This page is for ideas to make your shoebox more sustainable.  We want to send gifts that are beautiful and useful.   We don’t want to be sending items that will end up in landfill or be thrown away easily.  Unfortunately by taking items out of packaging it can instantly make a gift look second hand or pre-used when it is infact new.  We hope to be able to find alternatives that make the gift even more lovely and that the person who receives it will know that thought has been taken in sending it.  This is an evolving page so please come back and look at it on a regular basis.

Sustainability - Recycling an old jumper
So Tip #1 – Reusing wool/yarn. We are constantly asked by people if we have any wool so that people can make hats, gloves, scarves for their shoeboxes. We came across this article that shows how a jumper can be quickly unpicked to make a ball of wool to knit/crochet etc to make a new item. The jumper does have to have been properly knitted in the first place i.e. the arms and body can’t have been cut out and stitched together, otherwise the strands of wool are too short. We didn’t realise you could do this so its our first tip at the end of our knitted items month.
Photo Credit to Tin Can Knits
You can also use wool to knit dish cloths, mesh shopping bags, scrunchies and flannels, all of which would make great items in a shoebox.

Tip #2 – Sewing Kits are a great idea, anything that will preserve clothing by mending or creating new items from old are a yes from us.

You can of course buy one or alternatively think sustainability. We rooted around our sewing boxes at home and found loads of spare needles, safety pins, sewing threads, buttons and spare tape measure etc. So we are going to have a go at making up a couple of sewing kits from items we already have. We may even sew little pouches to put them in rather than a plastic pouch.
Whatever you are buying or making for your shoebox this year please think about the person who is going to receive it. Make it personal, long lasting and sustainable if you possibly can.
NB Photo below is just an example of a basic sewing kit – we are sure lots more items can be added to make it a beautiful gift.
Sustainable - Sewing Kits
Sweets and Chocolate Jar

Tip #3 – Sweets & Chocolates in a lovely glass jar

Yes you can keep them in their packaging OR you can find a lovely glass jar (think Jam or Marmalade) and you can put your sweets inside.  You can then find a lovely piece of fabric (pre-loved) or pretty string and tie it around the jar.  Then if you want to you could decorate it in some way.  We know our leaflets say EU origin so please cut this information out of the original packaging and put it inside the jar (just in case).  Here’s a blog post of someone that has filled a jar with sweets and it just needs to be tweaked to make it sustainable.

Alternatively transfer the sweets into ecofriendly packaging, such as compostable bags. with the EU origin information inside, and tie with string.

Make sure you recycle the original sweet packaging with soft plastics at your local superstore.

Tip #4 – Shampoo Bars

These have come along way and are actually nice to use on your hair now.  They also save a large amount of plastic from being sent in your shoebox. These were recommended to us by a supporter who found them in Poundland which is a surprise as they are normally quite expensive.  They really are the way forward in the bid to reduce plastic but only if you are able to get some affordable ones.  Otherwise a shampoo bottle which is recylable is your next best bet.

Shoebox Shampoo Bars

Tip #5  – Candles

There are lots of sustainable versions of candles you can buy made from natural waxes such as soy or beeswax which are renewable and biodegradable. However, you could also use old candles and melt them down into candle holders or why not use an old piece of crockery such as a teacup. Here’s a blog post of how to make candles from recycled wax.

Tip #6 – Toys & Games. There are lots of ways to make the toys and games you include in your shoe boxes more sustainable.

Instead of buying new soft toy teddies, why not visit your local charity shop and buy one of the many teddies looking for new homes. They will love you for it.

When choosing small toys and games there are sustainable options, such as playing cards made from recycled paper, but also think about the packaging being used and replace with ecofriendly packaging where possible or remove it completely.

Remember to take the original packaging and recycle with soft plastics at your local superstore.

Tip #7 – Crayons & Pencils

These are always a much loved inclusion in shoeboxes, along with colouring pencils and pens, however the packaging they come in is not always sustainable. Why not take them out of the packaging and tie together with hair bands or with string that can be reused. You could also make pencil cases from old material or scrap fabric and put all the stationery items inside this. Here is a step by step guide on how to make a pencil case.

You could always use the same idea to make a toiletry bag for items such as scissors, nail clippers and safety razors.

As always remember to recycle the original packaging with your soft plastics at your local superstore.

Tip #8 – Wrapping

When it comes to wrapping there are lots of options for recyclable wrapping paper available now to buy. You could also wrap your shoebox in brown paper and add some decoration, either using ink stamps, old Christmas cards or by getting your children / grandchildren to draw pictures on there. What better way to make the gift more personal.

Tip #9 – Lavender Bags

This wonderful fragrant plant flowers end of Spring / start of Summer and what better way to make use of this impressive scent than by making lavender bags to include in your shoeboxes. They will produce a lovely aroma to the whole shoebox on opening and will continue to provide much pleasure for years to come. It is also a great way to use up scraps of material you may have lying around or why not visit your local charity shop to find if they have a free textile bin you can select some material from. We have included a tutorial on how to make your own lavender bags here –

Tip #10 – Mugs

If you are considering including a mug in your shoebox, and do not have a spare one in your cupboard, why not visit your local charity shop and rehome a mug from there. You can maximise the space in your box by filling your mug with the soap and flannel, pencils and crayons or why not fill them with sweets and then place the mug in ecofriendly packaging.

Tip #11 – Bamboo

One of the most sustainable materials is bamboo as it is highly renewable and eco-friendly. There are many bamboo items you can purchase for your shoeboxes including toothbrushes, cutlery, mini torches, notebooks, pencils and even disposable razors.