboard box, there’s no saying how much bubble wrap or other plastic was wasted in its travels. Choosing plastic-free gifts requires more legwork than would a simple click on the Amazon app, but you’ll likely find more unique gifts and support better businesses (Amazon is so problematic, but that’s for another article) by trying. Here are my suggestions for finding packaging-free gifts.
1. Go to an artisan market
I’m biased because I run a monthly pop-up market for artists, but I can honestly say that most of the items I own are from artists and artisans who come to my market and it makes my home and my style unique. When you enter my apartment, you’re immediately greeted by an upcycled vintage school desk (from Sister Chic Interiors), a vegan taxidermy of a unicorn (from Molly Au Contraire), and a full wall of art prints, originals, and photography.
It’s the time of year that if you live in or near any metropolitan city, you’ll be able to find one each weekend throughout December. These makers typically don’t package their goods in plastic, plus you’ll be supporting an artist in your community. If you don’t live near any markets, you might be able to find some great handmade, unpackaged bath and body goods at your local farmer’s market.
2. Make your own gifts
I firmly believe that everyone is creative, they just got bad advice. Art is subjective, and even if you aren’t a professional doesn’t mean that you don’t have something meaningful to express in a way that only you can. Not to sound like an ex-hippie art teacher, but art is becoming even more important in a STEM-obsessed world. Exercise that part of your brain. Some gifts I’ve given include cuttings from my plants, dried flowers, felted figurines, or hand-screen printed designs. I’m still working on a plastic-free source for felt roving, but otherwise, you’d be amazed what you can make from what you already have or with materials that don’t come suffocated by a thousand layers of plastic. Your gifts also mean a lot more coming from you than a factory halfway across the world.
3. Give an experience
Events, classes, and other experience-based gifts require no packaging at all. You don’t need to buy someone a trip to Italy, but an experience has the potential to be even more meaningful than an object your loved one doesn’t need. Experiences can never break or be worn out.
I’d recommend looking into local art collectives who might offer in-person classes, but you can also find great classes or apps online. While I don’t subscribe to any of these services myself if I had the money I’d probably choose to buy the Great Courses, a subscription service for fascinating lectures, Headspace, the guided meditation tool, or Fluenz, a service that connects language learners for immersion experiences through video calls.
4. Sustainable stores
If all else fails, there are some retailers that make going plastic-free easy. I know they’ve been accused of greenwashing, but Lush is still one of the best places to get plastic-free gifts since they make “naked” body products. You could also order the ultimate plastic-free gift from the Plastic Free Shop, a NYC-based boutique that also carries a wide variety of gifts that might help introduce someone to the sustainable lifestyle, or at the Wild Minimalist.
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Lauren, founder and brains behind @packagefreeshop and @trashisfortossers, is here to give you the inside scoop on all Package Free products she is sharing with friends and family this year. ????????? ????????? Lauren is most excited about gifting these incredible stainless steel containers to every single person in her family! You can use the containers for transporting food to a party, storing leftovers, or big batch meal prep! Also, according to our buyer, Kelsey, it is a great alternative to wrapping paper! Available in store and online at www.packagefreeshop.com! #packagefreeshop #packagefree #zerowaste
5. Don’t forget wrapping
I love the look of plain brown butcher paper wrapping paper, especially if paired with a sprig of pine or eucalyptus and tied with twine. You can also use newspaper or even the pages of a magazine for small items. I’d recommend against new wrapping paper because it’s usually packaged in plastic, and not every municipality accepts this plasticised paper. If you choose to use butcher paper, it’s usually compostable, since it’s unbleached, unaltered paper. Check out other Xmas gift wrapping ideas here.
Phew, we’re done!
Whether you found some or all my ramblings amusing or useful, it’s actually quite easy to attain a reasonably plastic-free holiday season. Will some gifts just have to come from overseas? Of course, and that’s OK. I know that some of my gifts will need to be shipped to me, but going plastic free is never a zero-sum game. But, I can try.
The experiences of going to markets, cooking my own food, decorating my home with things I made, found, or bought from local farmers and artists is worth some inconvenience. And If you’re not a workaholic who pushes herself too much a lot of the time, that’s more than OK. The holidays aren’t about achieving some unrealistic lifestyle goal or a competition to see who can afford to give the most gifts or achieve the most luxurious decorations. You can go plastic-free without giving into the artifice of the ideal plastic free, home-made everything lifestyle. Just do your best, spend time with the people you love, and be mindful of how you spend your money and time.
- The Anti-Consumerist Guide to Christmas Gift Giving
- 100 Ethical, Eco-Friendly and Zero Waste Gift Ideas For Birthdays and Christmas
- 15 Cruelty-Free and Vegan Xmas Gifts For Eco Beauty Lovers
- Zero Waste Christmas Gift Guide
- 3 Eco-Conscious Ways to Wrap Gifts This Christmas
- 10 Affordable Eco-Friendly and Ethical Underwear Brands For Women and Men (USD $29 or Less)