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7 Ways to Make Holiday Gifting Greener, Simpler, and More Joyful

December 6, 2017

By Elizabeth Bechard, BA, RYT

It’s December: the holiday season is finally in full swing again.

One of my favorite parts of this time of year is the pleasure of choosing gifts for loved ones. I love going into stores that sell whimsical knick-knacks and trying to find the perfect gift for a friend or family member. At the same time, the older I get, the more conscious I am of the long-term impact of my gifts. I know I certainly don’t need more knick-knacks or shiny objects around my house, and my loved ones probably don’t either (even as perfect as this would be for my fanny pack-wearing dad). I also know that I don’t want my gift giving to cause environmental harm by unnecessarily draining valuable natural resources or contributing to the problem of excess waste – but it’s easy to forget to be mindful of this amidst the hustle of the holidays.

If you need reminding, like I do, that it’s possible to choose gifts that are both eco-friendly AND won’t collect dust on your giftee’s shelf (#winwin), consider this your reminder. The possibilities for “green gifting” are limited only by your imagination. Here are some ideas to get you started, in the hopes of making this holiday season a simpler, greener, and maybe even more joyful one:

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 a gift certificate for a massage or acupuncture session
  • Gift a membership to a local museum (such as The Museum of Life & Science)
  • Gift a CSA share to a family who loves to cook
  • Gift a gift certificate to a local yoga studio to a stressed out friend
  • 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. Try cooking a special meal for a friend who’s going through a difficult time, or baking several loaves of your famous banana bread for coworkers. 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, and you’ll never run out of ideas.

3) Give gifts that support a more sustainable lifestyle.

Encourage your loved one 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 always 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, Craigslist, and eBay. With thoughtful wrapping, these gifts can be just as delightful as their brand-new counterparts.

5) Shop local whenever possible.

Support local businesses that use sustainable, eco-friendly, and/or locally sourced materials. Many communities have online directories guiding shoppers to local, independent businesses, like Durham’s

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) And 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 might 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.

If you are looking for experiential gift ideas, look no further than Duke Integrative Medicine

Several of our upcoming programs make great gifts for yourself or your loved ones. Check out our currently registering programs, including two programs that I’ll be co-leading designed for women and their partners: Integrative Nutrition and Yoga for Pre-Conception and Fertility and Integrative Nutrition and Yoga for Pregnancy and Post-Partum.


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