Tips for Green Gift Giving

The holiday season is celebrated by days (if not weeks!) of giving and receiving tokens of love and appreciation to those around us. A thoughtful gift shared with a loved one or a gift of thanks given to a colleague creates joy and holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver. You can make your gift giving even more joyous this year for both you and the planet with these tips for green gift giving.

Give Nothing

The best way to ensure the gift you give doesn’t end up in a landfill is to give nothing at all. We aren’t saying to skip gift giving all together, but rather, to give a service or gift certificate instead of a physical gift.

There’s been a trend from parents whose children’s rooms are filled with long-forgotten toys toward asking loved ones to consider gifting experiences rather than toys. Passes to a local attraction, a certificate for lessons or day spent with their favorite aunt or uncle are all great alternatives to giving a physical object.

This option for green gift giving isn’t only good for giving to children – a gift card to a restaurant or a day at the spa is sure to please anyone on your list.

There’s also an opportunity to get creative and maybe even save some money by offering certificates for your own services like home cleaning or repairs to family or friends that could use the extra help.

Give Smart

If a gift certificate isn’t going to work for someone on your list, there are still ways to have a greener holiday through your gift giving.

One gift that won’t end up in the landfill is a gift that gets consumed, be it food, drink or otherwise. A gift that gets used up is a greener choice than one that will eventually be discarded. On the opposite end of the gift-giving spectrum from items that get used up, are the green gifts that last a long time. If there is an item you know you want to give, spend a little extra to ensure you buy a product that is high quality and long lasting. It is better for the recipient and better for the planet, as it is less likely to need replacing and be thrown away.

Another great green idea is to gift items that help the recipient live a greener life: a coffee thermos that replaces a daily take-away cup, stainless steel straw sets to replace plastic straws, or high quality cleaning cloths to replace throw-away paper and plastic cleaning products. There are plenty of ideas for gifts that help keep garbage out of the landfill and cut waste. You might consider other green gifts like a new compost system, low energy and smart home devices, or other items that contribute to improving the planet.

When making an effort to give greener gifts, you can also give some consideration to how the product is manufactured. Is it made of sustainable material? Is it sourced from using eco-friendly practices? How far has it been shipped to get under your tree? Some brands or products are given different certifications to let buyers know they follow green practices or offer greener solutions, such as energy-star rated appliances or rain-forest-certified coffee. 

You might also consider repurposing, refinished or reusing already owned or thrifted items. Perhaps you can give new life to old photo frames with a coat of paint or refinish a piece of furniture to have it looking brand new and ready for gift giving. Check out our guide to refinishing wood furniture to learn how you can restore the luster to old wooden furniture and make it ready for Christmas morning.

Green Gift Wrapping

It's been said that on average, a household’s garbage triples over the holidays and a good portion of that waste is coming from gift packaging and wrapping. Rather than adorning your gifts with wrapping paper that often cannot be recycled, opt for a greener way to dress up your gifts for a festive looking parcel.

The easiest way to make the switch to greener packaging is to swap your wrapping paper for gift bags. While wrapping paper is surely a one-time use product, gifts bags can be saved and stored for reuse next year, and likely for a few years to come. The same is true for ribbons and bows. You can even save and reuse the front of your holiday cards as gift tags next year.

Alternatively, you can wrap your gifts in items that have a use all on their own, like a gift wrapped in a gift. A good option for this is scarves, blankets or trinket boxes, but you can get creative. A terracotta planter with its plate as a lid will conceal a present, costs only a few dollars, and will certainly be put to use afterwards.

Even if you’ve done your best to make this gift-giving season a little greener, a gift that is unwanted is sure to go unused, or worse, to the landfill. Everyone likes the idea of finding that perfect gift all on their own to impress and surprise. But if you miss the mark, it becomes a waste all around. Make the effort to ask your recipients what they’d like to get this holiday season, so your efforts and your money aren’t going to waste. And while it might seem in poor taste to ask for specific items, you’re saving your gift giver from the same wasted money and efforts by letting them know the items you would put to use. Additionally, this gives you the opportunity to ask for greener gifts for yourself and helps them receive greener items from you.

There are many ways to make your gift giving a little greener this holiday season. Even if you’re not ready to change your gift-giving plans completely, with a little effort you can make small changes that make the season merry for you and the planet.