Sustainable gift-giving doesn't necessarily have to be pricy. Image: Fulcrum archives.
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Here are a few things to consider before you order everything from Amazon

Sustainability is something one should always consider when entering the holiday season, but it can be hard to cross off everything on your shopping list while still keeping it in mind. 

The holidays can be a time when we see increased pollution, especially from single-use plastics and mass consumption of disposable consumer goods. So how can you help the environment while still giving friends and family gifts they’ll love? 

Here are a few things to consider before you order everything from Amazon. 

Quality time, via Zoom, phone, text or other online platforms 

Yes, one of the most ethical ways we can gift-give during COVID-19 is perhaps the most simple. This year, large family gatherings and parties won’t be happening, so one of the best gifts you can give is quality holiday time together using accessible online platforms. And the best part about this gift is that you don’t need to spend any extra money in order to give it. Make sure you check in on everyone you can’t see this holiday season – they will love and appreciate it!

So you’ve made some phone calls, but what about the people you can see? What should you get them? 

Here are a few things that are sustainable and useful during the pandemic. 

Things that grow: house plants, garden herbs, and more

House plants make great gifts because they are great for air quality, provide a beautiful liveliness to any room, and (with proper care) will flourish and grow for many years. 

There are several local flower and plant stores that will appreciate your business if you’re considering getting your loved ones plants for the holidays. And even if the person who receives a plant is unable to keep it alive (we’ve all been there), it can be composted, and the pot can be reused for future plants! 

A great gift that is both sustainable and safe for the environment. 

Local Ottawa shops:

  • Rosalind’s Garden Blooms (homegrown flowers in urban, wildlife friendly garden)
  • Bloomfield’s Flowers 

Send holiday cards 

Another way to support local businesses while also giving gifts to friends and family is through holiday cards. It may be a bit old-fashioned in the digital era, but you can find beautiful, funny, and unique cards that will brighten anyone’s day in independent shops all over Ottawa. 

You can even find holiday cards made from recycled paper so you know it’s sustainable and can be recycled again in the future. And if you want to cut down even more on environmental impact, you could consider sending virtual holiday cards! 

Local Ottawa shops: 

  • The Village Quire (greeting cards)
  • The Gifted Type (gifts for children and adults as well as cards)

DIY gifts 

If you’re more handy with crafts and DIYs, then perhaps you might like to make your own gifts for the holidays! 

You can use materials you already have at home to make new gifts such as homemade candles (pro tip: use leftover wax from all those old candles lying around your house) or tree ornaments made from scrap paper; you could even knit a scarf! 

DIY gifts are a great way to use products and supplies that you already have lying around.

Supporting local businesses while shopping 

If the person you’re shopping for has a specific wish list, then it’s time to start thinking about supporting local businesses when shopping.

It’s easy to log onto Amazon and find every single consumer product anyone could ever ask for, but consider the availability of that product from local shops. Most of the time, you’ll be able to find whatever it is you’re looking for from a local vendor. 

You’ll have a more valuable shopping experience, and most stores now offer time slots for individual shopping tailored to you. That sounds better than just plainly clicking “buy now” on Amazon. 

Local Ottawa shops:

  • Boogie and Birdie (Canadian designed and produced goods such as jewellery) 
  • Marche Hintonburg Market 
  • The Snow Goose Ltd. (Inuit and First Nations art, homemade items from across Canada) 
  • The Colourful Chameleon (balloon creations delivery)
  • The Wax Studio (homemade candles made with local Ottawa area beeswax and eco-friendly dyes, free local delivery)
  • The Record Centre (local record shop, buy records through Instagram for pickup) 

Soap and lotions 

One of the many struggles people are facing during the pandemic, and especially amidst the beginning of winter, is dry, cracked skin. If you’re shopping for a secret Santa or are unsure of what to get someone, maybe start with a simple nourishing hand soap or lotion. 

You can buy these products from local shops, and most of them are made from all-natural ingredients, making them safe for most skin and also great for the environment. 

Clothing from local shops 

Depending on the person, clothes usually last a while and get reused many times. 

Frequenting your local thrift shops to get great second-hand clothes in order to avoid the fast fashion industry is great. But in a COVID-19 world, sometimes we want to get new clothing, which is okay, just as long as you look out for sustainable features of clothing stores. 

A lot of local stores make an effort to make all their clothing in Canada, and ethically source all their materials to ensure the quality of their products. Higher quality can lead to a longer lifespan as well! So if you aren’t in the thrift shop mood, buy ethically! 

Local Ottawa shops:

  • Adroit (mindfully curated fashion boutique, Canada made, sustainable materials, ethical production)
  • Flock Boutique (made in Canada, supports over 100 Canadian women designers)
  • Milk (clothing shop in ByWard Market)


Although many things are closed, there are still socially distanced events and experiences that you can give. Examples could be outdoor activities, restaurant gift cards, or even tickets to virtual shows. 

Local Ottawa shops:

  • Working Title (offers gift boxes with delivery in Sandy Hill)
  • Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush (family farm since 1840)
  • Pure Kitchen (vegetarian food and juice bar)
  • The Burrow Shop (online grocery store featuring local growers, makers and small businesses. All proceeds going to the park dale food centre) 
  • Warm Wishes Gifts (gourmet food gifts including wine and liquor)

Give to charity 

And last, but definitely not least, is donating to charities in lieu of purchasing gifts. Make a donation in a friend’s name, or encourage your loved ones to donate on your behalf this holiday season. 

Local Ottawa charities and initiatives:

  • Francescos coffee company inc. ($2 of every bag sold goes to Ottawa Food Bank) 
  • Christie Lake Kids Foundation
  • Ottawa Food Bank 
  • The Ottawa Mission 
  • The Ottawa Dog Rescue 
  • The Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue 
  • Sexual Assault Support Centre Ottawa 

And many more found here.

Although this year may look a little different, there are still ways to gift-give ethically and sustainably in order to help our communities and each other. Happy holidays, everyone!  


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper