Conor's Gift Giving Guide

Posted on November 28, 2018

Conor’s Gift Giving Guide

Gift giving is such a personal thing – for both the giver and the recipient. There is often a lot of thought, planning, and emotion in a gift. Advertising tells us that the best gifts come from the best or most exclusive retailers. They come from far away places. They come with a cost that is equal to our love for the recipient. And each incredibly unique mass produced item is made especially for our loved one…

As I reflected on my childhood Christmases some years ago, I realized that I only really remembered one gift that I was given as a child – a ghetto blaster and a stack of cassettes. I had everything from country music, to classic rock, to disco and party music, to heavy metal, and even some very early hip hop under the tree that year. Every year after, I would ask for more tapes, more records, and eventually CDs. I don’t remember what tapes came next – but I do remember that first year with Randy Travis, Run DMC, U2, Cat Stevens, and Motörhead (I honestly don’t remember the disco tapes well, sorry Abba).

Aside from my first ghetto blaster and stack of tapes, I remember experiences. I remember where I went and who I was with. I remember what we did. I remember the way the room smelled and how the food tasted. I remember what it sounded like to be in those spaces. The product in a box didn’t shape who I am or how I felt – the relationships and experiences that I shared with people did.

A few years ago, I shifted my gift giving away from boxes and bags. Don’t get me wrong – I still give my wife and kids some boxed gifts, but it’s less and the boxes tend to be filled with things that are more relevant or timely. It’s not just something that we saw on a commercial and decided to get it because it’s the hot toy this year – it’s about finding something truly special that won’t wind up forgotten in a few weeks.

I’ve given away lots of concert tickets, amusement park passes, books, music, and food. So much food – including a bag of various cheeses that went to one member of my team last year at Christmas. I’ve gone skating, hiking, biking, rock climbing, swimming, and out for tea.

The people who have received gifts from me have been happy and grateful, and that makes me feel good. I like knowing that I’ve made someone smile. But even more – I’ve really loved the adventure of finding the right gifts. I’ve loved the journey that comes along with really intentional gift giving – trying to find an obscure Anne Murray album on vinyl for my wife after she said that she remembered listening to it as a kid, and flipping through thousands of records in local shops until I found it in good condition was awesome.

And here’s the kicker – even without trying to be environmentally friendly, I was. Every Action Counts, and sometimes we don’t even realize what we’ve done (good or bad) until it’s done. I gave used records, instead of new products. I gave tickets to spaces and places that would have been open and using energy anyway. I gave food that was consumed, rather than a toy that was ignored and eventually tossed out. I took people to do things, to learn things, and to experience things – and we built lasting memories together.

And I got other people doing it, too. For Father’s Day 2 years ago – my kids took me to the National Music Centre (which is an incredible space – a must see if you haven’t been there), and this year my name was added to the liner notes of a band I’m fond of that was funding their new album on Pledge Music (in fact, the album is playing in my headphones as I type this). My family’s annual Secret Santa has one rule – food and drink only. My sister-in-law and her husband gave my wife and I cash for a dinner and a few hours of babysitting, and they gifted our kids trips to the zoo and the science centre.

Giving a great gift is an amazing experience. Here are my tips for giving the best gifts:

1. Think about spaces, places and times before boxes. Is there an experience that you can gift this person? Are they a pescatarian, and you just happen to know a brilliant fish restaurant? Is a band that they love coming through our city? Have they experienced any of Calgary’s hidden gems – and could you gift them a picnic lunch on a beautiful walk through an incredible space? Is a movie being released that you know they are waiting for, and you can get tickets?
2. Think about consumables. We consume food, drink, music, books, and more. What can you give to this person who matters to you that they can enjoy for a moment, an hour, or a lifetime?
3. Turn off the noise, and focus on the person. There are a lot of companies that will tell you that only their product will make your loved one happy. They may be right – but pause and really consider who the person you are getting a gift for is. Think of their happiest moments – what was happening and who was there? What are the foundations of this person – what makes them them – and how can you add to that?
4. Think about causes that matter to them. Did you know that Canada Helps has charity gift cards? You can give a gift card that allows the recipient to donate to a registered charity in Canada of their choice, or you can make a donation in their honour to a cause they care about (like, maybe, Green Calgary Wink )

And one last tip – if you search for Environmentally Friendly gifts online – you’ll find millions. And some of them are great products from very responsible manufacturers. You can find some amazing sustainable fashions, housewares, and more. Even Green Calgary has some great gift options in store, and I encourage you to check us and other local shops out. But, even the most environmentally friendly gifts could become a forgotten item stuffed in the back of a cupboard if we don’t think about the person first. As much as I’d love to receive some more high quality glass food containers – I’d rather have lunch with you. Maybe you can pack my sandwich in a container and then leave it behind…

Happy gift giving friends!


  1. Conor Tapp
  2. Executive Director
  3. Green Calgary
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