Gift Ideas For The Sustainable Minimalist

Ah, Christmas…the most giving-est time of the year. Remember when you were a kid, the feeling you’d get seeing presents under the tree at Christmas? Heck it could be any tree, even one at a friend’s house or the department store. The packages you knew weren’t destined for you but still couldn’t help but wish they were…and that they were filled with games, Ninga Turtles or purple Popples? Maybe that last one was just me. I used to be the type who was all about it. I’d watch all the movies, get excited about the presents, listen to Christmas music in the middle of June…the whole nine yards.

Nowadays I’ve come to dread the whole season a little. I still enjoy the carols, gatherings with family and friends, watching old movies with mi madre, and sipping on some delicious egg nog but my interest in the holiday gift charade has majorly waned over the years, particularly since the birth of our daughter. Minimalistic tendencies do not exactly jive with what has become the current Christmas ritual of want-spend-buy and while I’d love if everyone shared my love of underconsumption, not everyone does. Sure, I’ve tried to fight it but I am one person out of many, and that many takes pleasure in the feeling that comes with traditional holiday giving. I’m never going to have a completely consumer-free Christmas, at least not outside our home and by fighting it I just end up making things stressful for myself. The best I can do is provide our loved ones with a list of ideas that most align with our values and hope for the best!

This guide was created so that others who are trying to figure out what to get the young, sustainable family would have something to turn to, eliminating the guess work and saving everyone a little time this holiday season! That being said, all of these ideas can be used with anyone in your life who you want to give a gift but aren’t sure what. Instead of going with a default, why not try a different approach this year? 😉

What to give the sustainable minimalist:

1. NOTHING. Wait, what nothing?! Yes, you read that correct. We as a nation have too much stuff) and those who strive for minimalism are particularly sensitive to this fact. How about instead of focusing on giving gifts, you spend time as a family doing other things? Head outside for a hike, play games, bake or use the money you would have spent for a destination holiday and create a memory together! I have one friend who skis every Christmas with her family and another who last year spent the day at an amusement park. Which leads me to suggestion #2…

2. Give the joy of experiences. Gift cards to learn something new, a day of pampering, tickets to concerts, movies, musicals, sporting events…the possibilities are endless. Doing stuff brings more enjoyment than owning stuff so if you’re really looking for a gift that will make your loved ones truly happy: give them an experience!

3. Make something yourself. Body scrubs, spice blends, bread – all are things that would get used and show you care by taking the time to make it. Not really into DIY? Fill a small journal documenting your favorite memories shared with them or stories from over your lifetime. I can tell you that this sort of gift would beat out a store bought gift any day and be treasured forever.

4. Give money to those who need it by donating to a charity of your choosing or one that matches up with your loved ones interests. It could be an organization dedicated to cleaner oceans (me), planting trees (also me), rescuing animals (this too) or maybe on helping those within your community by donating to programs that help homeless get back on their feet through career counseling or promote sustainable urban agriculture (all me, haha).

5. Choose a simple gift made of or packaged in materials such as paper, cotton, wool, bamboo, wood, glass, stainless steel over synthetic materials such as plastic, polyester and nylon.

Here are a few ideas that fit the bill…

Stocking stuffers/Small gifts:

– Bar soap + Wooden soap dish

Reusable organic sack or small jar filled with chocolates

Natural Compostable Loofa

Mason jar lid for drinking (stainless)

Straight straw, with holder and cleaner

Plain organic cosmetic rounds

Incense burner with several scented sticks to try (in lieu of candles)

– Single bottles of essential oils. Can be used with anything from cleaning to homemade hand soap. Lavender, peppermint, basil, tea tree and lemongrass are all great versatile options and you can pick these up at most any natural grocery store.

– Small wool ornament

For at home:

Reusable tea strainer & small mason jar filled with your own blend of loose teas (to find bulk near you)

– Large wide mouth mason jar filled with locally blended coffee (ground or beans)

– Reusable growler filled with locally made beer. You could do one large or one to two smaller sized which are better for enjoying smaller volume at a time.

Reusable cloth bowl covers (to use in place of foil and plastic wrap)

– Macrame Plant Hanger (here, here)

– Air cleansing plant. Aloe vera, Boston fern, English ivy and spider plants are just a few of the many that can help clean the indoor living space of your loved ones!

For on the go:

Stainless steel ice pack

Adjustable cloth sandwich bag

Stainless steel container

For the kids:

Kids are the primary target for overindulgence during the holidays and often inundated with a pile of gifts that may not be fully appreciated and won’t likely get played with once the holiday is said and done. Pick one toy and/or one experience to keep gifts to a reasonable number or try this simple gifting strategy: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. When giving material items, choose things that will last through the years and avoid the gimmicky, plastic toys often geared towards babies & toddlers. Got a wee in your life one who doesn’t know their own name or which way is up? Save yourself the money and offer to watch that cutie pie for a couple hours or put that money towards something that would benefit them later down the road – higher education!

Babies & Toddlers

A better stacker

– Wooden puzzle (ABC, Shapes)

Basic Wooden Train Set

Plain wooden blocks

Magnetic blocks – natural



Recycled Crayons (Made in the USA)

Kid Sized Gardening tools

Wooden Magnet Tiles

Ice Pop Molds

Stainless Steel lunchbox

Eco-Friendly Backpack

General things to avoid:

  • Single use lotions, soaps and body washes in plastic bottles
  • Clothing items from mainstream/big box stores
  • Plastic, light up, noisy short lived toys/cheap electronics
  • Personalizing. Once a name has been added to an object it makes it that much harder to find it a new home if no longer needed down the road.
  • Subscriptions to magazines or any extended delivery service as often stuff is packaged in single use materials and has a limited lifespan.

Other places to find sustainable gift items:

  • Secondhand/Thrift stores
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Local shops that sell locally handmade items or high quality products.
  • Antique stores (especially to find something unique)
  • Your own closet or attic! Got a family member who might appreciate something you already own more than you? Pass it on. Hand down something from childhood that was yours (or grandparents: your child’s). It already exists and how cool is it to see something being used again with a new generation?!


Hope this guide was helpful!! Don’t forget to keep in mind this season what the holidays are really supposed to be about. Cherish the time spent with those you hold most dear and max out on all the local or vegan egg nog while you can!! 🙂

xo, Erica

*There are no affiliate links contained within this post. Links provided are simply those that I found during my searches and wanted to share with others to make the holiday season a little bit less wasteful! Happy holidays!

2 Replies to “Gift Ideas For The Sustainable Minimalist”

  1. Cathy Tyree Herb says:

    Thanks for the wonderful gift ideas!

    1. Aw, you’re welcome, Cathy!! 🙂

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