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50+ Sustainable White Elephant Gift Ideas

Are you invited to a white elephant gift exchange this holiday season? If you strive to live a low-waste or eco-conscious lifestyle, a white elephant gift exchange can feel like a minefield of opportunities for waste. Check out this list of fun and eco-friendly white elephant gift ideas that won’t leave you with a guilty conscience. 

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Each year, my sisters and our significant others exchange gifts. In the past, we’ve drawn names and each bought a gift for one other person. I’m not sure who suggested the change, but two years ago we decided to do a gift exchange, and we have done it each year since then.

How Does A White Elephant Gift Exchange Work?

If you’re not familiar with a white elephant gift exchange, you can check out all the rules and modifications at length. There seems to be some growing confusion about the nature of a white elephant gift exchange. Historically, it’s been an exchange of silly gifts that are goofy, gag gifts, or sometimes even trash. You could probably work in a nicer gift that you put together from things you already own (regifting for the win!).

Recently, I’ve heard lots of people use the term white elephant gift exchange for more traditional gift exchanges. Like white elephant gift exchanges, these gift swaps require each person to bring one gift. People choose or steal gifts through the exchange, and each person takes home one gift. But… most of the gifts are pretty decent and things people might buy for themselves. Some of these gift exchanges suggest fairly expensive gifts as well.

Before you attend the gift exchange, be sure you understand what the host really means. It would be pretty uncomfortable to bring something really nice when everyone else brings garbage and equally awkward to be the one with a crappy gift when everyone else offered something shiny and new.

Traditional Gift Exchange + White Elephant Gift Exchange Idea Twists

In the adult gift exchange idea list below, I’ve included a bunch of gift ideas. Many of them are pretty suitable for both options because they involve regifting things you already own or buying something decent from a thrift shop and spicing it up. Where the gifts are not interchangeable, I’ve included modifications or twists on the traditional idea so you can choose the option that makes the most sense for your event.

What Makes A Good White Elephant Gift?

By definition, white elephant gifts are supposed to be either entertaining or novel to a broad audience. They typically bring a dollop of joy to the group and shouldn’t be terribly expensive. Thrift shops, Buy Nothing groups, and your own home can be awesome places to find white elephant gifts.

Sometimes white elephant gifts are intentionally useless and purchased just for laughs. That’s alright because the jokes are funny and bring people together for a good time. But why not make the gifts fun and useful?

I won’t argue the merits of funny trinkets versus fastidious environmentalism, but if you’re looking for ideas for white elephant gifts that might not end up going straight to the trash, consider this list of eco-friendly white elephant gifts. 

Maybe we can meet in the middle with some useful, eco-conscious gifts that also warrant a handful of laughs or a war of trades because they are so darn cool.

Should You Put Your Name On Your White Elephant Gift?

No. It’s most fun not to include names on the white elephant gifts. People chose their gifts, so there is no need for a recipient’s name.

Gift givers don’t need to label their gifts either. It’s much more fun to watch recipients choose gifts and inherently value them by stealing certain gifts over others when no one knows who brought which gifts.

Ways To Spice Up a White Elephant Party

Many white elephant gift exchanges are general and don’t have any strict guidelines about what to bring or what to wear (although many have price guidelines to ensure that gifts aren’t of wildly different financial value). However, if you want to make your gift exchange a bit more unique, consider one of these ways to make it a bit more interesting.

  1. Pick a Gift Theme | Encourage everyone to bring something that fits into a theme based on price point, vendor, nature of the gift, or genre.
  2. Play Christmas music during the gift exchange | Is that too obvious? If you didn’t think about it (like I probably would do), here’s your reminder. Make a playlist in an app like Spotify so you can set it and forget it.
  3. Wear Christmas Sweaters | Encourage everyone to wear their favorite borrowed or secondhand ugly Christmas sweater, holiday hat, or festive pajamas.
  4. Play Christmas-themed Games | Add in a few games before or after opening the gifts. Play games like Name That Christmas tune, Name That Christmas movie Pictionary, Christmas karaoke, or holiday charades.

Tips To Find Great Eco-Friendly White Elephant Gifts

Before diving into specific gift recommendations, I’ve gathered up some useful tips for guidelines that can help jumpstart your brainstorming process to find the perfect sustainable white elephant gift for your gift exchange.

Shop Secondhand for White Elephant Gifts

By design, white elephant gifts are supposed to be a bit quirky and unusual. Sometimes they are even quite junky. This makes for a perfect opportunity to purchase a secondhand item for your white elephant gift exchange. Tiptop quality is not of the essence.

Hit up your local thrift shops or consignment shops for items like serving dishes, books, card games, board games, coffee mugs, or even cool wicker baskets. You can find all sorts of items in these categories for far less than $25 at just about every thrift shop.

Local consignment stores, which typically have more curated selections, may even have some really unique items that could make popular white elephant gifts without blowing your budget.

Ask For Ideas or Gifts In Your Buy Nothing Group

If you have a local Buy Nothing group in your area, ask for others to gift you something that would make a good white elephant gift. My neighbor recently did this in our group, and I really enjoyed shopping my home for ideas of things that were perfectly good for someone else but we just didn’t use them anymore.

I ended up giving her two small collections of items that cost me nothing but were great for gifts (they are included in the list below). Gifting out of our own abundance is such a sustainable and fun way to share with others during the holiday season

Shop Your Own Home For White Elephant Gifts

Who says you can’t regift in a white elephant gift exchange? In fact, I think it’s encouraged in many cases. I bet many of us have things we can pull together for cute, themed gifts that someone else will love.

Support Local Small Businesses to Find White Elephant Gifts

Think about local companies in your area that may carry great gifts for a white elephant gift exchange. Local boutiques, farm shops, artisan studios, and bookstores often have great gift options. You may even have a local farmers market where you could find a variety of local homemade spices, handmade soaps, or unique snacks.

Food and Other Consumables Make Great Eco-friendly White Elephant Gifts

If it’s edible, someone is certainly going to eat it and it won’t go to waste. If you’re looking for a white elephant gift that definitely won’t end up in the trash, consider food and drink products like coffee beans from a local coffee shop, a six-pack of beer from a local brewery, or a package of chocolate truffles from a small chocolate shop in your area. People will definitely be stealing these white elephant gifts if they are available to the group.

Gift Cards as White Elephant Gifts

Gift cards can be boring, especially when you’re purchasing them for close family and friends for whom you might be able to get something more personal. However, they may go over quite well at a white elephant gift exchange (especially if they are gift cards you already have and won’t’ use).

If you really wanted to make the gift card more interesting, you could wrap it in something related to the gift card. For example, you could wrap a coffee shop gift card in a secondhand coffee mug. Insert a small gift card for a company like Libro.fm or Bookshop.org, both companies that support independent bookstores, in a secondhand book or with a handmade bookmark.

Purchase Generic Gifts from Local Vendors

If you prefer to come to your white elephant gift exchange with a generic gift like a candle or fancy bar of soap, buy these from a local artisan. There are small candle and soap makers in just about every community, so find someone near you and bring a novel but useful gift to the swap.

Charitable Donation as a White Elephant Gift

This might be a bit odd, depending on who else is present at the gift exchange. A charitable donation would be fairly unusual for a white elephant gift exchange among coworkers for example.

However, it may be a neat addition to a gift if you’re doing a white elephant gift exchange with your family. Instead of choosing a charity on their behalf, the white elephant gift could be a small donation to the charity of their choice.

Sustainable White Elephant Gift Ideas Everyone With Want To Steal

If you’re still stumped about what to bring to your white elephant gift exchange, here are a few specific ideas for gifts that are fun and unique but won’t simply end up in the trash after the gift exchange.

Let’s get started with a few of the white elephant gifts I think will be the biggest hit at a gift exchange. I imagine almost everyone will be vying for these white elephant gifts if they’re available to steal on their turn.

Related Reading: How to Style Thrift Store Finds for Elegant Regifting

White Elephant Gifts Under $10

Stasher Bag with Popcorn

Did you know that you can pop popcorn in a Stasher bag in the microwave? Grab a stasher bag and pour some popcorn kernels in a mason jar or upcycled jelly jar. Tie the Stasher bag around the jar with a bit of twine or ribbon and you’re good to go.

I saw this idea from Lacie at Teach Go Green and had everything at home to create it for “free to me.” It was one of the gifts I provided to my neighbor when she reached out for a gift request in our local Buy Nothing group.

Pair of Salad Spoons with a Jar of Salad Dressing

Check your local thrift shop for a pair of salad spoons and gift it with a bottle of your favorite salad dressing. I’m partial to Asiago Caesar from Brianna’s while my husband prefers their Chipotle Ranch. You can’t go wrong with either of them.

If you are feeling ambitious, you could even grab secondhand salad spoons and paint the handles to personalize them. In my case, I had an extra pair of like-new salad spoons that I gifted. I also punched a hole in a magnolia leaf, wrote “Merry” on it, and then tied it around the salad utensils for a bit of festive flair.

Bravo Sierra Body Wash

This body wash is designed for men (with a focus on the military) and is sulfate-free. It smells so good and definitely would work for anyone. It comes in a recyclable container and the company offers refills, so it’s better for the planet than most body wash alternatives that come in single-use plastic.

If you need something really trashy, how about gifting a bottle of your own body wash (half full)? Is that weird? But I think that’s the point.

Lottery Tickets

I’m pretty sure everyone will fight over these. Some lottery tickets can be recycled (though not all of them). Even if they can’t be recycled, they’re a fun gift and don’t create much waste. Just be sure that the recipient lives in or can travel to the state where you purchased the tickets because they often have to be redeemed locally.

Thrifted Drink Glasses

Thrift shops are loaded with glasses from beer mugs to wine glasses to champagne flutes. Find a set of cool glasses at the thrift shop for less than $10. You may even be able to pair it with a 6-pack of beer or a cheap bottle of wine from a place like Trader Joe’s. I hear their $5 bottles are quite a thing.

Bottle of Local Honey

Local honey companies are popping up everywhere (at least near me). There are even many stands in people’s front yards when they manage a few of their own hives.

Grab a small bottle or jar of homemade honey for your sustainable white elephant gift. It doesn’t get any more local than the honey made from bees right in your community.

Need to find something silly or free? Dump some honey from one of your own bottles in your pantry into a repurposed jelly jar and tie twine around the top. Free and sweet.

Jar of Baking Candy & Your Favorite Recipe

Thrift shops are also ripe with tons of glass jars, mason jars, and weck jars. Find one you love and fill it with your favorite type of baking candy. For me, that’s chocolate chips. Always chocolate chips. You might even be able to use a glass jar you already have at home. I had a weck jar in my cabinet for the win.

Finish off the gift by tying your favorite recipe using the ingredient. For my chocolate chips, I might include the recipe for these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies or these salted Nutella-stuffed cookies.

Treat from a Local Farmer

You likely have some local farms in your region. Consider a gift card to their farm store or a special treat from their collection. A dairy farm may offer special ice cream. A produce farm might have lovely produce baskets. And a corn farm might have some tasty popcorn treats.

Our farmers’ market has artisan food vendors that sell things like fancy caramel corn and decadent chocolate. You can’t go wrong with a local, sweet treat like this. And they are usually wrapped gorgeously to boot.

If you’re looking to work from something you already have, consider passing along an old ice cream scoop or popcorn bowl as well.

Local Coffee or Dessert Shop Gift Card

Do you have a small, neat cafe in your area that sells coffee, tea, or maybe some fun pastries or desserts? Something as small as a $5 gift card can cover a nice treat at a local coffee or dessert shop and be a great way to add a dollop of joy to someone’s day. If you want something more substantial, wrap the gift card in a cute mug or with a set of mittens.

For a trashier alternative, ask a local bakery if you can buy a day-old pastry and package it up for your gift. Maybe it will still be delicious by event day.

Bottle of Fancy Hot Sauce

Every Christmas for several years, my sister and husband have exchanged a bottle of hot sauce or some spicy condiment. It’s a small token to share something they both enjoy.

Check out local farm shops or farmers’ markets to see if they have their own hot sauce options (most do). Your local grocery store might even carry a few options that are unique and fun.

Secondhand Art

Thrift shops have tons of cool pieces of art. While they’re often hidden among a bunch of “interesting” pieces, you can find a diamond in the rough for a very affordable price.

I recently found the canvas in this photo at a charity shop for under $10. I was so pumped and hung it on my wall that day. I know that home decor can be in the eye of the beholder. But going for something unique that’s a bit of a risk is kind of the point of a white elephant gift. The size of the gift alone will likely make it novel!

Keyboard & Screen Deep Cleaning Kit

With all the time we spend on computers and screens, surely they could use a good wipedown. This cute set will get in all the nooks and crannies.

If it’s goofy you’re going for, a basic aerosol keyboard cleaning can will do the trick.

Melted Crayon DIY Kit

Have you seen all the melted crayon DIY projects? Round up all the broken crayons in your house, put them in a pretty box tied up with a bow, and call it a kit.

There are tons of melted crayon projects online for kids and adults. You can even download free DIY crayon instructions here to go along with the gift. Alternatively, find a list of project ideas and include a link or a QR code to the list tied to the box. It’s a silly gift for an adult but might make a legit gift for a kid, especially if you pair it with silicone molds for cool-shaped crayons.

Books From Your Shelf

Grab a couple of books from your bookshelf and wrap them up for the white elephant gift exchange. Bonus points if you wrap them pretty and if you bring books that everyone will want to read.

Lavender Calming Spray

I would use this more often but my son usually steals it for his room. This lavender calming spray is pretty great. Buy a new bottle for a traditional gift exchange or just gift your half-used bottle if you need something silly and trashy.

Old Toys

Gather up what they aren’t using and give it away wrapped in paper and string. We had these two magic sets that needed to find a new home. They were each missing a piece or two (that could easily be substituted with an item or two from your kitchen).

While a gift like this is clearly not fancy or expensive, it also might offer a good bit of real entertainment at the party!

Secondhand Puzzles

Whether it’s a puzzle from your collection or one you found at the thrift shop for a couple of bucks, it’s a win. If you can find a seasonal one, that will probably be even better. But any puzzle will do. And there are tons of them at most charity shops.

A Deck of Cards

Deck the halls with a pile of Pokemon cards? Why not.

I gathered up this stack of Pokemon cards while cleaning the house. I tied them up and they were ready to gift. They could even be a legit stocking stuffer. I passed this stack on to a neighbor in our Buy Nothing group just before the holidays.

You could use all types of trading cards or even a deck of playing cards. It would be right on point if you have a deck of cards that was complete, but only because a Joker was manually modified to replace that one missing card.

Kitchen Utensils & A Grocery Gift Card

These salad tongs came from my kitchen drawer. They were nearly brand new, and I have two other sets so I really didn’t need them. I added a small gift card for Misfits Market, tied on along with a pine cone I grabbed from the ground in my backyard. Even though it was pretty basic, I think this one actually turned out pretty nice.

DIY Dried Flower Bouquet

If you’re a planner, dry some flowers in the spring and summer to save for a gift bouquet in the winter when fresh flowers are hard to come by (especially if you’re not looking to buy flowers shipped halfway across the planet). Wrap them in repurposed brown shipping paper with twine and a DIY gift tag.

They’re technically dead flowers, but they’re also pretty amazing. And they’re free, so… yes!

DIY Fruit Basket

Those fancy holiday fruit baskets with 4-6 pieces of fruit in them are crazy expensive (and also feel pretty wasteful). This basket of fruit came from my fridge with a thrifted dish towel and basket. I think the total cost came to about $7 (maybe).

It feels overly simple, which makes it just right for a white elephant gift, but it’s still widely useful. That’s a serious sustainable white elephant gift win.

White Elephant Gifts Under $15

6-Pack of Beer from Local Brewery

If you have beer drinkers in your group, grab a neat six-pack of a cool local beer. Buy it warm, of course, so it doesn’t go bad before the recipient receives it. The gift is consumable. The packaging is recyclable. And you’re supporting a local business.

Depending on your budget, you could even pair it with a pair of thrifted beer mugs (there are often plenty at secondhand shops), a set of these beer mugs, or a handmade coozie from Etsy.

Recycled Polyester Reusable Bag

The options are endless for this reusable bag. It comes in a variety of patterns, including some solid colors as well. It’s made from recycled polyester and can hold all sorts of things, including groceries or the haul from the farmers’ market.

If you want to spice it up a bit, put some produce bags inside or fill it with actual produce like oranges, apples, or your favorite sustainable snack. You can’t go wrong with edible additions to this bag!

And if you’re looking to make it especially basic, wrap up some plastic grocery bags as a gift. They’re just as useful as the fancy ones even though most people throw them in the trash.

Set of Handmade Bar Soap

There are so many artisans who make really neat and luscious handmade soap. Find a local soap maker, a favorite small artisan you know from Instagram, or search on Etsy to find a few bars of pretty handmade soap to wrap up for your sustainable white elephant gift. Many of these companies use low-waste ingredients, recyclable or compostable packing, and have far fewer nasty chemicals in them than regular soaps.

If you need to find something bazaar from home, how about the half used bar soap from your shower? I highly doubt that will be high on the list of gifts to steal.

Non-toxic Nail polish

Grab a bottle or two of non-toxic nail polish. There are several brands that are great. I like EarthKandy while our contributor, Jess Purcell, prefers BKind. In my experience, they last longer than many other types of nail polishes too. Win-win.

Alternatively, gift some of those old nail polish colors that you still have from high school. I’m sure the colors are fabulous, and the polish is probably extra thick by now.

Dry Pasta with Seasonings

Add some dried pasta to a thrifted container (there are so many of these at secondhand shops). Pair it with a couple of Italian spices and you’re good to go. You might even be able to put it in a secondhand basket if you find something in your budget.

If you need a gift for a more traditional white elephant exchange, this feels pretty weird already. I think you’re good.

Handmade Candles

If you’re going to opt for something simple and generic like a candle, use the opportunity to support a local maker or a favorite handmade creator. There are tons of small candle companies that use better ingredients than many store-bought options that come wrapped in single-use plastic.

If you’re looking for something simple, thrift stores have loads of used candles that will do the job.

Flower Bouquet, Plant, or Succulent from Local Floral Shop

We have many local flower shops and flower growers in our community. Some of the local flower farms even have cool subscriptions (kind of like a CSA for flowers).

If you think several people in your gifting group would like a plant or flowers as a gift, see if you can purchase a seasonal bouquet or plant from their shops.

A local farm near us sells dried flower bouquets this time of year. They last longer than fresh flowers and don’t require international journies from far-away flower farms out of season. Due to durability, succulents may be a great option too.

Serving Dishes

Charity shops have lots of fun serving dishes, plates, and bowls. We’ve purchased lots of simple serving dishes from our local thrift shops, and you can find some neat vintage patterned plates and dishes as well.

If you need a silly white elephant gift, consider gifting those plates in the back of your cabinet that you never use. The decluttering will feel nice.


I’ve never been to a thrift shop that didn’t have shelves of books available. Find a couple of fun popular titles that might be a year or two old but still great to read. Or search the stacks for an oldie but goodie.

Charity shops often have lots of cookbooks too which could be a great choice for a group that loves to spend time in the kitchen.

Card Games & Board Games

You never know what you’ll find in the game section at your local thrift shop. We found a couple of games from my childhood that I loved but are no longer in production. It’s also fun to gift older versions of games that have vintage designs too.

Be sure to check that the game has all the necessary pieces. Most shops are good about checking before adding the games to the shelves, but it doesn’t hurt to look.

If you prefer to buy a new game, there are tons of awesome card games under $20. Check out this list of our favorite family games (that are also good for adults without kids too).

White Elephant Gifts Under $20

Go Green Bucket

Get your gift recipient a kickstart to going green. Fill a countertop compost bucket or thrifted basket with some supplies to get started with green living. You could include bamboo toilet paper, sustainable soaps, small compostable bags, thrifted dish towels, Swedish dishcloths, or a variety of other items related to green living.

In my case, I used all things I already had at my house. If you’re putting together a Go Green bucket for a true white elephant gift exchange, gather up reusable items like glass jars, dish towels, or even something you received as a gift in the past that can help your friend reduce their consumption and live more sustainably.

Silicon Popcorn Popper

We have a set of these individual silicon popcorn poppers, and my son loves them. He can make a bit of popcorn for himself with just a handful of kernels even if no one else wants to partake in the snack.

If you’re a popcorn fan, you might also like these low-waste homemade popcorn recipes that amp up the standard butter and salt variety.

For the white elephant twist, did you know you can pop popcorn in a brown bag in the microwave? Ditch the fancy silicone popper and give the gift of popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag.

Handmade Stationery

Etsy is loaded with handmade stationery artists who create lovely thank-you cards, notecards, and more. Find something festive for the season or opt for a seasonless alternative your gift recipient can use year-round.

If you want to go the extra mile, look for shops that use recycled paper, seed paper, soy-based inks, and plastic-free packaging. This shop has some really great greeting cards on seed paper that can be planted after being received.

Let your kids help you with this silly twist and have them make stationary from upcycled paper or even their old art projects.

Fun Drink Glasses

If you have some guests in the party crowd who like an adult beverage here and there, consider a cool set of wine, martini, or whiskey glasses to add to the gift pile. You can find some fun options like this half-full whiskey glass set on Uncommon Goods or these hand-decorated wine glasses on Etsy.

Thrift stores have tons of glasses, so you can always find secondhand treasures if you need something in the “trash” department (even though many of those glasses won’t really be actual trash).

Drops of Honey Trinket Dish

I have this little ceramic dish and so it’s perfect for small earrings and other things that need a catchall location on a bathroom counter, a dresser, or on your desk. It’s handmade and celebrates our pollinator friends.

Charity shops to the rescue if you need something simple and cheap. They have shelves full of trinkety dishes and cups to fit the bill on this twist.

Box of Who Gives A Crap Toilet Paper

Everyone uses toilet paper, right? Who Gives a Crap toilet paper is made of recycled paper and comes with no plastic packaging and even comes in holiday-themed wrapping. Speaking of upgrades to your bathroom, I shared more about WGAC toilet paper and a bunch of other ways to spice up your powder room to save the earth

Dryer Balls

Get your gift recipient started on their sustainable laundry routine with this set of dryer balls. They’re interesting and novel but also super useful. They help reduce drying time to save energy and money!

High-End Cooking and Baking Ingredients

They cost a pretty penny when we’re making everyday desserts and snacks, but high-end kitchen ingredients are perfect for gifting. Consider options like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, Maldon sea salt, Ceylon cinnamon, fancy savory spices like Penzey’s spices, flavor-infused oils like Saratoga Olive Oils, and more. If your budget affords you, you could include two or three of these items in a thrifted basket, Vintage Pyrex bowl, or another secondhand container.

Bottle of Wine from Local Winery

If your gift exchange friends aren’t beer drinkers, consider a bottle of wine, especially if you can find one from a local winery. If you don’t have a local winery available, choose a privately-owned option if you can.

If you want to escalate this gift a bit, include a set of wine glass charms to go along with the bottle of wine.

Coffee Mugs

Do you have some coffee drinkers in the group? Grab a couple of secondhand coffee mugs as your gift. You could even add some coffee beans from a local coffee shop or a DIY coupon for a coffee date together in the cup if you’re feeling ambitious.

Themed Wicker Baskets of Goodies

How did thrift shops end up with so many baskets on their shelves? These abound at our local shops. Find a cute one and make it part of your white elephant gift. Fill it with sustainable toilet paper, socks, candy, or whatever suits your fancy that is fun and maybe even funny!

Gift Exchange Ideas Under $30

Yeti Water Bottle with Chug Cap

Reusable waters are great, and they’re especially useful to ditch all the single-use plastic water bottles polluting the planet. I’ve tried many reusable water bottles, and so far, the Yeti water bottle with the chug cap is my absolute favorite. I love that you can drink from a spout while also opening it separately with a slot large enough to fill from an ice machine.

Local Restaurant Gift Certificate

If your white elephant gift exchange includes only (or mostly) local people, consider getting a small gift card for a local restaurant. While companies like DoorDash and GrubHub may be alright, they take decent fees from restaurants for using them as an intermediary. A gift certificate to the restaurant directly is a better option if it works for you and your group.

Ugly Produce Box + Thrifted Kitchen Tool

There are many companies that offer imperfect or ugly produce boxes. Package up a gift card (or a note stating you will order them one box of ugly produce) with a thrifted kitchen utensil like a salad bowl, a rolling pin, a juicer, salad forks, a set of salad plates, or even a piece of vintage Pyrex or Corningware. I often find these things at thrift shops. The world is your oyster.

We have been receiving produce boxes from Misfits Markets for over a year, and have been really happy with the service.

Handmade Wallet

We have a really cool artisan in our community who makes handmade wallets and purses. The bags are more expensive than most white elephant gift exchanges, but some of the smaller leather pieces would make really cool gifts. Check out something like Arden + James or another similar vendor in your community.

Gift Exchange Ideas Under $50

Cutting Board or Other Creation from Local Woodshop

Support your local carving artists and purchase a piece for your white elephant.

Alternatively, if you have a local DIY workshop like Board & Brush that allows you to make your own woodworking crafts, you could gift credit for a project to make their own piece of woodworking decor for their home.

Handmade Mug or Pottery Piece

Support a local artist and purchase a handmade coffee mug or another pottery piece for your gift. These stoneware mugs from Etsy are pretty neat and come in a variety of colors.

Similar to the woodworking suggestion, you may also consider instead gifting a gift card to a local pottery shop or paint-your-own pottery studio where your recipient could make or paint their own piece. There are some local studios as well as franchised chains such as Color Me Mine.

T-shirt Hair Towel

This hair towel is made of organic cotton, super soft, and very absorbent to dry hair. It’s also small and light enough not to pull on hair while tied up in the towel to dry.

I have a medium-sized towel. It’s large enough for my long hair, though I might consider getting a Large if I buy another one in the future. For short hair, the size medium for an adult will be great!

Calm Mood Mist & Pillow Case

Pair this calming Mood Mist with a fun pillowcase for a relaxing gift for the white elephant affair. Secondhand shops have tons of pillowcases if you don’t have a favorite sustainable brand or it’s not in the budget.

This Mood Mist is amazing. I have it and use it almost every night. My boys often ask for a couple of spritzes on their pillow as they fall asleep too. You can’t go wrong with this one!

Recycled Polyester Packing Cubes

These packing cubes are made from recycled polyester and designed by an independent artist. The company uses minimal waste design processes to reduce material usage and creates a variety of long-lasting, reusable products. If you’re looking for a simpler design, they also have solid colors available as well.

Depending on your budget, you could pair it with other reusable travel supplies like a case for bar soap or a container for shampoo and conditioner.

Handmade Jewelry

Jewelry can be pretty specific to the person who is receiving it, so this may only work for certain groups of people. But if you think lots of the people in your group would love handmade earrings or a neat necklace, consider gifting this. It’s definitely a gift that no one else is giving and won’t end up in the trash. Etsy has lots of handmade jewelry that might work.

Further, if you live near an Indigenous community, there are many Indigenous makers that create jewelry with cultural inspiration. This could be a really neat way to add something interesting to the white elephant gift exchange while also supporting your First Nation neighbors.

With a little creativity, you don’t have to compromise on gifting something you love that others will also like and put to good use. 

For my family’s gift exchange a couple of years ago, we opted for a “books and board games” theme. Do you think they cared that their board game came from the thrift shop? Nope.

Last year, we chose to do another white elephant gift exchange with the theme that all gifts must be purchased from local small businesses. This year, there are no guidelines other than price. We can find whatever we like that we think others will enjoy. I’ve got a few ideas on what we’ll do and am working on gathering things up now.

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Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and advocate for sustainable living for modern families. To find her latest work, subscribe to her newsletter, Stepping Stones.

In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.

You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.

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