Ah, the holidays. A time for spending money that you don’t have on people that you don’t like. Wait, what? The holiday season in the United States is a consumerist force to be reckoned with. A full month of urgent promotional emails, enticing sales, bright sparkly billboards, glossy advertisements, bell-ringing Santas and shopping bags bursting at the seams. Every retailer claims that the wares they’re hawking are “the perfect gifts” for the loved ones in your life, now for the low cost of $79.99! Meanwhile, you’ve got to figure out a way to make ends meet while traveling to and fro, indulging in festive get-togethers, and buying gifts for everyone on your list from Grandma to your coworkers. Then the whole season gets rounded out with mountains of single-use plastic packaging and wrapping paper that ends up in the landfill, not to mention the atrocious amounts of food waste we leave on our plates. I’m stressing out just thinking about it all.
Every year I try to keep myself out of all that hubbub by asking for nothing and often avoiding holiday gatherings completely. But there’s no need to be a scrooge if you want to keep living your life sustainably during the holidays - it just takes a tad more creativity to find the perfect gifts that won’t waste your money, your time, or the planet’s precious resources. Don’t fall prey to flash sales, fancy ads or the endorphin inducing whirlwind that is holiday shopping. No, this year I challenge you to get thrifty and think outside the box when it comes to gift giving so that you can watch with pride as everyone on your list lights up in delight upon unveiling their special something. To help get your gears going, I’ve brought together some ideas for thoughtful, conscious gifts that don't require a trip to the mall or any kind of plastic packaging whatsoever.
BUT FIRST SOME TIPS TO START WITH
Stop and ask yourself about the person you are gifting. Are they into taking risks and constantly learning new things? Or are they chill with lots of self-care time? Think about whether they have any interesting goals or hobbies that you could feed into, or maybe if they're more happy with sweet gestures. Go from there!
SPEND TIME TOGETHER, NOT MONEY
- Make a date to get out of the city and challenge yourselves on an outdoor adventure!
- Snag tickets to a play, movie, or concert that you’ve both been wanting to see.
- Buy groceries (or a gift card to the store) and plan to cook a meal together in the near future.
EXPERIENCES ARE BETTER THAN THINGS
- Sign them up for a candle making workshop in Brooklyn! Perfect for anyone looking to get in touch with their creative side.
- Get your budding home cook and/or obsessive foodie a vegan and health-focused cooking class at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Love the sound of this souping as juicing class!
- Book your spiritual yogi friends a unique workshop at a cool studio like Sky Ting in New York.
- Any sustainable fashion designer or fan would love to learn how to natural dye with one of my mentors, The Dogwood Dyer.
- Your friends have cool patch-laden jackets, too? Feed their obsession with these fun kits from Wool And The Gang!
- Or dive into natural dyeing yourself and use my avocado pit pink recipe to make a beautiful set of napkins, a silk scarf, a pillow case...whatever you can get on the cheap that will look really good in millenial pink.
- There are actually a lot of things that you can put in a mason jar and they’ll automatically taste better and feel special. Trust me, I’ve tried it. And so has Holly of Leotie Lovely!
- Just go and pick up a few of the best vegan-socialist-feminist-sustainable chocolates around and send them to anyone on your list. They’ll be happy.
- Send a gift card to a restaurant they’ve been wanting to try or to a cool one that you think they would like. My recommendations would be Dirt Candy for New Yorkers, Gracias Madre in San Francisco, and Cafe Gratitude in LA.
- Once again, I will point you towards making yummy things and giving them away in mason jars ;)
ADD VALUE TO THEIR LIVES WITH SOME EDUCATIONAL/FUN READING
- Someone on your list have a socialist streak? Try a subscription to Jacobin Magazine ($5 off right now to celebrate their new edition!).
- Are they really concerned with climate change and losing wild places? They need Selva Beat!
PAY IT FORWARD BY DONATING TO A CAUSE
OK, SO SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE A THING
- How about a nice potted plant? Perfect for adding color and cleaning the air in a city-dwellers apartment!
- Pick out something that is meaningful, beautiful, inspirational, and affordable: a crystal.
- I may be a bit biased, but I think that shea butter goes a long way for everyone. It’s moisturizing, versatile, and a soothing self-care routine when done right. (Use code SUSTAININGSHEA for 10% off your purchase. You'll also be sending 10% of your purchase to me! Thank you :) As you know, I will only ever share brands or information that I believe in or trust, and all opinions are always my own.)
All images by Faye Lessler.