Photo: Green gifting

There are all sorts of ways to give green. (Photo credit: Prabu.S)

There's no better time than this financially challenged, politically confusing shopping season to check your list twice and consider: Do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you? Think about it. One less gift can save about 200 kg of natural resources (the equivalent of two, queen-sized mattresses) and keep the same amount of material out of the waste stream. Now is also a great time to pause and reflect, spend quality time with family and friends and, if you're going to buy, buy less, buy used and buy local.

There are lots of ways to give presents without buying more stuff. Get creative.

Donate to charity

Honour those on your gift list with a contribution in their names. Choose a charity as a family gift to the world — it's a great way to get kids out of 'buy me' mode and into a conversation about how we need to share the planet.

Buy something used

Used (aka 'recycled, vintage, pre-owned, antique') stuff is already here — no new energy, materials, processes, packaging or transportation from far away are needed. (The team at have even started Canada's first ever Buy Something Used Day on January 22.

Offer your skills

Whether it's a year's worth of once-a-week babysitting or a promise to rake leaves, we all have something we can do for someone on our gift list that's worth more than just another inanimate object. And making homemade coupons is fun and crafty.

Give experiences instead of stuff

Movie or theatre tickets, an art gallery membership, a sports event are great gifts; just remember to keep it local. Throw in bus tickets or passes for an extra shot of green.

Consider a book

Whether new or used, there's nothing like a good read. After you've finished sharing with family and friends, you can donate books to libraries (the world's oldest recycling centres).

Make gifts yourself

Whip up an assortment of green cleaners or non-toxic cosmetics. Or assemble a green travel kit in an attractive (reusable) cloth bag: stainless steel commuter mug and/or water bottle, reusable food container, cloth napkin, and 'spork' (a spoon and fork in one).

Cut the wrap

Great gift decorating doesn't have to involve paper. Try reusing old fabric, finding fun recycled materials or using a funky bag.

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