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By Lia Blanchard

The last article featured eco-friendly ways to decorate for the holidays. Today we’ll explore green methods of gift-giving.

Build new traditions

Simply changing a few things about HOW you give gifts can make a huge difference to both the environment and to your wallet.

  • Have everyone in your circle of family/friends draw names and give gifts only to that person, instead of everyone buying, wrapping, and giving gifts to everyone else. Tip: Take this to another level and draw household names instead of individual names. This works best when the households involved are approximately equal in size.
  • If someone you know has indicated that they “don’t want any more stuff” take them at their word, and see if one of the following ideas might strike their fancy.

Green gifts

Environmentally friendly gifts are handmade, eaten, or experienced.

Handmade: The options for meaningful and beautiful handmade gifts are limited only by your imagination.

  • Give your talent – Writings and photographs can be framed, music can be recorded, dance or acting skills can be demonstrated on video.
  • Honor family – Make a family tree, record interviews with family members. Can’t get there? Skype is free!
  • Feeling crafty? Michaels.com has a page where craft projects can be searched by length of time to complete and appropriate age ranges.

Food: I’m not talking about Grandma’s fruitcake! Because they are completely consumed, food gifts are a great way to respect the environment. Just be sure that whatever you give doesn’t conflict with any dietary restrictions the recipient may have.

  • Handmade goodies – Cookies are perfect, and here are some recipes for cookies that hold up especially well in the mail. Protect your holiday treats by putting them into decorated potato chip canisters or coffee cans.
  • Gift baskets and towers – Don’t just send a wedge of cheese! Send gourmet cheese with select savory accompaniments, gorgeously arranged in a reusable container that reflects the recipient’s personality and good taste (and yours!) without stepping foot into the kitchen.

Experience: I am personally a huge fan of experience gifts. Every year, each of my children gets a one-on-one-with-Mom experience gift, and there’s a whole-family experience gift as well. Memories are gifts that last a lot longer than toys. Experience gifts for kids are pretty easy to come up with, but adults don’t have to be difficult. Here are some ideas for experience gifts for adults:

  • Volunteering – Accompany someone to work a shift at a cause of their choice.
  • Evenings out – Give tickets to movies, sporting or arts events, memberships to museums, galleries or clubs, or restaurant gift certificates. Can you include babysitting services?
  • Daytime experiences – Massages, spa and salon services, and tours are all great daytime experiences.
  • Travel – Is an overnight getaway within your budget? A cruise? A camping trip?

Wrap it up

Much of the waste from holiday gift-giving come from presentation. Did you know that ribbons, bows, and much wrapping paper are not recyclable? It’s estimated that the US produces over a million tons of extra waste each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of the year. Purchase recyclable paper and/or get creative with alternatives, especially if it fits with the theme of your gift!

  • Wrapping paper alternatives: Foil-lined snack bags, maps, comics, yearbook pages, brown paper bags, jeans, magazine pages, phone book yellow pages, pages from puzzle books.
This gift is wrapped in a cleaned chip bag, turned foil-side out and adorned with a VHS ribbon.

This gift is wrapped in a cleaned chip bag, turned foil-side out and adorned with a VHS ribbon.

  • Ribbon alternatives: Old VHS tape, jump rope, necktie, pet leash, silk flowers or holiday adornments, strings of faux jewelry, hair accessories, fabric.

Next:  Enjoy a Greener Holiday: Entertaining