Tuesday, December 11

sustainable • ethical • zero waste • (christmas) gift guide

I woke up at seven this morning – or actually, that’s a lie. I was still awake at seven this morning and decided to get out of bed. Tired of trying to fall asleep, rather than tired of not sleeping. A little bit of both. I slowly climbed down the wooden ladder that leads up to my tiny attic bedroom. It creaks a little with every step, which I find comforting. Peeking out of one of my windows I found a sleeping world, its foggy breath lingering over the houses, blanketing the harsh cold. Dark and gloomy as it seemed, the sight also brought forth a certain calmness. The street was calm. Quiet. I felt calm. If not for the cold, biting at my feet, I would’ve stood there much longer, unaware of the time passing. I tiptoed down a second flight of stairs into the living room, put the kettle on and found a pair of warm socks to keep my feet from freezing. 

Now I’m sat here, at our dining table, trying to get all the things I’ve been procrastinating done. Swirling shapes of steam dance in the air over my mug of milky tea. My eyelids feel heavy and I should probably stop describing these dreamy morning scenes ‘cause they’re slow and surely starting to make me feel drowsy and rosy and sleepy. 

December comes every year and drags with it a wide array of things, emotions, obligations, changes and lots of commercials. It seems to be the time of standing still, as well as of running around and feverishly trying to navigate your way through a labyrinth of distractions. I’ve gone through different phases, from Christmas-madness to a maddening state of reluctance. Last year I found myself repelled by the whole artificial holiday spirit, by the consumerist atmosphere, the way everything seemed forced. I wondered why we couldn’t just be kind and grateful and mindful every single day of the year? Why stuff your face during Christmas only to force yourself to go to the gym seven days a week after? Where is the balance in that? Christmas didn’t seem a sustainable thing. I felt repelled and opposed and a little sad. 

This year I find myself in a different state of mind. I still don’t like some of the things this holiday season brings with it, but I have regained my love for Christmas. The festive spirit has yet again found its way to my heart. In a different way, that is. I have found my balance. I try to be as kind and warm and grateful and happy as I possibly can, every day of the year, but I happily embrace these darker, wintery months as an opportunity to feel festive and spend some more time with the people I love. In the end, we do have some free weeks and the gloom and darkness of winter asks for a little extra loving and care.

So, now that we have that personal bit out of the way, I can finally share some sustainable, mostly zero waste tips and gift-ideas. I’ll divide the gift-guide in a few different sections: physical gift ideas, gift alternatives, sustainable/zero waste wrapping ideas and DIY gifts. 

Gift preferences are very different for everyone, I’ve always loved giving little meaningful things, homemade stuff, something with a beautiful story behind it or even something non-tangible, an experience, a memory, time spent together. Over the past years I’ve become more aware of sustainable gifting and I try to be creative, thoughtful and still give something I would love receiving myself. A first and primary advice I would like to give is to buy gifts from local shops, artists, individual makers, small companies with real faces behind them. If you buy a little trinket from a big company your money will support unsustainable mass-producing, earth pollution and no one will benefit from it. Whereas if you buy from an individual or local shop your money will support them, their values and will enable them to continue doing what they love. Imagine them doing a happy-dance with every incoming order. That alone is worth it to me. 


note: since I try to focus on shopping local, most of the brands I've linked are dutch -  tips are still applicable in every corner of the planet though!


Neinties, Studio Cossac (NCCxC),  Wildthings and Riverstones are just a few examples of brands I love and adore not only for their ethical and sustainable values but also because their shiny jewellery makes me want to empty my wallet and BUY EVERYTHING. One day I will be able to afford all the golden sparkly things - for now I just swoon and hope that santa might be extra generous this year. I consider myself a minimalist magpie. I just love shiny stuff.


Candles are the easy-to-give kind of present. They're always nice to receive, smell great, look cosy, and once they're all burnt up you can reuse the glass jar to store stuff in. Biscuits or bobby pins or dried fruits. Nuts. Anything. If the lid is one of those twist-on ones you could even use it to bring snacks to school or work. I've come across quite a few nice sustainable brands recently, but I would suggest trying to find a local maker. That's still the most sustainable way to go. Support your locals yo!


Can be a tricky one, but you can't go wrong with a nice, nourishing mask or a hand cream. Homemade scrubs are great, but if you're feeling lazy I could name at least ten amazing sustainable, organic, all natural, vegan skincare brands that make wonderful products with minimal impact on planet and environment. Cîme is a wonderful example. And I've used my facial oil by Mádara for ages and ages now and I truly believe it's the one thing that saves my skin. 

I recently found a really cool Dutch company (Kaerel) that does skincare for men, they're all natural and contribute to the Plastic Soup Foundation which is great - so this could even be a tip for all the dads, boyfriends and brothers out there (still find it kind of silly to have separate stuff for guys and gals but you know - this company has the right intentions)! 

Not really skincare related, but soaps are also a lovely present. They smell lovely and you can find organic, hand made, vegan brands that do all the right things for the planet :) Werfzeep is my personal favourite. 

Another Dutch, local brand I really like is Sara Rosalie- all their products are made in The Netherlands, sustainably packaged, vegan and cruelty free!

Vegan treats

Get your loved ones some chocolate. Always works. Fairtrade, recyclable packaging, vegan. Good stuff. For all the zero-wasters out there (I'm still working my way towards being 100% zero waste) - you can bake some goodies yourself or gift someone a reusable jar with ingredients for vegan brownies or cake all measured out. No packaging. Still super cute. Wrap a lovely vintage scarf around the thing and you're done!


I know SO many amazingly talented people who all make amazingly beautiful things. If there would be ONE amazing gifting tip I could give it would be this: support your friends. Support local artists. Buy their art. Spread the word. Finding someone a magical piece of art is one of the loveliest presents you could possibly give AND you're supporting the artist at the same time. A happy maker, a happy giver and a happy receiver. 

S O M E  P E O P L E  I  A D M I R E & 
W H O S E  A R T  W O U L D  M A K E  L O V E L Y  P R E S E N T S

Silvana makes the prettiest and cutest illustrations of all time. Also- how magical is this pin?!

Anne-Fleur creates AMAZING ceramic vases inspired by the female body. One word: BOOBS!

Tina sells magical stationery (amongst other things).

Nikki is one of the most inspiring photographers I know and recently brought out a beautiful book + record. Also sells amazing prints!


A bag is usually a bit more pricy and thus quite a big present, but if you're into that kinda thing they're a great gift idea. To name a few lovely vegan brands: Osier does amazing bags (and the people who run the company are absolute sweethearts), Fjallraven has a special line of bags (Re-Kanken) made out of recycled plastic bottles (all vegan), Gaston Luga recently gifted me one of their vegan backpacks, made out of vegan leather and durable canvas, a Fraenck bag is definitely at the top of my wishlist these days and Matt & Natt do amazing vegan bags as well!


Now I get that lingerie isn't your every day present, but I would be more than stoked receiving a set by Isadore, Tisja Damen, Anekdot Boutique, Under Protection, Erlich Textil or Organic Basics (to name a few - I have a weak spot for lace, especially ethically, sustainably produced organic lace ha!). 

Books & plants

Are great and CAN both be sustainable. I personally still buy books, but you can make a conscious decision not to - which I support, I just can't live without my physical books. You can buy them second hand though. The most fun (and sustainable) way to give a plant is to get cuttings from your own, grow them and then give them to a friend once you pot them. Would be great in addition to a beautiful ceramic planter by a local ceramist. 

Gifts to help your friends on their way towards a more sustainable life (in a fun, pretty way) 

Reusable bottle 

By dopper, organic basics, 24 bottles or another cool sustainable brand. They look pretty, are a cute gift AND help your friends use less plastic. 

A turtle bag

I love turtle bags. They look pretty fucking aesthetic and are super handy for groceries (though I use them for carrying around any and everything - see through bags are a trend, right?). You can get one through The Green Labels - they even use bike delivery service within Amsterdam, super environmentally friendly!

Reusable bag (with your own art)

An organic cotton tote bag with your own design on it would be a pretty cool gift, right? 

Keep cup

A reusable coffee cup. They're very pretty as well. Cute tip: add a little note saying the next coffee is on you. Now you also have a coffee date. Best. Gift. Ever.  


A lil sustainable-living-package with a glass jar, a steel straw, a turtle bag and a book on sustainability (Het Zero Waste Project, for instance). Wrap it, add a handwritten note, tie a bow - and you're done. 


If you don't want to buy physical things, or if you don't want to receive any physical things there are loads of alternatives you can give to your loved ones. The simple gesture of being present and giving some of your time to someone you love and appreciate is the most valuable thing there is! In addition to quality time together, you could take someone to a show or a movie. You could treat someone to a trip (a day trip or weekend trip to a city you've never been to) or simply a home cooked dinner. With an extra sprinkle of love. 

Also, for my fellow Dutch humans - if you rather donate to a good cause, you can buy 'NIKS' from Greenpeace and Amnesty International sells little boxes of world peace this year. 


For the creative butterflies out there: 

Jars with spice mix, loose leaf tea (to go with a mug or teapot), cookie mix or homemade jam.

A box with homemade cookies (as described above). 

A (Spotify) mixtape. 

I swoon over music with lots of my friends. A mixtape of music we both love would be a lovely present and would make me very happy. Even if it's just on Spotify (brownie points for a custom playlist icon).


Your favourite book, with little notes scribbled between the lines or marked passages and sentences. Guiding your loved one through a story dear to your heart.

A handwritten letter, poem or quote. With some pressed flowers, perhaps, or a drawing. To stick to the wall or just to keep and reread on a rainy day.

A letter for every month of the next year. Twelve envelopes full of encouraging, happy words or precious memories.

Flowers or plants, to add a little colour to someone's day- or a little extra oxygen to their homes. 

A homemade scrub of coconut oil, cane sugar and coffee grinds, or a self-care package with fair-trade chocolate, a bottle of red nail polish and a magazine or inspiring book. 

Home-made brownies, chai spiced snowball cookies or cinnamon truffles. Or some other sweet treat. Nothing beats home-made baked goods with a sprinkle of extra lovin'. 

A disposable camera - to capture all the future will bring.

A memory-making-starter-pack: a diary (you can make one yourself super easily by stitching together a few pieces of paper and a cover made of whatever material you prefer), a disposable camera, a nice pen and a list of hundred and one things to do together. Or a list of writing prompts: a question, statement or quote for everyday to write about. 


There are a few different things you can do to wrap your presents in a(n) (almost) zero waste way: I love wrapping them in second hand silk scarves. Just tie them around the present and then knot the ends together - it looks very lovely and the scarf is almost like a second present. Other kinds of recycled fabrics can be lovely as well. Finding a floral curtain in a thrift shop could be the solution to all your gift-wrapping problems. 

Re-using old paper, bags or newspapers and spicing the whole thing up with pressed flowers, autumnal leafs or shiny ribbons is also an option. 

Smaller gifts will probably fit in glass jars or tiny boxes. I love searching for little bottles or  small, pretty containers in thriftstores, they serve very well as gift-containers and are useful to keep rings or necklaces or washitapes (etc.) in otherwise. They'll always come in handy.   

merry Christmas, folks. in the end, it's a time to enjoy ourselves and to feel warm.
so be warm.



  1. Oh my! I love this! I'm working on going zero waste, I LOVE this list. Makes me want to go shopping for good sustainable stuff!

  2. ooh liefde voor dit artikel! geeft me zoveel inspiratie voor cadeautjes die ik kan kopen dit jaar! thanks for the reminder dat ik wel echt moet denken aan de sustainability!