Stop Buying Presents People Don’t Want: Portland Gift Guide 2019

During the holiday season, we are faced with three hard truths:

  • There is an expectation to buy gifts for friends and family.  (unless you live under a rock and are under zero influence from mainstream media)
  • Americans throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season.   That amounts to 25 million extra tons of garbage!  (Think plastic packaging)
  • The Elf movie and soundtrack will be on repeat from December 1-31. (and I am 100% onboard)

I decided to create this Portland gift guide because I wanted to share my personal favorite local brands and PDX makers and to help provide ideas that eliminate waste this holiday season.  I personally love Christmas and will never stop giving gifts, nor will I ever be perfect at abolishing all waste including plastics from my life but I do believe small changes and purposeful thinking about gifting will absolutely reduce garbage and have a positive impact on the environment.

Portland Gift Guide
Portland Gift Guide, 2019

The gifts I intentionally chose for this guide fall into three categories; Buy Local, Give Experiences, and Make a Difference.

Buy Local:  We live in a maker’s paradise.  An abundance of inspiring artists live in the Portland-metro area and provide endless handmade meaningful gift ideas.  Buying from a local artisan means your hard-earned money stays within our community and every dollar spent generates A LOT more income and happiness for an individual than a large corporation.

Give Experiences: An effective way to reduce waste completely is to give experiences.  In addition, studies show that experiences bring more happiness than possessions and people are more likely to remember an experience longer than a material gift. 

Make a Difference: The holidays are a great time to give, and people are typically most generous during the holidays.  In addition to giving to your favorite local charity I would highly recommend re-gifting any unwanted gifts to charitable organizations.  Donating an unwanted or duplicate gift to charity will likely reduce waste and the product will go to someone who might not receive any gifts during the holidays.   Win-win.

Portland Gift Guide, 2019
  1. Bloom and Grow Designs: Handmade wood and metal creations
    • Why? Beautifully constructed jewelry.  Unique.  Oregon specific designs.  The owner started the business to raise awareness of infant prematurity and loss in honor of her son Nicholas.
    • Where to find? Etsy, Instagram, Portland Night Market
  2. Endangered Species Chocolate: Organic and fair-trade chocolate bars (ok this isn’t local to Portland but supports a great cause!)
    • Why? Delicious premium chocolate. Empowers farmers and their communities. Advocates for sustainable eco-systems.  Supports conservation efforts for endangered species and habitats.
  3. Super Nature Adventures:  Hand-crafted child trail packets and activity booklets
    • Why? It encourages children to get outside and explore nature.  Each packet comes with a trail map, stickers, scavenger hunt, field guide and more!  Trail packets available by habitat and region.
  4. Woolly Made:  Premium modern-craft custom leather wallets
    • Why? Build your own custom wallet online.  Several design and color options including leather, stitch, and patterns.  Made responsibly in PDX.  Zero plastic packaging.  Employ locally.  Natural tanning agents without harsh chemicals. Long-lasting leather.
  5. Riverhouse on the Deschutes:  Re-imagined dog-friendly hotel in Bend, Oregon
    • Why? Riverfront rooms, best-in-class spa on-property, fine-dining on the property, dog-friendly.  Winter snowsports season is almost upon us.  A great jumping-off point for central Oregon adventures.  Read more about the hotel in my recent blog post.
    • Where to find? Book online with code: Bre19 for 15% off your stay through December 23rd.
  6. Charitable Giving:  Sexual Assault Resource Center, Portland (my personal choice)
    • Why?  SARC Provides counseling, case management and advocacy for survivors of rape and sex trafficking in the local metro area.  
    • Where to find?  Donate your time or financial contribution by obtaining more information Online
  7. Belmont Blankets: Hand-built blankets for the urban adventurer
    • Why? Waterproof and washable.  All four seasons.  Indoor and outdoor.  Use for concerts, beaches, camping, picnics and more.  Eliminates the use of down feathers and wool.  Tested to be tough and durable.
  8. Assembly PDX: Art and craft workshops
    • Why? Choose from several types of workshops.  Learn new modern craft skills.  Make gifts for friends, family and yourself.  Creative outlet.  Beer and wine are available for purchase in class.  Meet new people.  Discount class packs available.
  9. DIY Skin Care:  Oils, washes, lotions, and potions
    • Why? Zero chemicals.  Personalized.  Smell nice.  Good for your skin.  Sustainable.  Zero plastic packaging.
  10. With Love, From PDX:  Portland-centered gift baskets
    • Why? Locally-sourced.  Handmade goods for corporations and individuals.  Choose pre-curated or build your own.  Personalized.  Female-owned and operated.
    • Where to find? Online, Instagram

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy local and that’s kind of the same.” – Unknown

For other local gift ideas check out Travel Portland’s Made in Portland Gift Guide.  If struggling to find the perfect gift for new parents, I suggest perusing Liz Winters Wellness blog post, Best Gifts for New Parents.

Happy holiday shopping.



  1. Tammi
    December 3, 2019 / 3:03 am

    I always get my parents experiences, especially if my siblings and I can participate with them. They’re only here for so long and time spent making mementoes with them is the best! This year we’re supporting the arts; ballets, theater, comedy and orchestral programs for the win!
    Last year was activities: rock climbing, waterfall chasing and indoor skydiving!

  2. Kathleen
    December 3, 2019 / 3:24 am

    Love this! Such amazing makers and I love shopping local and keeping my carbon footprint to a minimum. Thanks for this amazing guide! ❤️ Elf movie is already playing…

  3. Sue Terry
    December 3, 2019 / 2:29 pm

    This is such a great thoughtful post. So helpful in trying to figure out gifts. Great ideas! Thank you❤

  4. Rachel
    December 7, 2019 / 8:54 pm

    One of the best gift guides I’ve ever seen! Thoughtful and something for everyone. Love the Assembly PDX.

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