Updated: Dec 8, 2021
"Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of the year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!" (Stanford.edu)
Why gift more sustainably?
Our gifting choices have a sizeable impact on the environment, from what we give to how we wrap. We can reduce waste generated by excessive consumerism by being selective about whom we gift to and intentional and thoughtful about what we give. Gifting greener means selecting gifts that you know the recipient will find value in, and not gifting just for the sake of gifting.
Green Gift Tips
Choose items that are made sustainably and/or ethically, or something that the recipient has expressed wanting or needing.
Consumables (e.g. coffee, tea, sweets, plants) are great gift ideas as they can be enjoyed and don't add to clutter. Just be sure you have an idea of what your recipient prefers and whether or not they have any dietary restrictions or allergies!
Experiences are wonderful gifts that take up no space! Some examples of experience gifts:
Membership or Subscription
Classes (e.g. a cooking class or dance class)
Tickets to a play or musical
Gift card to the movie theater
An outing to a museum or theme park
A treatment at a spa
A gift card to a favorite restaurant
Reusables can also be a great gift! Things such as a tote bag, reusable water bottle, travel cup, travel cutlery, or reusable straw are a few ideas that can help your recipient reduce waste in their own life. Again, keep in mind their lifestyle and preferences (How likely are they to actually use the item? Do they already have one?)
You can also purchase gifts secondhand! Check your local thrift store or buy/sell website, select "used" on sites such as Amazon or Ebay, or regift something that you know will bring someone else joy!
We polled our members about what their favorite eco-friendly gifts, and here are the top six:
Tea or Coffee
Stojo collapsible cup (fun fact: Maria used hers on her wedding day!)
Reusable Coffee Pods (for those with Keurig-type machines)
"If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. (Stanford.edu)
While you could purchase wrapping paper made of recycled materials, it's even better if you can reuse items you already have, such as old wrapping paper from previous gifts, shipping paper or newspaper, gift bags, ribbons, and bows! You can also wrap gifts in scarves or furoshiki-style cloths that can be reused over and over again!
"The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we'd save 50,000 cubic yards of paper" (Stanford.edu)
Being green does not mean you have to forgo holiday cards. Simply limiting or reducing the amount of physical cards that you send can make a difference! You can sometimes find unused holiday and greeting cards at thrift stores, but if you opt for custom cards, look for cards printed on recycled paper. You can also reduce paper waste by opting for holiday postcards that don't require envelopes!
Another way to reduce paper waste is to send digital cards. The best part is they're free! You can send cards via email or sites such as Paperless Post, or share on social media - no purchase or postage necessary! You can choose to send all physical cards or all digital cards, or do a mix of both!
Here are a few of our favorite places for holiday cards:
Paper Culture uses 100% recycled paper, plants a tree for each order, and offsets their emissions! They have a wonderful selection of eco-friendly photo cards, stationary, invitations, and photo books.
Whole Weddings offers custom design holiday cards printed on seeded paper!
Paperless Post has many free digital card options, and you can even upload your own design!
Sustainable Santa: Santa's Green Program
If you celebrate Christmas or partake in Santa-gifting, you may be looking forways to do so more sustainably, and how to explain to your kids why their Santa experience may be different from that of their friends or cousins. One easy way to do this is to tell them you've opted into "Santa's Green Program!"
With Santa's Green Program, gifts from the North Pole are all eco-friendly (e.g. experiences, secondhand items, sustainable items), and/or you may decide just to do a single gift per family member from Santa and the rest be from you, the parents. These gifts would also be wrapped in reusable or reused materials.
After Christmas, your kids can leave out wrapping materials in a box or sack for Santa's elves to pick up so they can be reused again next year (whether they were used for Santa gifts or not), and they'll also take old toys to gift to other children!
Free Gift Guide!
As our gift to you this holiday season, we've put together a free green gifting guide with more suggestions and links!