Dreaming of a green Christmas?

Graphic by Salomé Blain

It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means: snow is falling, decorations are going up, and Michael Bublé has suddenly entered society’s radar again.

Crack open your wallets, ladies and gents, ‘cause it’s time to go Christmas shopping.

Last week, I made the mistake of stepping into a Winners on a Sunday afternoon. The place was jam-packed with ravenous Christmas shoppers, their carts overflowing with clothes, toys, home decor, technology, sports equipment, you name it. Simply put, it was an absolute hellscape – the shelves nearly picked clean, it felt like the apocalypse was just around the corner.

The whole experience got me thinking about the sheer amount of waste Christmas gifts produce each year. From polyester pajamas to plastic playthings, many popular presents are non-biodegradable, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, most of these items will end up in our landfills and oceans rather than our recycling facilities. Although there’s only so much the individual consumer can do, the more we are conscious of what we buy and where it goes, the more we can reduce our impact this holiday season. So without further ado, here is a list of sustainable gift ideas to try this year:



Houseplants have become insanely popular in the last decade or so. Although I personally manage to kill everything I touch, a lot of my friends are big time plant parents and are always happy to add to their collection. Also, I hate that I just said ‘plant parents.’

If you can, try to buy your plants at a local shop rather than online or at a big box retailer. Besides being a more sustainable option (usually), I find that these smaller stores have a more unique selection, and staff tend to be very knowledgeable about what species make good gifts.

Thrifted and/or Vintage Items

Not only is thrift shopping a greener option, it’s affordable too. While gifting something that is already used might seem a bit weird at first, you can find a ton of quality, beautiful items at your average charity shop—I’ve even found clothing with the tags still on. If you don’t want to spend your afternoon sifting through items in person, websites like ThredUp and Ready to Wear Again make it easy to narrow your search by size, style or brand.

If you wanna kick your thrifting up a notch, try shopping for vintage items. While this route can be a little more expensive, shopping vintage can turn up some pretty special finds, and the extra thought and care will be much appreciated. Ragstock.com is a great online resource for vintage clothing, and Montreal is packed with all kinds of vintage shops like the Mile End’s Citizen Vintage and Local 23.


One Christmas when I was a kid, my great-uncle sponsored a polar bear in my name with the World Wildlife Fund. It was a great gift because a) I was sad about the polar bears dying, and b) it came with a cute little polar bear stuffie. This present was both low-waste AND beneficial to an environmental cause, which is pretty cool.

If your loved one has a cause that they are passionate about and you have a bit of cash to spare, consider making a donation on their behalf. Obviously, this type of thing isn’t for everyone, but if you think it will be well-received, go for it!

Items for long-term use

It’s no secret that much of what we purchase can become unusable or obsolete over time. Oftentimes, items wear out more quickly because they’re poorly made or because something newer and shinier has entered the market. While it’s normal and completely okay to replace things that are broken or utterly outdated, an investment in higher quality items that will stand the test of time is well worth it, and much less wasteful. This type of product can range from ultra-durable coffee mugs and winter boots to timeless furnishings and clothes.

Of course, this type of gift is only sustainable if the person receiving it actually has a need for it. When it comes to buying items that are meant to last for years to come, make sure you know a thing or two about the person you’re buying it for!

One last tip before I go: as you complete your December shopping, consider switching up the way you wrap your Christmas presents. Most gift-wrap is non-recyclable because of its glossy finish, so make sure you look for wrapping paper that is recyclable and/or biodegradable. Better yet, try using some old newspapers instead—topped off with a bit of ribbon or twine, I think this actually looks pretty cute. Plus it’s free, which makes it even cuter.

Happy holidays everyone!


Graphic by Salomé Blain

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