Ultimate sustainable gift guide: what to buy when you want to save the planet

 We don’t need to talk about how the world is crumbling do we? 🌎

Let’s just say it’s a given that it’s unsustainable with the way modern society is guzzling non-reusable materials.

Which brings us to the point in hand….


The time of year where stockings are expected to be filled with plasticky-little gimmicks and 300,000 tonnes of new waste will adorn the UK.

The good news is that right now you probably have some people in your family who are part of the sustainability brigade:  perhaps a vegan cousin, or an uncle who donates to charity in lieu of present-buying, or a sister who will send out recycled-paper Christmas cards…

Or it might be lil ol’ you that is leading the way in sustainability and you want to reinforce this message via the presents you give out at Christmas.

It’s already a hard enough time (especially financially) to be expected to buy presents for so many people (“Eurgh I don’t want to buy anything for my daughter’s best friend’s mother but she gets me a box of smellies eveeeery year“) so I’m going to share my environmentally — and financially — sustainable gift ideas with you to make your present-giving easier!

Thrift shop gift baskets

One of my favourite presents to give are ‘goodie baskets’ filled with small trinkets.

Over the years I’ve successfully pulled together many themed gift hampers but I’m sorry to say I’ve been awful at buying plasticky items, products with excessive packaging and even ordered little bits to be long-haul delivered to my door (ie a cheap phone case from China) to fill them.

It’s time to be better — and thrift shops are a good place to start.

For the ‘base’ of your hamper, you should be able to find a small wicker basket for dirt cheap in a thrift shop — I literally see about 15 every time I enter one of these places. Or any other kind of storage utensil – it could even be a mixing bowl or a make up bag. The aim next is to fill it with some thrift shop goodies!

Here’s some ideas for theme baskets to give to friends and family:

  • Baking. Look for cooking equipment: vintage mixing bowls, unusual cookie cutters, rolling pins, aprons, recipe books. These kinds of items usually go for $/£1-2 so would be a super cheap one to make.
  • Pampering. Look for candles, meditation/easy listening CDs, romance novels. Oversized mugs are great — fill with some packets of hot chocolate. Anything that would be great for a cosy night in.
  • Night out. Look for vintage blouses or a glitzy sweater (oversized is a safe bet), sparkly or metallic belts, chunky necklaces.
  • New home. If you know someone who’s just recently moved home you could look for vintage plates, teapots, nice champagne glasses, unusual ornaments and board games.

And for those with young children:

  • Dress up bin. Look for children’s costumes, funky jewellery, funny sunglasses or hats, anything that can be used as a prop. If you’re creative you could also make a cardboard crown or fairy wand, and here’s an awesome guide to making a cape out of a tshirt.

Experience, experience, experience

What a better way to share the love by investing in an experience for your friends and fam as opposed to gifting material goods!

Experiences are far more memorable and usually require a bit more effort than clicking on Amazon’s Buy Now. For the extra time spent researching your idea, you get the benefit of knowing you’ve given a really meaningful gift.

This is especially significant for the kids, who often get excited over lots of unwrapping but realistically end up forgetting about new toys within minutes. The littles in your life would get far more out of spending time in new places and playing with you than a bit of plastic!

Perfect experience gifts could include (and you can create homemade ‘tickets’ for):

  • for littles: a big bake-off sesh, involving cookies and cupcakes, or a date to the library where you can read all of the books followed by ice cream
  • for parents: a ‘night off’ — you’ll provide free babysitting for them to have an evening out (or in!)
  • for a partner or bestie: a cosy at-home movie date with cocktails and homemade popcorn, tickets to a show, or booking a fun class together (like dance, or cooking)
  • for an animal lover: visiting a local donkey/llama/goat sanctuary (depending on what they have nearby!). They’re often free but you might need to book ahead
  • for the historian/artist: membership to a local museum or gallery
  • for friends/close colleagues: homemade cooked dinner with games night — crack out Pictionary for the biggest laughs (let’s hope you don’t have any Monicas in your life!)

Homemade treats  

There’s many things you could make, even if you’re not necessarily a creative type.

As long as you can follow some online DIY instructions, making some gifts for your loved ones should be easy. Here’s some ideas:

  • Thrifted photo frame. Time to head back to the thrift store — pick up a cheap frame and sand it down then get out the paints! Here’s a relatively easy golf leaf design. and this is even easier for a vintage, worn look. Ensure to print out a photo (steal from their Facebook page!) to pre-populate the frame.
  • Adorable candles. Candles are surprisingly easy to make — here’s a ‘recipe’ for a beautiful one.
  • Thoughtful bookmark. This is great for any book lover — and even better if you can get a little one in your life to help you (ie get your niece to help create one for your sister). Here’s a cute AF bookmark if you can sew or a super easy button bookmark. You could pair this with a $5-10 gift card to their favourite cafe or book shop.
  • Snowglobes. Something I’d never have thought to make myself, until I saw this blog post. Just how cute are these? And something that is likely to be used every Christmas.
  • Cookies! There’s not really too much to say about this one… bake and decorate 😉

And if you really need to buy new…

Okay so you’ve decided buying from thrift shops isn’t for you, you don’t have a single creative bone in your body, nor the time to faff around working out an experience gift?

Here’s some sustainable options that you can just purchase outright and still feel good about:

In store

  • Lush gift boxes. Not only is Lush a totally sustainable brand that spends a lot of money and effort on human rights and conservation causes, their products are also, quite literally, lush. They create ready-made gift boxes for your ease.
  • The Body Shop. Another great skincare/health brand that is great on sustainability and has an element of luxury. Mango Body Butter is a personal favourite.
  • Gift card to a ‘bring your own jar’ refill shop. Obviously this is applicable only if you have one of these stores near you! If you’re in the US, check this site.
  • Reusable Starbucks mug. Perfect for any coffee lover, Starbucks have got some beautiful Christmassy ceramic reusable mugs for about $20. There are many other reusable mug options — Yeti or Hydro Flask. Buy a good quality one and they’ll be set for life (or, y’know, a good 5 years at least).


  • Earth Hero zero waste gift box. This is a perfect starter kit, or add-on kit, for someone who wants to be more sustainable. This is an American brand but there’s also plenty of options on Etsy if you’re in the UK or somewhere else – just search ‘zero waste gift box’.
  • Recycled Firefighter wallet. I have one of these myself and they are so strong and sustainable. The fact they’re made out of old fire hose is just a great talking point whenever I whip it out too.
  • Clothing rental subscription. For the fashionista in your life who wants to dial down on the amount of purchases they make, a rental box would enable them to wear as-new trendy clothing without the waste.
  • Nimble wireless charger. Made from plants and recycled plastic bottles, this will make any wannabe-sustainalist techie swoon.

Clubbing together

Instead of all of your family struggling to think what Uncle Joe or niece Sophie want, down tools and arrange a ‘fund’ where you all pitch in for one big gift. Make the recipient aware you’re doing this and ask them what they want.

Now, this does goes against many family traditions of having ‘lots of little things to open’ — mine included. But honestly, the best present I ever got was when my mum, nan and uncle pitched in together to buy me a flat screen TV. That TV lasted me for nearly 6 years and meant the world to me. And I much preferred that to opening lots of little things.

Also along this theme: Secret Santa. Next time you’re involved in one, see if you can get people on board to do a thrifted-only version. Yes it might make it a *lil* harder, but the results will probably be way more hilarious!

View this post on Instagram

Are THRIFTED holiday gifts still a Faux Pas? 🤔 . Happy Sunday Friends!!! I was chatting with a stranger while shopping at thrift store last week and she asked me: "WOULD U ACCEPT A THRIFTED GIFT?" This was an obvious answer for me YES DUH. I explained that I'm a big thrifter (and after a quick shameless plug on 204Thryft of course) that I not only appreciated the thought of someone searching for this specific item for me but the fact that they know how I felt about the reduce, recycle, reuse factor and the buyerarchy needs. So yes, I accept. LOL. If they really know me…a good thrift flip is extra bonus points.🤣 . But that mindset would not be applied to everyone. I think there is still that feeling of secondhand gifts "is cheap or tacky" even if the item is brand new with tags. To some, its still taboo – we often forget this being so immersed in the thrift world because Secondhand to us- is Second Nature. . So a couple things to consider is to really know your giftee – would they appreciate that you took that time to search such a personalized gift? Maybe the gift had a memory attached to it? Would they care if it was second hand? So really hone in on your recipient. Consider buying things like home decor, art, books, music items (cassettes and vinyls are back y'all 😏), if you know them personally then clothing and jewelry are great handpicked gifts. . HAVE YOU GIVEN OR RECIEVED A THRIFTED/ SECONDHAND GIFTS? Did you love it? or hate it?. Comment below we wanna know some thoughts on this with the holidays just around the corner 🎁🎄🌲 . #thriftedgifts #thriftedholiday #secondhandgifts

A post shared by 204 THRYFT | CHRISTINE+MELISSA (@204_thryft) on


And that’s a wrap! (from the most comprehensive list blog I’ve made in a while…).

I hope this list might give you some inspo for how to handle Christmas in a more sustainable manner, and here’s hoping your family will be on board!

Are you worried you’ll offend someone by giving them second hand clothing? Find a nice way of telling them to get over themselves. Be upfront that your gift was sourced from a charity shop/vintage stores and own the feeling of being environmentally friendly.

Let me know what you think! Merry Sustainable Christmas 🎅

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