All Wrapped up! Handmade Green Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Tis the season of goodwill to all men, women and children. The season to be jolly, of giving, sharing and loving. Tis the season of snow and ice, fun times together, roasting chestnuts on an open fire. On the other hand it can also be a season of increased stress, pressure to buy stuff we wouldn’t normally buy, whilst mingling with crowds of less than jolly shoppers, resulting in the feelings and expressions not really compatible with good will!

Sadly many feel overwhelmed by the commercialism of Christmas. It can creep up on us before we are even ready to admit that summer is over, that might be time to exchange our flip-flops with shoes, and start searching for our winter boots tucked away the back of the closet. There are commercials and displays for the latest “must-have” toys and gadgets, decorations and other goodies – designed, manufactured and shipped with little regard for their carbon footprint. Many of these will result in a shopping frenzy, sometimes ending in despair as the most popular items sell out.  Some devoted shoppers start even earlier by buying up gifts for the next Christmas before this one is even over- before the left over food has been eaten, or the decorations taken down. They abandon their nearest and dearest to return to the crowded shops to snap up bargains in the post-Christmas sales. Christmas can feel more like a season to be endured than enjoyed !

There are many ways to return to more ethical and person centred giving. Remember those simpler days when we came home to Mom with a proud look, a beaming smile and an “I made it myself”, as we thrust a gift into her hands – as if she couldn’t guess? Even today nothing says “I love you” more than a homemade gift, especially when that gift demonstrates our respect for the environment. We can re-use successful gift ideas from the past, and give them a modern twist. We can combine recycling with purchasing organic and natural ingredients and craft supplies locally, to produce unique and personal gifts. Each gift we make is a step away from commercialism, and the act of making them can become part of the seasonal fun for the whole family.

Here are some simple tried and tested gift ideas.

Re-use and decorate those glass jars and bottles.

Make jars into tea light or candle holders.

Decorate with glass paint/ glass marker pens, stick on embellishments, perhaps jewelry that is no longer needed. Lines of Jars with festive words or coordinating Christmas motifs work well.

*Take care that decorations cannot come into contact with a naked flame.

Decorate jars lids with recycled festive coloured fabric, and/or ribbons. These jars can be filled with homemade cookies, cakes, layered dried cookie ingredients, candy, and chutneys

Bottles of olive oil that you have added organic or home grown dried herb or chopped chillies, with festive bows or labels look decorative and taste delicious.

Any remaining home produced jams or honey could be also be decorated in this way.

Essential oil Bath Salt jars

Decorate jar and lid as above

  • 1 cup Epsom Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Baking Soda
  • 4 drops of an essential oil.

Be careful to use oils that are safe for skin contact

Separate equally into two bowls, and add a few drops of food colouring to one of them.  Be careful not too add too much colouring which could stain the bath tub.

Layer the salts into a jar by alternating the salts from each bowl.

Replace lid, and add a decorative label with the Bath salt Essential Oil name, and the printed  directions – Add to bath water just before getting in to prevent essential oil evaporating. Make sure the salts have evaporated before entering the bath.

Relax and enjoy.

*Take care that all bottles and jars are clean and have been sterilized prior to use,  and that all recycled fabric has been washed.

Decorated Cookie jars with layered dried ingredients

with instructions for making and baking.

Cowboy cookies

  •  1 1/3 cups organic rolled oats
  •  1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  •  1/2 cup white sugar
  •  1/2 cup chopped pecans
  •  1 cup organic semisweet chocolate chips
  •  1 1/3 cups organic all-purpose flour
  •  1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt


Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart jar in the order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding the next layer.

Include a card with the following instructions: Cowboy Cookie Mix in a Jar 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. 2. In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Stir in the entire contents of the jar. You may need to use your hands to finish mixing. Shape into walnut sized balls. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. 3. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes in the preheated oven. Transfer from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 5/8 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2  cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips.
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart or 1 liter jar in the order listed.

Attach a decorative tag with the following instructions:

Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. 2. In a medium bowl, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy. Add the entire jar of ingredients, and mix together by hand until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonful’s onto the prepared baking sheets. 3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Cool on baking sheets, or remove to cool on wire racks.

Christmas Sweater or T shirt

These are so popular and can be made inexpensively, ethically and be reused for future Christmases.

Take a plain festive coloured sweater, new or recycled, and decorate with homemade decorations.  Clean, recycled fabric can be cut into shapes. Washable eco felt appliqués can add vibrant colour.  Use other festive decorations and embellishments that you already have and create something unique.

Use cookie cutter outlines, decorations or online print outs for templates for Christmas designs. These can be appliquéd, either sewn or fabric glued, including iron on adhesive hemming tape. A variation on these would be to appliqué names or other popular motifs

Fabric table napkins, hand and dish towels


These can be made in a similar way to the sweaters and T-shirts.  Festive or personalized natural cotton hand towels and dishtowels are also easy to make, look lovely and can be put away to be reused year after year.


Personalised decorations

Bunting, the time old favourite made in seasonal colours with appliquéd lettering for that extra touch, using old fabric you have or old cothes that you can cut up and repurposed. Bunting could also have names, or favourite motifs, again appliquéd, sewn, or fabric glued.

Knitting or crocheting

Use up those spare balls of yarn, or even unravel an old sweater to make homemade knitted items. Scarves are not too difficult even for beginners, with socks for the more experienced, or determined beginner!

Home made craft kits

Gifts that keep on giving and encourage homemade projects.


Most of the above ideas could be adapted to be made into kits for crafty friends to use make decorations, and by packaging the necessary materials and instructions into decorated  boxes, tins or fabric bags.

Organic cotton plain T-shirts or dishtowels with fabric pens or embellishments for decoration. Letters cut our of recycled fabrics to spell the recipients name

Promise Vouchers

Make gift vouchers or coupon books  for services you will personally provide – such as for babysitting services, house or car cleaning, a family meal to be delivered, a lesson you could give if you are musical, or have a talent you could share.

Gift wrapping  and  avoiding  land fill

Gifts can be wrapped in festive coloured fabric,  old curtains, duvet covers or dress fabrics, cut to size, hemmed and tied with ribbons, yarn or string. These could also be made into fabric gift bags and  can  be reused!

After all our gift making and giving, and the peace that we feel in knowing we tried to share our greener Christmas with our friends and loved ones, how will we fare with our fellow Christmas shoppers? What of those people who proudly remind us that they bought and wrapped all of their sale bargain gifts by the end of January? Perhaps there is something green to be a learned from them. We might even be able to stock up on natural gift resources during seasonal sales, especially among the further reductions at the end of the sales, or get ideas from them. We can we find and keep items to reuse, recycle and reduce our carbon footprint, ready for next years Christmas. We can plan and make gifts throughout the year so we can greet those rather smug January Christmas wrappers, with a cheery smile and a “Good for you!” and know we are just as organized, but with less cost to the environment. Or maybe we will relate more closely to the panic buying shoppers , replacing the last minute trolley dash with an “ almost too late” gift making frenzy!  Either way, we can  enjoy the season and make a wish for a Peaceful, Happy Christmas to one and all!

Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!