Gifts that give back: A guide to more sustainable celebrations

The season of giving is upon us, and it provides a unique opportunity to make a positive impact through our choices. The holidays, which are marked by festive cheer and generosity, often result in increased gifting and gathering.

The environmental impact of our celebrations can be significant, from increased waste production to the resources used in shipping. The holidays are a great opportunity to consider how our traditions can align with our sustainability values.

Let’s embrace conscious choices that reduce our environmental impact now more than ever. Check out our celebration and gift ideas that spark joy and consider our environment.



Embrace eco-friendly festivities


Zero Waste: How to reduce food waste around the holidays Cut down on food waste

Plan your guest list and menu in advance and ask your guests about their dietary needs to avoid overcooking. Cook plant-rich holiday meals with locally sourced, in-season produce. To avoid wasting food, freeze and label leftovers. Experiment with new recipes that make use of leftovers and food scraps. For inspiration, check out Perfectly Good Food: A Totally Achievable Zero Waste Approach to Home Cooking. Donate food items by reviewing the guidelines at your local food bank or community fridge.


Reducing holiday waste and travel emissionsPlan your gatherings mindfully

Besides food waste, holiday parties can contribute to an increase in travel emissions and trash. When planning a gathering, encourage guests to bring reusable containers and supply reusable plates, cups, and utensils instead of single-use items. Consider eco-friendly holiday and party decorations such as handmade or repurposed decorations, energy-efficient LED lights, setting lights on a timer, and using natural and biodegradable decorations such as fruits, pinecones, and twigs.


Image of a plane. How to reduce travel impact during the holidays.Travel responsibly

Use public transport, carpool, or rideshare. If you are flying out of town, consider offsetting the fossil fuel pollution generated by your trip. Look for lodgings that are committed to sustainable water and energy use, as well as responsible waste management. Check out our blog post for more sustainable travel tips.


Alternative sustainable gift ideas for the holidaysRethink gift-giving

Gift-giving is an end-of-year staple for many, but it can cause financial stress and increased spending and consumption. Think about whether and how you want to participate in gift-giving this year. You may wish to consider decentering gifts from your celebrations. Remember that gifts do not have to be brand-new items. You can send digital messages, e-gift cards, and gift experiences rather than products. Or make a charitable donation in honor of a loved one.



Gifts that give back


Tips for choosing eco-friendly gifts

When selecting eco-friendly gifts, keep in mind these tips:

  • Consider homemade, recycled, or thrifted gifts over brand-new items.
  • Look for items that use sustainable or upcycled materials, biodegradable ingredients, and recyclable or compostable packaging.
  • Research the manufacturer’s ethical and sustainability practices.
  • Consider the recipient’s preferences to ensure the gift will be used.
  • Support local artisans and businesses to reduce the carbon footprint associated with shipping.
  • Include a note about the gift's sustainability to encourage the recipient's eco-friendly practices.
  • Source your gift through a local gift economy such as a “Buy Nothing” group.
  • Give virtual or in-person experiences instead of manufactured goods.


Eco-friendly gift ideas

  • Reusable home essentials: Help reduce reliance on single-use items by gifting staples like water bottles, beeswax wraps, bamboo utensils, wool dryer balls, solid dish soaps, and reusable shopping bags.
  • Plants: Plants are not only decorative but also help improve indoor air quality. Choose low-maintenance varieties for easy care. Alternatively, gift native plants or native plant seeds for outdoor gardens that support pollinators.
  • Conscious clothing items: Choose clothing from organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, or other sustainable materials. Also, consider second-hand or thrifted options.
  • Eco-friendly beauty products: Select beauty and skincare products that are cruelty-free, vegan, and come in sustainable packaging.
  • Herb garden in a pot: Plant a small herb garden in a decorative pot—Include a set of herb markers with the names of each herb.
  • Plantable greeting cards: These alternative cards are embedded with seeds and can be planted in soil to grow flowers, herbs, or even vegetables.
  • Make a charitable donation: Give a gift of lasting impact! Donate to a cause or organization your loved one cares about in their name.
  • Homemade gifts: Often the most appreciated and personal gifts, consider making the gift yourself.
    • Baked goods and homemade preserves
    • Handmade jewelry, knitted or crocheted goods, and woodworked items such as coasters or cutting boards
    • Custom photo albums, scrapbooks, or keepsakes such as Storyworth
    • Cookbook of family recipes
    • Embroidered or monogrammed items
    • Framed artwork or photography
    • Act of service vouchers (homemade meal, babysitting, or a game night)


Unique gift experiences

Celebrate special occasions by allowing someone to create lasting memories. Unlike traditional gifts, experiences focus on activities that provide enjoyment, adventure, and personal growth.

  1. Give tickets to a concert or event.
  2. Gift a tour or outdoor activity like rock climbing, kayaking, snorkeling, camping, horseback riding, or snowboarding.
  3. Book a spa day, massage, or self-care service.
  4. Gift a nature-based volunteer or travel experiences, such as an Earthwatch expedition.
  5. Purchase a class or workshop to learn a new skill or hobby such as pottery, cooking, sports, or educational memberships.
  6. Gift fitness classes or personal training sessions.
  7. Commision a personalized video from their favorite artist through Cameo.



This festive season, let each gift be more than just a token of affection—let it symbolize a commitment. A commitment to nurture, to preserve, and to treat our planet with the reverence it deserves.


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