Eco-friendly Christmas gifts for your friend who loves the environment and sustainable living

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  • Take a look at this recipe book from local NGO Feeding Hong Kong that aims to cut down on food waste, as well as this all-natural lip balm from Coconut Matters
  • Feeling creative? You can also make a present using an old T-shirt, or upcycle leftover notes from class
Dannie Higginbotham |
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Everyone has a metal straw by now; here are some other environmentally-friendly gifts to check out. Photo: Shutterstock

So much about Christmas can be so bad for the environment, from wrapping paper that can’t be recycled, to food waste left over from extravagant family feasts. But there are some easy steps you can take to cut down your carbon footprint this holiday season, starting with the gifts you give. Here’s a list of cool, practical and eco-friendly gifts you can give to a pal who is all about the environment.

Hong Kong brands you should check out

Feeding Hong Kong recipe book (HK$100)

One of the recipe books by Feeding Hong Kong on display at Central Market. Photo: Dannie Higginbotham

Every day, 3,400 tonnes of food end up in landfills in Hong Kong – even though more than 1 million people in the city suffer from food insecurity. The NGO, Feeding Hong Kong, works with other local charities and community programmes to rescue surplus food and donate it to people in need.

Support this fantastic organisation by checking out their online store, which sells eco-friendly staples like stainless steel straws and reusable lunchboxes. We’re especially fond of their recipe books – filled with dishes designed to eliminate food waste, they also stand up on their own so you can easily read them while you’re cooking.

The greatest Christmas present is paying it forward

There are three to choose from: one focuses on using pantry staples, one on meals you can making using only one pot, and the third features quick meals. All the books revolve around cooking nutritious meals on a budget, and the money you spend on them goes towards supporting Feeding Hong Kong’s work.

Thanks for your hard work, Feeding Hong Kong! Photo: Dannie Higginbotham

Paper Shades sunglasses (HK$149)

Paper Shades sunglasses are super light and sturdy. Photo: Captured from delightfullygreen.net

Sunglasses made from recycled paper? Is there anything you can’t do with paper? Paper Shades is the brainchild of the brother-sister team James and Madi Chui. Their sunglasses fold flat and are made from sturdy, reused paper and plastic. Plus, they provide great UV protection for your eyes and come in six different designs.

You can find the small size here, and the larger size here.

Upcycled coin holder, wallet and stationery bag (HK$58 to HK$116)

It looks like an innocent bag of noodles, so it’s perfect for hiding your treasures. Photo: Captured from eco-greenergy.com

Your bag of crisps or box of lemon tea can be reused to make a handy carrier that helps you be more organised. Although you can’t pick the colour or pattern of your wallet, you can rest assured that each one is totally unique. However, you can choose the design for your coin holder and stationery bag, leaving you with the tough decision of whether you want a Shin Ramyum or Calbee Hot & Spicy crisps pencil case.

Find the wallet here, the coin holder here, and the stationery bag here.

Coconut Matter lip balm (HK$117 to HK$140)

Coconut Matters uses coconut oil as its base and comes in a variety of scents. Photo: Dannie Higginbotham

This natural, vegan brand uses organic, fair trade coconut oil as its core ingredient, meaning all its products are buttery smooth. It’s also completely plastic free, and even the stickers on its products are eco-friendly.

We wouldn’t recommend buying your pal a stick of their famous deodorant, as you might end up offending them, but they have a range of delicious-smelling lip balms (ranging from HK$117 to HK$140) that will leave you licking your lips. A few of them even have a pop of colour to give your lips a light pink, red or coral sheen.

How you can learn the art of regifting

Reusable umbrella bag (HK$33 to HK$66)

You can find different sizes of reusable umbrella bags. Photo: Captured from eco-greenergy.com

We all know that summers in Hong Kong mean three straight months of rain, rain, and more rain, and the plastic umbrella covers offered at many stores and restaurants are just wasteful. Your friend would definitely appreciate this handy reusable umbrella bag – water absorbent fibres inside the bag will have their umbrella dry and ready to go the next time they need it.

You can check out the short bag here, while the bag for long umbrellas can be found here.

Upcycled flour bags (HK$68 to HK$118)

This cross body pouch is perfect for carrying your phone. Photo: Captured from delightfullygreen.net

This cross-body pouch (HK$118) is the perfect size for your phone, and it’s made of flour bags that would normally have gone to the landfill. Meanwhile, this shoulder tote (HK$118) is the perfect companion for a shopping trip, while this drawstring bag (HK$68) is super useful for carrying your lunch.

Your guide to what you can recycle this Christmas

DIY Eco-friendly gifts

Want to avoid spending money? You can make an eco-friendly gift yourself. Here are just a few things you can use and what you can make with them:

The many uses for an old T-shirt

If you’re feeling extra crafty, you could even crochet an old T-shirt into a rug! Photo: Shutterstock

You probably have a few T-shirts in the back of your closet that you haven’t touched in a while, so why not upcycle them? Make a toy for your friend’s beloved dog, or even braid strips of the shirt into a headband or bracelet.

If you have a sewing kit and some basic sewing skills, you can also make it into a tote bag. Your pal will appreciate the unique gift, as well as the effort you put into making it.

Check out Morning Chores and Well and Good for instructions.

Jars, jars, jars!

Is there anything a jar can’t do? Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re like us, you probably have a few jars sitting around your house that used to contain spaghetti sauce or ginger or garlic.

Wash the jar out (like … a LOT. The smell can really stick!), and head to a zero-waste store like Live Zero or Slowood to fill it up with your friend’s favourite candy. If you have some leftover ribbon, twine or yarn around the house, you can add a cute little bow – you could even use a strip of fabric from that T-shirt from your previous project.

How to DIY this Christmas

If you have leftover notes from last semester, or some old homework (basically, any sheets of paper where you’ve only used one side), cut it into smaller pieces, and write down your favourite memories with your pal, or your favourite things about them. Fold all the pieces up, and put them in the jar.

Whenever your friend is feeling blue, they can pull out a piece of paper and cheer themselves up thinking about you and your time together.

A repurposed notebook

It’s the purrfect gift for notes, love letters, grocery lists or animal puns. Photo: Dannie Higginbotham

If you have yet more paper you’ve only used one side of, you can turn it into a notebook or notepad. We made one out of paper, the cardboard from a box of granola bars, newspaper, washi tape and some thick string or yarn. You’ll also need a hole punch – check if your parents have one, or if you can borrow one from an art teacher or a particularly crafty friend.

Then it’s just a few easy steps to make your upcycled notebook:

  1. Cut the paper into squares or rectangles of whatever size you’d like (make sure all the pieces are the same size), and cut the cardboard into the same shape, but slightly bigger. The cardboard will be used to make the front and back covers of the notebook.

  2. Wrap the cardboard with newspaper, and use the washi tape to tape it down. We also used tape around the edges of the cardboard, as it adds a bit of extra decoration and reinforces the edges a little.

  3. Line up your pile of papers and punch holes in them. This will be much easier if you have a two-hole punch – you can do it with a one hole punch, but it will take longer. You won’t be able to do the whole pile at once (our hole punch could hold about five or six sheets at a time), so make sure you’re careful as you line the papers up to punch a hole – otherwise, your notebook will be all wonky.

  4. When you have all the papers punched, line them up, and place them in the middle of one side of one of the cardboard pieces. Mark where the holes in the paper are on the cover, and then punch them in the same spot so everything lines up correctly.

  5. Thread a piece of string or yarn through each of the holes and tie it into a knot. Remember not to make the knot too tight because then you won’t be able to open the notebook.

The finished product. Photo: Dannie Higginbotham

Feel free to decorate the notebook! You can add stickers, more washi tape or even use a marker to write “Merry Christmas!” to your pal.

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