EFE’s Ethical & DIY Gift Guide

EFE’s Ethical & DIY Gift Guide

EFE's Ethical & DIY Gift Guide

By: Melissa Lent

Valentine’s Day(and my favorite, Galentine’s Day) is coming up, and we want to share our sustainable gift-giving tips with you! For the winter holidays, our team had a festive dinner at Nian Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing, Queens that included a gift exchange. Every member was randomly selected to give a gift to another person on the team. Along with organizing the event, our Director of Team Building Malka also sent us some ideas for DIY or ethical presents. Any holiday is a peak point of consumerism, which means there’s even more mass-produced products on the shelves for cheaper prices. So this past year, we looked at ways we could take a more sustainable direction in the gifts we gave.

COOKING

Gilda’s secret gift-giver was Soon-Hee, who gave her a fragrant rosemary plant. Gifting homegrown fruits, vegetables, and herbs is definitely a way to ensure your friend is cooking sustainably, and seed packets are also a great option. Gilda also gave our team member Susan part of the plant so she could propagate it, or clone it, just by putting the stem in soil to grow it. Truly a gift that keeps on giving!

Look into local markets to buy potted plants, or even make baskets of organic fruits and veggies for the foodie in your life. Soon-Hee bought Gilda’s gift at the Union Square GrowNYC Market. GrowNYC has markets all over the city and there’s also baked goods, skincare products, aromatherapy, dairy items, meats, and sweets. Personally I love to buy organic honey for my tea.

Another way to shop for the environmentally-conscious cook in your life is to buy eco-friendly cookware.  Rather than chemical coatings, some of the best sustainable products use ceramic coatings and other natural materials that don’t release fumes or toxins. This article from The Spruce Eats lists some great options.

JEWELRY

Janette made Susan a pair of cool tassel earrings! Janette said, “I started by cutting out 8 little strips per earring. Each strip is about 2 inches long. Then I took a needle and some thread and weaved it through the top of the 8 strips and wrapped the top of the strips with the same thread. I wrapped it around 5-7 times to secure the thread in place. Lastly, I took an embroidery thread and weaved it through the loop of the earring, and that’s it! This project took about an hour but I would definitely make these again with the leftover scraps!”

The fabric and materials Janette used!

The finished product!

 

However, you are mostly paying for these gifts in time, and we know some people may not have a lot of that. In that case, we urge you to shop at ethical and small jewelry places. A few of my favorites are Catbird, which uses recycled, fair-trade gold and Alex and Ani, which makes all of their products in the U.S. You’ll know that a lot of love was put into these pieces, and they weren’t mass-produced in a factory. Being handcrafted gives them an extra special touch.

 

 

These earrings are a creative gift that you can make yourself! There are also hundreds of DIY tutorials on YouTube where you can take ordinary materials you may have at home and make them into something special. It’s also usually cheaper in the long run to buy the parts and do it yourself. Even if you buy materials in bulk, you can make several gifts or use the parts for something else. Here’s a tutorial for earrings and another for necklaces that I like.

However, you are mostly paying for these gifts in time, and we know some people may not have a lot of that. In that case, we urge you to shop at ethical and small jewelry places. A few of my favorites are Catbird, which uses recycled, fair-trade gold and Alex and Ani, which makes all of their products in the U.S. You’ll know that a lot of love was put into these pieces, and they weren’t mass-produced in a factory. Being handcrafted gives them an extra special touch.

The fabric and materials Janette used!

SKINCARE

Malka went all out this year and gifted Janette an ethical skincare collection. Included were deodorants, shea butter, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor, soap, and much more. Some of the benefits of ethical skincare are that brands are cruelty-free and a majority don’t use animal products in their goods. A few of the brands Malka bought from are Schmidt’s and Ursa Major.

Skincare is huge now, but so is sustainability, so there are a long list of options if you’re trying to find a more conscious brand. Here’s a list from Cruelty-Free Kitty that I love. So gift your friends some masks, a new moisturizer, or shea butter and know that your choice was not only good for the environment but also the creatures that live in it.

 OTHER TIPS

  1. Reuse bags/wrapping paper — or make your own packaging!
    • Save gift bags that people give you, or if you can manage it, save the gift wrapping and package another gift in it. Just don’t give it back to the same person!
    • You can even use other non-gift bags if they’re nice enough, like the one that Janette gave Susan (pictured below).
    • There’s also ways to use fabric, old bags, or old containers to wrap new presents. Here are a few of my favorite, easy tutorials on how to reuse materials to make beautiful packaging. 1 2
    • One of the easiest ways to tie presents is with any extra twine you may have from purchasing bakery items.You can also cut fabric into strips and use it as a ribbon. It’s easy, free, and looks great!
  2. Buy from small, transparent businesses
    • Instead of buying from larger, more corporate brands, explore the city and find those local businesses that make their goods with care and love. An affordable mom-and-son shop for flowers in NYC is Sunny’s Florist and for sweets, I love Raaka Chocolate. Go find your new favorites, fall in love with them, and start supporting them during the holidays and beyond!
 

 

Isn’t this such a cute bag? Reuse yours!

There are tons of creative, personalized presents you can give for the holidays. We hope our tips and recommendations help as you buy for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day, or for other yearly celebrations. Ultimately being a sustainable gift-giver means getting out there into your local community, doing your research online and buying from brands that are ethical, fair trade, and environmentally conscious. There’s also the option of reusing materials to make your own DIY gifts. Whichever route you choose, remember always to be conscious of where your items are coming from and how they’re made.

Happy gifting from EFE

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