Better Gift Giving: Tips and Suggestions

To make your gifts more meaningful, mindful, beneficial, and green (and avoid contributing to: mindless material consumption, exploitative corporations & sweatshops, excessive resource use, and waste), consider opting for the following types of gifts. (You could also let family members know that you prefer to receive these types of gifts if they are struggling to figure out what to get for you.)

  1. Charitable donations to non-profits, on the recipients’ behalf
  2. Experiences (e.g., events, concerts, shows, activities, memberships, parks pass, dining out)
  3. Time, assistance, services (e.g., meals, child care, rides to appointments, housecleaning, etc.)
  4. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown goods (e.g., foods, art, crafts, knitted items)
  5. Trees planted in someone’s honor or in someone’s memory (via One Tree Planted, Cool Earth, the Green Belt Movement, etc.)
  6. Locally-made goods
  7. Goods bought from local, small, independent businesses
  8. Fair-trade goods (or else “Made in the USA” goods)
  9. Goods from socially and environmentally responsible companies (e.g. B Corporations, benefit corporations, 1% for the Planet businesses)
  10. Organic, recycled, natural, non-toxic and/or energy-saving or water-saving goods
  11. Books (ideally from small/independent bookstores) or music
  12. Subscriptions to online media (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  13. Eminently useful items (e.g., foods, emergency kits/supplies, socks, organic seeds, solar generators, money) or things you know the recipient wants and needs
  14. Durable items (not cheaply made or disposable)
  15. Re-gifted or lightly used items; family heirlooms; or antique/vintage goods
  16. Socially responsible investments (e.g., fossil-fuel-free stocks, green bonds, etc.)

Also avoid buying or using wasteful, disposable packaging or wrapping items. I often put gifts in gift bags, which can be readily re-used, or I just put a nice ribbon around some gifts (and use no wrapping). If getting gift cards, try to select electronic e-cards or paper cards rather than single-use plastic cards.

As for product gifts, a few of my favorite product companies include: Patagonia, Real Goods, Coyuchi, Earthkind, Bees Wrap, Indigenous (clothing), REI, and Lifekind(Wherever you get gifts from, please try to avoid making purchases from Amazon and Walmart.)

Lastly, if you’re planning to get a Christmas tree for the holidays, consider some alternatives to the usual chopped-down tree, such as buying or renting a living (potted and replantable) tree (do a web search for the words “living Christmas trees” or “live xmas trees” and your county name to see if there are places near you that offer these; or just go get a live, plantable tree from a nursery). Alternatively, you could put ornaments or lights on a tree that’s already growing outside in your yard. Or get creative and make a wreath or a table/mantle garland decoration from evergreen trimmings, and forego having an xmas tree at all (gasp!). In a climate crisis (which is what we are in now), and with millions of trees being destroyed by wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pests every year, I think it’s entirely fair and appropriate to question some traditions (such as our Great Annual Xmas Tree Massacre) and start up some new ones. Regardless of what you choose to do for Christmas, you can always make a donation to a reforestation group or a local tree-planting group, or plant a tree.

Useful online resources:


Relevant posts from the past, for additional suggestions:


November 21, 2018

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