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7 Ideas for Better Gifting

December 11, 2020

By Elizabeth Bechard, BA, RYT

Disclosure: The original version of this article was published in 2017 and edited and adapted for the 2020 holiday season.

It’s December, and although this holiday season is nothing like we have experienced before, many of us still want to show our love and appreciation with gifts. Here are seven ideas for more mindful, sustainable, and meaningful gifting.

1) Give experiences, rather than objects.

One of the best ways to reduce material waste over the holidays is to give your loved ones the gift of an experience they’re sure to love, rather than an object that might sit on a shelf. You’ll be helping to create meaningful memories that are tailor-made to your loved one’s needs and interests. (And as a bonus? You won’t need several rolls of gift wrap, so you’ll be saving paper as well). Some ideas:

  • Give the gift of health & well-being with a gift certificate for a massage or acupuncture session. For instance, the Duke Health & Fitness Center is currently offering gift certificates.
  • Gift a membership to a local museum.
  • Gift a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share to a family who loves to cook.
  • Gift a gift certificate to a local yoga studio or virtual yoga therapy to a friend or family member.

Or make a donation to a cause your loved one cares about in their honor. You’ll give them the satisfaction of knowing they were part of helping someone else in need.

2) Give gifts that are handmade.

Handmade gifts are generally far less resource-intensive than store-bought items and are a sweet way to show a loved one that you care. Or if food gifts aren’t up your alley, maybe a batch of DIY aromatic bath salts is more your style? Make friends with Pinterest or Etsy, and you’ll never run out of ideas.

3) Give gifts that support a more sustainable lifestyle.

Encourage your loved ones to reduce everyday waste by gifting them something they’ll use all the time: think reusable coffee thermoses for the coffee lovers in your life; metal or glass water bottles; bamboo utensils and cloth napkins; or silicone straws.

4) Be a conscious consumer.

If you have a tradition of always buying a plaid shirt for your father for the holidays, see if you can find it from an eco-friendly, socially conscious clothing company (such as Patagonia or one of these brands) this year. If you love gifting candles, look for candles made with clean-burning wax. In general, try to avoid gifts made with plastics, hardwoods, polyesters, or other non-sustainable materials, and look for the Fair Trade label when possible.

In addition, consider buying used instead of new: you can often find next-to-new items at local or online consignment shops and eBay. With thoughtful wrapping, these gifts can be just as delightful as their brand-new counterparts.

5) Shop local whenever possible.

This year more than ever before, local businesses can use your support. Many communities have online directories guiding shoppers to local, independent businesses, like Durham’s Sustain-A-Bull

6) Wrap thoughtfully.

Get creative when wrapping gifts to avoid unnecessary paper waste: check out these wonderful eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas from The Art of Simple.

7) Consider giving less.

For many people, the overwhelm of holiday gift-giving can create a significant amount of unnecessary stress. What would be possible for you if you pared it down a bit? Simplifying where you can just allow you to be calmer and more mindful with your loved ones this time of year, and cliché as it may be, your presence is the best present of all.

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