The art of good gifting


The news that the 2023 Macquarie Dictionary word of the year is cozzie livs—a colloquial term for the cost of living—is telling; we’re all currently feeling the pinch. So, the thought of indulging in gift-giving might seem daunting. And the idea of giving sustainably? That’s for the too hard basket.

Have you ever thought about the energy and resources needed to make each item we purchase, every gift we give?

Climate change is primarily caused by our emissions from energy—the energy required to supply our demand for goods, services and travel. It stands to reason therefore, that it is the high-consuming wealthy countries who are the major emitters.

Almost everything we buy causes environmental damage, usually in developing countries far away from us. However, it is the vast scale of our consumption along with the resulting waste that is the real problem.

All that said then, is giving gifts to loved ones a necessary evil?

One person handing a boxed gift to another.
Giving gifts can enhance well-being for both the giver and receiver. Canva.

The psychology behind gift giving is founded on being kind, generous, and empathetic. Research shows that giving, or doing something for someone else, is good for us—fostering meaningful connections, strengthening bonds, and enhancing well-being for both the giver and receiver.

And there are ways to give sustainably, and economically. In fact, it’s a chance to show your loved ones that you care about them and the planet, all while being mindful of your finances.

So, let’s embrace giving by using our creativity and resourcefulness that come with a tighter budget. Think about how to spread sustainable joy without breaking the bank—proving that eco-friendliness and affordability can go hand in hand.

Glimmer has put together a couple of ideas to start our thinking on giving “good” gifts without maxing out the credit card:

🎁 Buy second-hand, refurbish or, if you’re clever, make your gifts. When it comes to buying clothes, fast fashion is out, second-hand is in.

🎁 Quality over quantity—buy less but better quality goods that will last (and perhaps with longer warranties).

🎁 Donate to charity in lieu of a gift, then write your loved one a card explaining the fabulous work the charity does. Charitabl. provides an easy way to choose a charity and donate all on one app. Some charities like World Vision let you choose where your money goes, for example, a child’s education or even a cow!

🎁 Buy useful gifts—ask friends and family what they actually need. Be prepared to also tell others what you might like to receive. This means no more awkward moments of receiving yet another crocheted tea-cosy. Although they can be handy.

🎁 Try to buy ethical brands that are better for the environment and are, preferably, fairtrade. Also, buying from local producers supports small businesses while reducing the emissions from transportation.

🎁 Give a plant. Ok, plants from many nurseries can be a bit pricey, but there are lots of plants you can grow from cuttings. Then pot them in a homemade or recycled pot, and voila! And plants have so many health and environmental benefits!

🎁 Minimise wrapping and try to use biodegradable sticky tape, string or ribbon. Reusable wrapping such as fabric can be a fun and unique way to wrap gifts.

🎁 Giving your time to help someone or simply hang out with someone who needs a friend can be the most valuable gift you can give.

The rear view of an older man and a young boy sitting on a park bench together each with a hand in the air.
Spending time with someone can be the most valuable gift you can give. Canva.

When it comes to gift giving, hopefully these ideas will get us all thinking outside the box (apologies for the pun) about how to give “good” gifts that bring joy to both the giver and receiver, while being better for the planet.

See other Glimmer blogs for more tips on how to better care for each other and our planet.

And join Glimmer—The Sustainability Network to share your thoughts—maybe some of your own sustainable gift ideas—to help us all live more sustainably. Because it’s by working together, sharing, inspiring, and caring that we will change the world.


Carbon Choices and Consumption. Neil Kitching.

Generosity booms: Consumers increase spending on gifts despite cost-of-living crisis.

New Data has Revealed People Who Shop Second-Hand Are Likely To Be More Stylish, So Catchya At The Thrift Shop.

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