Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas

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So December has rolled around quickly once again and Christmas is finally upon us. Christmas means a lot of different things to different people but there is something all of us can agree on: presents! Every year I try to put together a gift guide but I thought this year I would do something a bit different. It’s very easy to get carried away when you’re doing your Christmas shopping and just lob everything into your basket as you’re spending a ridiculous amount of money anyway, but think about all that waste! This year I am going to make more of an effort than ever to be that bit more mindful about the gifts I’m buying and here is how you can do just that as well.

Gift experiences.

My first rule of gift-giving is to stop buyings thing. My friends and I haven’t bought each other actual presents (the odd bottle of gin aside) for a few years, instead choosing to get dressed up and go for some good food and drinks together. It’s a shared experience where you can make memories together and, although it sounds super cheesy, it’s a lot more enjoyable and valuable than unwrapping a physical gift. Why not book a table at your favourite restaurant instead of splurging on presents?

Or, if you’re not really a foodie (or you like the person enough to get them a Christmas present but don’t necessarily want to spend an extended amount of time alone with them catching up), there are lots of other options for experience days. Spa days and F1 driving experiences are popular but not entirely original, so think outside the box. Websites like and make it easier to find something more unusual, such as indoor skydiving or a sushi-making class. If you’re really stuck, you could leave the choice to them with a Smartbox.

kaboompics_Hands Holding Gifts

Replace disposable items with reusables.

This would work particularly well with stocking-fillers for toiletry bits and pieces. Know someone with a thing for makeup and skincare? Some reusable cotton pads and muslin cloths would come in really handy. You can even get reusable sanitary towels with different colours and designs, which would make a funny gift to the right friend!

We’re all guilty of grabbing a 99p single-use plastic bottle of water on the go, but it’s not great for the environment. Encourage your friend to ditch these with a reusable flask – Chilly’s make really good quality stainless steel bottles in lots of cute designs, so you’re sure to find the perfect one to suit your friend’s personality, but they can be a bit on the pricier side. Most supermarkets sell more cost-effective alternatives – mine was a fiver from Tesco and it works a treat to keep my water cool for hours during the day – and you can find some unique bargains in TK Maxx if you keep your eyes peeled.

Similarly, for your java junkie pal, a reusable coffee cup would make a perfect gift. Virtually every shop you can think of sells some variation of these now, from a £3 bargain in B&M to more functional but slightly more expensive brands such as Joco Cups. I love this pretty one from Cath Kidston.

Buy secondhand.

One of the best ways to help the planet is to reuse and recycle! As much as we all love Christmas, myself included, it’s one of the worst seasons for waste. How many times have you received a gift and never used it again? It’s not something we’d likely admit to easily but we’ve all done it!

Buying secondhand things as gifts is frowned upon but I cannot understand why. It’s not just the humble charity shop anymore; in the current app-driven world, we have eBay, Facebook Market, Depop, Vinted, Gumtree and many more at our fingertips. We’re living in a society now that makes buying secondhand so easy and it should be seen as a lot cooler. Obviously there are certain things that wouldn’t make a great secondhand gift (nobody really wants somebody’s old socks and pants, do they?) but books, CDs and DVDs (for the person in your life who doesn’t have Spotify or Netflix), computer games, board games and unique bric-a-brac would all make excellent gifts for the right person.

Clothes are a bit more difficult to gift secondhand but, providing they’re in good condition, things like jewellery, bags, purses, wallets and even the odd eccentric clothing item like a unique jacket or graphic T-shirt could become a treasured present. It doesn’t even have to be vintage or antique, although that’s a good option for someone who would appreciate it. Lots of people sell on brand new bits at a fraction of their RRP, maybe as an unsuitable gift or (like me) they just never got round to returning something that didn’t fit. Look out for “BNWT” items on eBay and Depop, and things like perfume or aftershave that the seller used once and didn’t like but cannot be returned.

One last tip – don’t be afraid to haggle (although maybe not in a charity shop lol awkward). Chances are the seller is not expecting to get full price for what they’re selling so they ramp the cost up a bit in a bid to get a bit more money for it. Or you could ask them to chuck in free P&P and they’ve got a deal!

kaboompics_Hands Holding Gifts-2

Stop buying tat.

It’s the dreaded Secret Santa. You’ve got a budget of £5 to get flirty, hopelessly single Karen from Accounts a gift. You scour Amazon and the shelves of Tiger and eventually plump for a “Grow Your Own Boyfriend” gadget and a packet of Weird Crushes Top Trumps. Everyone laughs, you have a game or two round the table at the Christmas do before the cards get soggy and forgotten after someone spills a whole bottle of Rioja and, after a token picture on Facebook, Karen’s new squeeze ends up in the bin.

I dislike Secret Santa and stocking-filler type gifts for this very reason. They’re cheap and funny and easy to wrap to pad out the main present and make it look like you’ve given them more. But, more often than not, they are of neither use nor ornament and soon end up buying thrown away, usually in landfill because tat gifts are rarely recyclable. And they’re all over every shop’s shelves because we keep buying them. Supply and demand, innit.

Instead of spending a few quid here and there on silly gimmicky gifts, put it towards your budget for the main gift, or even save your money. Put it in a piggy bank for next year’s gifts, or even for yourself. It just makes sense.

Mix practicality with luxury.

I know one of best ways to choose a good gift is to give them something they wouldn’t indulge in for themselves, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be something useful. Getting something that someone actually needs is apparently a big no-no but I have never understood why. One of the best gifts I am lucky to receive from my mum each year is a yearly planner; it’s often big and chunky and encourages me to stay organised. And, the first year she chose one for me, she got the idea because she asked me what I needed.

If you’re not sure what someone would want, just ask. Most people would much rather have something that they can get a lot of use out of than something that just looks good. And even if you’ve got the right idea, what if you’ve slightly missed the mark? For instance, say you wanted to treat your bestie to a posh lipstick because she’s mad about makeup. You know Mac lipsticks are meant to be good and Velvet Teddy is one of the most popular shades in their collection, so that’s the one you choose. But, it turns out, she has lots of nude shades. Or she doesn’t get along with Mac’s formulas. Or she would rather have something cruelty-free. She really had her eye on Victoria by Charlotte Tilbury but would never justify spending that much on a lipstick for herself. Yes, the Mac Velvet Teddy is a lovely gift and you’ve thought it through, but it’s not quite Carling and it could’ve been avoided if you’d ignored what etiquette says is distasteful and just asked.

kaboompics_Red Christmas Gift

Good things come in small packages.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, bigger is not always better (oi oi). I can guarantee already that on Christmas morning, if I scrolled down my Facebook feed, I will see picture after picture of piles of presents under trees, barely fitting in the shot, humble-bragging about how many toys they’ve got for their kids. It looks great, but how much you care about someone doesn’t depend on how many presents you can throw at them. And surely if you didn’t really care about someone, you wouldn’t bother getting them a present in the first place? Why waste your time, money and effort just so you can look good?

The same goes for money. You can flash your cash all you want, but a crap present is a crap present, no matter how expensive it is. Fancy, pricey gadgets and super bougie designer brands are lovely, but anyone with enough money can buy someone an iPad or a pricey perfume. How much you love someone doesn’t depend on how much money you spend on them and it’s always so obvious when someone thinks they can spend a lot of money to disguise the fact that they don’t know you at all.

One small, not-so-costly but well-chosen gift can mean the world to someone, but a swanky gadget will likely get forgotten about a few months down the line.

Above all, be thoughtful.

I’ve touched on this in pretty much each of the above points, but the golden rule for me when buying a gift is to think about the person you are getting a gift for. It’s always easy to buy something popular or “quite nice” or even to be drawn to things that you would like yourself, it’s only natural. But really try to think about the other person. What do they enjoy doing? Do they have a hobby? Have they mentioned something to you in passing about something they have always wanted to try? Would they appreciate a material gift at all or is something that you can’t wrap going to be more valuable to them? Contrary to the old adage, it’s not just the thought that count, but no gift at all is a better choice than a thoughtless one, every time.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? How do you like to choose presents for people?


Juliet (2)


I'm Juliet and I'm a twenty-something Creative Writing graduate based in the U.K. with a love of books, cats, and cosmetics.


  1. I’d much rather give and receive things that are actually wanted and more than likely needed. I’ve asked my mum for some blinds for my dressing room window this year – how boring! But I’ve been putting off buying them for myself because they’re pricey so I’m really grateful for them.

    Also a way of being mindful with plastic packaging and putting more thought into a gift is doing handmade. I’m doing handmade soap and homemade fudge for extended family this year to avoid packaging and also to give them something more thoughtful, rather than for the sake of it.

    I’m also looking forward to our annual Wagas trip rather than buying you a present lol.

    1. Juliet says:

      Just seen this! Thank you so much for my soap and our annual Wagas trip. Love and miss you always, my bestie <3

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