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Seasonal Sustainability: Gift-giving guide


Photo credit: Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

The exchange of gifts seems to be the crux of it all, and while showing a loved one you care through a meaningful present has value, it can be blown out of proportion. Stress around finding the right gift, not to mention the ecological guilt and financial pressure of these endeavors, is enormous. Below are some solutions for minimizing waste, reigning back consumerism, and finding the perfect sustainable gifts.


Consumption Culture

Before diving into gift giving advice, it’s important to acknowledge the mounting culture of consumption. With the holidays fast approaching, Americans nationwide are facing mounting stress — the antithesis of what the season is all about. Regardless of which holiday(s) you celebrate, the merriment and joy that are associated with this time of year can be marred by frantic consumerism. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are often about marketing unnecessary goods through markdowns and planned obsolescence.

While it’s important to celebrate and acknowledge abundance this season, it’s crucial that we turn a critical eye on our lifestyle practices and inspect them for social, economic, and ecological sustainability. How does this consumption culture make me feel? Am I connecting more or less with the people around me? Am I spending needless money on material items? How are my decisions impacting the environment?

Remember that meeting basic needs (housing, food, and love) is enough. Scarcity is a myth, and the best gift is your presence. But if you’re inclined to give gifts this holiday season, here are some tips!


Everyone loves a heartfelt DIY gift, you get some joy out of creating it yourself, and you avoid the packaging and resources of traditional, disposable items.

Don’t be afraid to get messy — it’s part of the creative process! Picture credit: Sigmund on Unsplash

Go-to projects include sentimental cards, art projects such as paintings or collages, wreaths, knitted or crocheted items, poems, and more. Maybe you have access to a ceramics studio or are handy with woodwork and can create a meaningful piece for your loved ones.

When sourcing materials, always be on the lookout for what you can find locally!


Overlapping with handmade gifts are consumables. If not something they’ll love per se, consumables will definitely be appreciated and used — minimizing waste.

Try your hand at candle making to add extra light to the holidays. Photo credit: Fi Bell on Unsplash

Edible items like cookies, jams, chocolate sauce, and other sweets are classic holiday gifts that can mean a lot. For the more adventurous, baking bread, experimenting with spice blends, or infusing oils can be great gifts. You can even propose to cook a special meal, like their favorite dishes, as a gift to your loved ones.

Consumables don’t end with the kitchen. Soaps, candles, and beauty products are sure to be enjoyed especially if they’re homemade or extra luxurious.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of vegetative friends. Cut flowers or potted plants bring life into any space. Consider planting a collection of herbs to give to your culinarily inclined friends. 

With both consumable and handmade items, if you don’t want to try your hand at making it yourself, look to local artisans and businesses. Buying local helps support our local economy and minimize waste associated with transport, so stop by one of many Farmers Markets in the Sarasota area.


Buying second hand minimizes your carbon footprint by extending the lifespan of an existing good and can save you a bit of money. Consider strolling around garage sales, thrift shops, and other venues to discover some hidden gems. Whether it be a used playset for your child, bike for your partner, or a gently used book for your friend, there’s something for everyone.

Particularly this year, there are also online platforms to help you on your hunt.

          Bigger items: Facebook marketplace, eBay, Craigslist, LetGo, Findermaster.

          Clothes: Depop, ThredUP, Poshmark, Vinted, Carousell

          Books: Thriftbooks

The Gift of Experience

Sometimes the gift of experience is better than anything physical you could bestow upon someone.

Experiential gifts like camping are fun and memorable. Photo credit: Diaga Ellaby

Memory making and educational activities are priceless in the value they add to your life. Propose a weekend getaway or day trip to a local park or attraction. Particularly for kids, memberships to an aquarium, learning museum, or subscriptions to a magazine can provide stimulation throughout the year.

Wondering how to present these gifts? Craft a DIY coupon. This can spell out the exact details of whatever you’ve planned, or be more of a choose your own adventure idea. Family game nights, massages, camping trips, movie tickets, etc.!

Gift Cards

Often pinned as apersonal presents, gift cards have a lot to offer. Though buying a gift card is a concession that you’re unable to project the exact desires of someone you care for, it ensures the present will be appreciated, even cherished, and not end up in the garbage. Additionally, for those who may be struggling financially, the liberty to buy necessary items can take off a great weight. And a heartfelt note can always make up for the guilt you may feel for not being able to read minds.

Wrapping It All Up

To close, here are a few additional thoughts around holiday gift giving:

  • Wish lists are a surefire way of getting gifts your loved ones want to receive — don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Try to pick gifts that will endure both in terms of durability and changing trends.
  • For those who celebrate Christmas, try secret Santa with your family so you’re focusing your resources on one, greatly appreciated gift. And go light on stocking stuffers.
  • As many people are ordering online this year, ask for minimized/eco-friendly packaging options.
  • Quality time with loved ones is the ultimate gift.

Wishing you a happy and sustainable holiday season! Stay tuned for more posts within this Seasonal Sustainability Series.

One Comment on “Seasonal Sustainability: Gift-giving guide

  1. So well said Adelaide! We are such a consumable Nation. It is important to be reminded about what is truly important. Happy 2021!