Category Archives: gifts

Memories Not Garbage

Like it or not, the holidays are soon to be upon us, and like it or not, people are going to give gifts. I know there are some who have successfully removed themselves from decorating their homes with frivolous festive trimmings and giving “things” to their loved ones, but I’m guessing that there are many many others who want to give something; it’s just that they’re tired of the same old crap that gets used for a few months and then tossed.

Our regional government is actually running a campaign this year encouraging people to “Make Memories, Not Garbage”, meaning giving gifts of experiences or material goods that are good quality and meaningful (if you go to their site and scroll down, there are some great gift ideas and ecards).  So, in that spirit of giving, here’s my two cents on low impact gift options.


  • reusable fabric gift bags
  • furoshiki
  • table cloths, dish towels, napkins or towels
  • reused wrapping paper, newspaper, or kraft paper
  • reusable mesh produce bags
  • boxes from shoes, oranges, scotch, etc
  • lunch containers or travel mugs (works well for gift certificates and jewelery)
  • rafia and twine or quality, reusable cloth ribbon
  • gift tags made from reused Christmas cards

Gift Ideas

  • tickets: theatre, music performance, movie, theater sports, comedy club
  • passes: rec centre, gym, museum, aquarium, science centre, yoga studio
  • classes: art, dance, craft, cooking, language, theatre
  • outdoor experiences (this might be an organized tour or a promise to do something together): snowshoeing, horseback riding, cycle trip, camping
  • health and wellness experiences: massage, haircut, housecleaning
  • consumables: preserves, crackers and fancy cheese, coffee in a tin, cookies, gift in a jar, etc. Or even better, a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a few months of deliveries from a local food company (thanks for the idea Anna)
  • secondhand items (almost anything can be found lightly used  – it’s just cheaper and has less packaging): books, housewares, clothing
  • homemade items: calendar, consumables, ornaments, etc
  • zero waste helpers (yes, they are things, but they’re really good things): compost bin, travel cutlery and containers, mesh produce bags, plastic free shaving set, package-free toiletries
  • Services! (thanks to Beth for the addition via twitter): Clean their bathroom, organize their digital photos; plant bulbs in their garden

Yes, if you’re wondering, we have actually given a compost bin as a Christmas gift before.

As an additional note, we’ve found that if you’re giving experiences, it’s best to actually sign them up to lock in a date rather than just give a gift card that could well be forgotten. What are some other low impact gifts you’ve given or received?



Filed under DIY, gifts

Midway Journey Documentary

If you’ve seen our movie, you’ll know that there are hundreds of thousands of baby albatross dying on Midway Island each year filled up with our plastic; plastic that is floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The gorgeous footage of the albatross in our film was shot by Jan Vozenilek. He, Chris Jordan, and a team of passionate people have been documenting the lifecycle of the albatross on Midway as part of Journey to Midway. They are about to embark on another leg of their project and plan to be on Midway Atoll when hundreds of thousands of fluffy baby albatrosses are nesting with their parents. In addition to Chris Jordan’s ongoing photographic work on the island, the team is collaborating in the creation of a documentary film about their experience, that that they “hope will bring a message of beauty and renewal to an audience of millions of people around the world”.

In their own words, their film “will be a powerful visual journey into the heart of Midway’s astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. Through our journey we hope to rediscover—in the grandeur of the magnificent albatross and it’s far-reaching travels, and in the unbroken primal cycle of mating, brooding, nurturing and fledging despite the albatross colony’s encounters with plastic—that by turning toward flowing life in all its beauty and resilience, we find a path toward acceptance and inspiration. Our story will be framed in gorgeous state-of-the-art high-resolution digital cinematography, in one of the world’s most beautiful island landscapes. The viewer will enter a paradoxical world of horror and beauty, destruction and renewal, and emerge with their worldview shifted.”

I have met both Jan and Chris personally, and I know that they are humbly dedicated to preventing plastic pollution and to getting the story of Midway out there. If the images of the albatross touched you, and made you take a second look at your everyday waste, please consider supporting these guys. You could:

Please join now in supporting the MIDWAY project. And check out their latest trailer below.


Filed under gifts, interactions, packaging

Waste-Free Gift Giving with Good Karma

Alright, alright, I realize my Christmas post is way too late to help you with your gifting quandaries, and I know lots of folks are moving away from formal gifting during the holidays, but I did want to share some of my favorite charitable gift ideas from the past couple years. Whose to say they can’t be used for birthdays or weddings too?

Since we started the Clean Bin Project, we have been blessed to receive a number of charitable donations as gifts.  They fit right in with our mandate as they added nothing to our trash cans, but lots to our happiness.

  1. Sponsor an animal. Friends of ours sponsored a cat at the local SPCA instead of buying many small gifts for friends.  We have a (beautiful and talented but way too loud) cat of our own, so we don’t want another one, but the thought of helping out an animal in need is right up our alley.  It costs a lot to feed and care for shelter animals, so sponsoring a cat was just the ticket.
  2. Support families in another country. My aunt and uncle provided seeds for 10 families in Africa to grow their own food.  Having your own food garden is near and dear to my heart, so this was a great gift.  They supplemented it with a couple of seed packets for me to grow in my own garden.  My other aunt and uncle got us a goat.  Well, not us, but they bought a goat for someone on our behalf. It will provide milk and food for an entire family and is more of a “hand up” than a “hand out.” Alternatively, you could try an organization like Kiva that gives small loans to entrepreneurs.
  3. Support a local initiative or program. In the past the company I work for has donated to Union Gospel Mission instead of mailing out corporate cards. There are any number of great community charities to support. Check out a site like Charity Navigator to find one that makes you happy.
  4. Let the recipient decide. My brother found a great website called Canada Helps where you can choose your own charity.  We just had to log on with our gift certificate number, pick a charity of our choice, and the gift certificate is applied to that charity.  It’s a great way to let the gift receiver take part, and choose an option that means something to them.

A charitable gift donation is always appropriate.  It’s waste-free, and it’s good karma. If you know any other great charities for gift giving, feel free to add them below.


Filed under gifts

Day 288: Easter Consumption


photos credit: Darrell Fraser

Ah Easter.  If there ever was a Western holiday more dominated by plastic encased chocolate, I have yet to hear of it.

My childhood memories of Easter are of pastel colored plastic eggs, fuzzy paraphernalia (inevitably in the shape of bunnies and chicks), chocolate, and also, strangely, underwear (my parents had a practical side and took the opportunity every spring to rejuvenate our collection of skivvies, slipping them into our baskets beside the requisite candy), but that’s another story. Continue reading


Filed under gifts, recycling

Day 271: Alternative Registery

gift-boxSpring is in the air and that means one thing: the wedding season is barreling down upon us.

And that leads to the question of gifts.

I have no problem with gifts.  In fact, I sometimes joke that the best way to get a matching set of pots and a kitchenaid mixer is just to get married.  But now, thanks to No Impact Man, I have discovered the coolest gift registry ever: the alternative gift registry.

You can sign up to make an online list of things you really want without being tied to a store, or, better, yet, tied to material goods. Continue reading


Filed under gifts

Day 252: DIY Grown Up Princess

crownSometimes I think the Clean Bin Project is just turning into a big DIY project.

Last week we celebrated Grant’s niece’s second birthday, and I decided to make our gift using what we had around the house.

Grant and I copied an idea I saw at a craft fair a couple years ago and made a princess-themed growth chart.  I sewed a princess cape and crown out of scrap material to go with it. Continue reading


Filed under DIY, gifts