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5 Eco-Friendly and Zero-Waste Gift Ideas

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Honor loved ones with mindful and ethical green gifts that won’t break the bank (or the landfill).

I am not an anti-Christmas person—not exactly. 

There are things I love about the holidays, like hanging out with my family, taking time away from work for quiet, and holiday parties. But there are a couple of things I struggle with, and one of them is gift-giving.

I’m not much of a gift person, and I am notoriously hard to shop for. That’s mostly because I hate “stuff”—random crap you have to find a space for in your house that you’ll never use. One of the worst things about all that stuff is how much trash it creates. We literally cut down trees during the Christmas season and then cover them in non-biodegradable thingies. (I swear, I’m not Scrooge.) It’s also because the holiday season is an absolute capitalist dream: it is a time that is so heavy on marketing, playing on people’s most vulnerable insecurities to get them to purchase the biggest and the prettiest gifts to try to somehow represent their love. The holidays can be a real terror when we are in a financial squeeze.  

At their best, gifts are meant to be a representation of care and thought for another person. They are exchanged with the best of intentions and can mean a lot. Our traditions matter a lot. But there are some ways we can adjust our holiday habits so that we can honor our loved ones mindfully and ethically with gifts that won’t break the bank (or the landfill). Here are some ideas:

Consumables

Gifting organic wine, homemade cookies, tea sampler sets, or honey sourced from a local farmer’s market are excellent ways of gifting something special that can be ethically sourced. These products will be consumed (as long as you’re sure the person likes what you’re giving), so no lasting environmental impact.

Experiences

One of my favorite gifts to give, especially to people I really like spending time with, is an experience. Tickets to a concert, show, or event I know we’d both like is a really nice way to spend more time with each other. A nice long-distance gift could be a gift certificate to a spa or massage clinic. These can be given physically in a nice little (recyclable) card.

Gift for a good cause  

Many charities have merchandise or gift cards that you can purchase with proceeds going to a good cause. Around the holidays there are also often craft fairs featuring the work of local artists. When you purchase here, you are supporting individuals rather than big corporations. Plus, you won’t have to set foot in a mall.

Watch your gift wrap

Gift wrap can be a huge source of landfill waste. Reuse a newspaper, an old comic book, or an old map for a quirky take on green gift wrap. Keep the paper and gift bags you receive over the holidays and re-gift them next year. This may require that you do a little reflection on how “pretty” you feel you need your gifts to look. They might look a little less pert and perfect when you are re-using, but they will have that ethical green glow.

Talk to your friends and family about gifts and—gasp!—money

It helps if everyone is contributing to a greener, more ethical holiday season. How many gifts do you tend to exchange with your family and friends? What are the expectations? What kind of waste is created at work holiday events? How much money do you tend to spend with your friends? It’s easy enough to reduce the number of gifts being exchanged, to decorate with reusable or recyclable products, or even to switch to a small, living, evergreen tree in a pot as my family did a few years ago. A quick conversation and a few small adjustments can go a long way toward a greener, more mindful holiday season.

Discover more green gift ideas.


Julie Peters

Julie Peters is a staff writer for Spirituality & Health. She is also a yoga teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) and co-owner of Ocean and Crow Yoga studio in Vancouver, BC, with her mom, Jane. She is the author of Secrets of the Eternal Moon Phase Goddesses: Meditations on Desire, Relationships, and the Art of Being Broken (SkyLight Paths 2016) and WANT: 8 Steps to Recovering Desire, Passion, and Pleasure After Sexual Assault (Mango Media 2019). Learn more at www.jcpeters.ca. Follow her at @juliejcp.

Learn with Julie! 

Register for Julie's courses Stress Management Skills for Real Life: Practices for a Calmer Happier Life and Moon Goddess Meditations: A 16-night journey of desire, heartache and connection.


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