Sustainable Gift Giving This Holiday: Ideas + Inspiration

With the recent snow this past Friday, we were reminded that winter is approaching. Along with winter comes the holiday season: a time for family, friends, great food, and gifts!

Sometimes the holiday season can be tough for a sustainably-minded person, so we decided to share some ideas about how to give more sustainable gifts.

Experiential Gifts

When thinking of gifts for friends or family, the mind usually pictures material items, possessions, or even money, when you really don’t know what to get that person. The best gifts are not usually things, they are usually ones that come with human connection and emotion.

With a little bit of insider information on the recipient’s hobbies or interest, selecting an experience (like a pass to Climb Iowa) for a particular person can become less daunting. If that still seems too difficult, a gift that is a material item could be one that is meant to encourage more experiences, like hiking shoes from Active Endeavors, a locally-owned store in Clive.

We love the idea of a camping gift or planned trip for someone who enjoys hiking, or renting bikes in a new city and exploring local restaurants. 



Gift Exchanges

White elephant gift exchanges are a great example of a sustainable holiday dilemma. These gift exchanges are intended to be fun, humorous, and inspire good times. However, typical purchases for these types of gift exchanges are something cheap on the wallet and not cheap for the environment.

Usually this comes in the form of a “gag” gift. Once gifted, these gag gifts usually sit on the shelf or get tossed in the trash.


Instead of gag gifts, you could try creating or cooking a gift from materials found around your home. To still achieve the humor from a gag gift, a reference to an inside joke within the friends or family gathered for the exchange can be incorporated into the gift.

Raygun provides great examples of how to incorporate humor into gifts while still feeling polished and homegrown. If you are not the creative type, a gift certificate to a company such as The Grateful Chef ensures your dollars are well-spent on local and organic products.  



Charitable Donations

Another option instead of material gifts would be a donation to a charity or nonprofit. These types of gifts have nearly no impact on the environment, except the electricity required to process the transaction or the paper on which they are printed.

Identifying the gift again becomes a little easier when you begin to think about the recipient’s interests. A donation to a charity that aligns with the recipient's values or life experiences can be a really powerful way to give.

Going a step beyond gifting a charitable donation would be requesting donations to an organization in your name. This way, not only do you reduce the carbon footprint of gifts you give this season, but also for gifts you receive.

To help others understand why this might be important to you, try sending an email or letter expressing why you support the organization and the benefit they provide to the community. This year, that organization might just be named Urban Ambassadors.

Support us this year with a donation to help with our 2018 goal of acquiring a part-time Executive Director.