Student Friendly Sustainable Gift Guide

Tuesday 08-12-2020 - 13:30
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The Christmas break is soon to be upon us.

A time often associated with giving to others.  




You may be thinking of gifts to buy for loved ones at this time. Here is a student friendly guide to shopping sustainably this year, which of course can suit the student budget!


Some sustainable focused gift ideas and considerations are as follows:

  • Longevity. Has the gift been made to last? Often, the higher the quality of the product, the longer it will last. This is both beneficial to the environment as a lower frequency of the items will need to be created but also beneficial to the receiver as the item will last longer.
  • Shop local. It has been a particularly tricky year for small businesses, especially without the Christmas Markets which happen across the country at this time of year. Shopping locally can mean that you are financially supporting local people and businesses and potentially using local resources which of course reduces transportation impact on our environment.
  • Try to go plastic FREE. Plastic can take thousands of years to decompose in landfill as it is not a natural resource. Plastic can be in more products than you think so make sure you double check the product composition. There are so many plastic free alternatives to products. However, if you do have to use plastic gifts, make sure they are BPA free.
  • Reusable items. Reusable items are often more sustainable than single use items and means that they can be enjoyed for years to come! E.g. reusable drinks bottles – I’ve has my reusable bottle for over four years now and it still works perfectly!
  • Recycled material. Buying items made from recycled material is a great way to shop! It means that items that may have been thrown into landfill have actually been created into something different. This ensures that the resources are not just thrown away but can be used again and again and new resources do not need to be created as we can use the old ones and create something new!
  • Designs and colours. Are the products design, theme or colours future proof? It is the receivers’ style? Will they still love the design of the product in years to come?
  • Surprise! Although it is sometimes nice to surprise people with gifts they are not expecting, this is not always the most sustainable way to give. It can be better to ask someone what kind of gift they would like as then you know that they will use it as they already have a desire for it. This can reduce waste – ever had a gift from someone and didn’t know how to say it wasn’t really your thing? Asking what colours, designs or even gifts themselves people want can help to prevent this. It might be helpful to tell others thigs that you particularly like to also prevent this from happening.
  • Location. Where has the product been manufactures? If this is in a different country, how far has that item travelled? The air miles of a product can be detrimental to the environment due to the pollution caused during long haul transportation.
  • Secret Santa. Secret Santa is when a group of people, often friends, colleagues or family are each randomly given one person to buy a gift for. This is done anonymously so it’s a surprise and you have to guess who is buying a gift for you! Budgets can be set, which can of course be student friendly, you can even write a ‘wish list’ to help others buy a meaningful present for you that you know you will use. This is a great way to buy a substantial gift that someone wants, reduce the amount of people to buy for and ensure that you will receive a useful gift.
  • Second-hand. Why not see if you can reuse something to reduce waste by purchasing second-hand items. Many items are thrown out with plenty of years usage left in them! Some places that you can buy second hand include charity shops, table top sales, kilo sales and online second hand platforms such as Etsy and Ebay, Deepop  and Gumtree. Buying second hand not only can help the environment but can be a lot more accessible for the student budget!
  • Refill. When buying products such as body washes and lotions, question whether the company is sustainable. For example, is the packaging made from recycled materials or recyclable? Can the product be refilled in the same container it has been purchased in? does the receiver of this gift have access to a refill station which can often be found in Health Food shops and Zero Waste shops.
  • Fabrics, materials, and chemicals. Ensure you look at the fabrics and materials that have been used to create the gift. Natural or recycled materials are best. Natural materials can be renewable and naturally decompose back into the earth when their useful life is over. Recycled materials ensure that those materials that do not decompose well have a second chance of life! Be particularly careful when buying clothes, look for the label that says what the item is made out off. You can check how the item has been dyes – i.e. have natural dyes that are safe in our environment been used or are they chemicals which can leach into water ways, negatively impacting drinking water and ecosystems?


Alternatives to buying gifts:

  • Gifts that benefit a charity. E.g. a product bought through a charity’s shop or donations directly to a charity on behalf of the receiver. Think about the charity that you choose, will the person like it? Does it support their values?
  • An experience. Experiences can sometimes mean more to a person than physical items. This could be an experience that you can do together, which of course creates more memories and can be enjoyed by both of you!
  • Make something yourself. It can be more rewarding for yourself and mean more to a receiver if you put time and effort into creating a gift yourself. There are many platforms that can provide inspiration and spark ideas. E.g. Etsy and Pintrest may be a good place to start developing ideas. Homemade items do not have to be expensive to create so you can easily set a budget for the resources and stick to it!


Some key questions to ask yourself when shopping for gifts:

  • Will the person actually use the product or service? Is it their thing?
  • How long will the product last? Is it something that unfortunately ends up in the bin after the festive period? If so, can it be recycled, reused, or upcycled? Are there more sustainable alternatives?
  • Has the person already ‘got one’? Do they need another?
  • Will the gift have a significant impact on the person?
  • Have you asked what the budget is for this year? This may sound blunt, but it is a great way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.



Receive a gift that isn’t your thing? – DO NOT bin it!

There maybe someone else who could use it, for example a friend or family member. Maybe try to sell it on one of the online platforms or donate it to charity.


Don’t particularly need anything this year?

Why not ask for charitable donations instead?



We can all do our bit in becoming more sustainable!

If you have any top tips that you’d like to share, get in touch or why not share it on our Green Leaders Society social media group!

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