Tips for Sustainable Giving during the Holidays

The holidays are a time for showing our love and friendship with gifts. This lovely tradition brings joy to so many. This year, we’re sharing some ideas for gifts that are practical, sustainable (i.e. have lower environmental impact), and in many cases, very affordable, recognizing that this year has brought financial hardship to many people.

Think local. Buying from Maine’s many gifted artisans and craftspeople benefits the entire community by keeping dollars circulating in Maine. Locally-produced items don’t have the environmental impacts associated with shipping products here and often have less packaging.

A nice wrapping job dresses up a bar of handmade soap.

Think consumable. Give practical gifts that are ‘consumed’ and thus guaranteed to get used. This is particularly good for people who are well-established and have most everything they need. Everyday items like handmade bar soap, candles, hand creams/lotions make wonderful gifts and stocking stuffers. You can ‘dress these presents up’ with a beautiful wrapping job to make them feel extra special!

Think practical. A nice pair of wool socks is perfect for the winter ahead – everyone needs socks! Or a thin wool undershirt to ward off winter cold. Or a cord of wood for someone who has a wood stove.

Think DIY. Making gifts is great way to show your love, and a great way to get youngsters focused more on the giving side of the holiday. Here are some homemade gift ideas suitable for youngsters, perhaps with a little help from the parents. Children get great practice with amounts and measuring when making food items. To add that ‘artisanal’ feel, write or print a label with details about the ‘artisan’ and how they made it.

  • Mason jar filled with homemade granola or brownie mix (attach the recipe and a list of perishable items to be added, e.g. eggs, butter). Dress up the mason jar with raffia or twine!
  • Candles made out of rolled beeswax honeycomb (watch this video). This is very do-able by young children with a little help getting started.
  • Homemade birdfeeder (see CREA’s Wild Wonders for one option). Here are several other options, including the pine cone/peanut butter/bird seed feeder!
  • Note cards. Decorate with drawings, stamps, collage, and bind them with twine, string, or raffia in a neat little packet with envelopes.
  • Small mobile to hang. (See CREA’s Wild Wonders for one option).
  • Gingerbread cookies. Decorate with colored frosting. Children LOVE decorating!
  • Paperwhites planter. (See CREA’s Wild Wonders for details.)
  • Granola or trail mix. Clear cellophane bags or mason jars show off the contents beautifully.

Think ‘experience’. Give someone an ‘experience’ rather than a thing. For children, it can be a day at a favorite destination or event. For adults, it can be a performance (a little difficult now…), movie tickets, gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, bakery, or coffee shop, pizza night (delivered by you on the date of their choice).

Think charity. Give gifts that do good at the same time. Give a gift membership to someone’s favorite charity. A favorite idea of ours – give someone a course from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Academy and support their research on birds at the same time. You can also buy their Certified bird-friendly shade-grown coffee!

Think ‘services’. Give a gift certificate for helping out! This is especially good for gifts from young people to older people. Give the grandparents an afternoon of stacking wood, raking leaves, shoveling snow, grocery shopping. If you have a valuable skill, give your skill to friends and family. If you’re a great cook, give a certificate for ‘dinner for six’ at your friend or family member’s house (they invite the guests, you do the cooking. They get the pleasure of relaxed time with friends in their home…with none of the work!).

These are gifts that keep on giving long after the holidays are past. Get creative, be practical, and consider gifts that are renewable, sustainable, and in many cases, really fun to make!