What to give someone who has everything?

Written by Melanie Brown

5 gift ideas for people who have everything. Literally.

We’ve all been there. Society tells us that it’s time to buy stuff to show a friend, family member, your wife or boyfriend, just how much you care.

Birthdays, Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, someone has had a baby or someone is getting married. We feel pressured to buy stuff to show how much we care about these things and for the people who are experiencing them. But these behaviours come at a cost. For example, UK-based Waste Connect estimates that each year, more than 8,000 tonnes of waste is generated just from Easter egg packaging and cards alone!

But what if there was a different way to celebrate special events? A way that is almost zero carbon and doesn’t help contribute to the billions of tonnes of waste dumped across the globe each year.

Here are five sustainable, guilt-free gift ideas for those times of celebration. And best of all, most are also cost-free!

  1. Go for a walk
    Hang on it gets better – this is a walk with a twist! You’re going to be a tour guide. The gift? The time and effort you’ve spent planning the route, learning about the buildings, mountains, trees or statues you point out along the way and getting physically active, which improves both mental and physical health.
    It’s basically the equivalent of putting together a 1980’s mixed tape, both effort-wise and for the reaction you’ll get from your friend, family member or loved one. And, you get to share in the gift as well!
  2. Do some volunteer work
    Imagine if 2 billion people did just one thing for free. Imagine what could be possible in this world from giving a little bit of your time to a greater cause? The gift? The joy of giving (which is a big buzz in itself) your time and skills and a unique experience where you can meet new people and learn new things. In fact, many people pay to volunteer for the knowledge and experience it gives them. Organising a day for both of you to volunteer at the local cat shelter, conservation or social justice organisation will be something memorable and special, and you’ll be sure not to be the person who buys the second toaster.
  3. Shop and make a meal completely from scratch
    Okay, so this is not completely carbon, waste and money free, as you’ll need to buy the ingredients. Make that part of the experience and take your gift-receiver to the farmer’s market (on foot or bike if possible) and choose the ingredients together. Ensure you only buy the amounts you need to reduce waste. Don’t forget you can use the offcuts, leave’s and stalks for soup stock, which you can freeze to use for another dish in the future. Go meat-free to minimise your carbon footprint.
  4. Grow, dry and arrange your own flowers
    Flowers are a popular gift for many occasions. However, they tend to last only a week or two and end up as landfill, where they produce greenhouses gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide. Further, a UK study estimated that raising 12,000 Kenyan roses resulted in 6,000 kilograms of CO2 and the equivalent number grown in a Dutch hothouse emitted 35,000 kilograms of CO2. The alternative is to grow your own flowers (or ask your neighbours if you can have some of theirs), dry them and arrange them in a jar or vase to be proudly displayed for months or even years, if you’ve done a good job.
  5. Give to charity
    Another one that’s not cost-free. But for the amount of money North Americans spend on Valentines Day each year, Treehugger estimates that 66 million school-aged children could be fed for six years! So even if we opted for a charity gift for just one celebration each year, imagine the impact we’d have!
    Buying your loved one a (virtual) goat, school fees and supplies for a child or access to clean drinking water for a family is a great way to give support to those who really need it while saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to your own friends or family.


Melanie Brown is a novice blogger giving it a go for the greater good.