Gift-giving events can be really nice but they can also be stressful as the gift giver or receiver, especially if you are an environmentally-conscious person. To make things easier, here are my 2 rules for gift-giving and the 8 best gifts ideas I've given, received, or seen. Rule 1: Ask someone what they want: one way to reduce clutter and junk is to ask people what they'd want. Save your money and protect environment by getting gifts others actually want and need as opposed to something that might end up gathering dust and eventually find itself in the landfill. The best gift is a gift that will be used. So ask someone to provide you with a short wishlist or come up with a small list of items you plan to give and run it past your friend before their special day.
Rule 2: If you do want to buy something physical, consider supporting a small businesses near you. You'll be able to support jobs for people in your neighborhood, stimulate your local economy, and reduce the shipping and carbon footprint of your purchase. Many local businesses offer gift cards or gift certificates so your friend can also explore something nearby they haven't tried!
Bay Wellness Coaching's 8 favorite gifts categories, options, and ideas:
1. A delightful experience — a walk in the forest with a picnic, coffee and cake in your garden, or a full day of events to explore a new city and try new restaurants. It's great if you can help them book all the appointments or go together with them. If they have kids, you can take the kids to the park while the parents go out for a meal on their birthday; you could pick a place for them to hike and pack a picnic, or you can book them doubles massage together. Remember to take a picture during your event together and cherish the moment forever. If you buy a physical gift, the newest gadgets of today can easily become obsolete within 2 or 3 years when the new model comes out. An experience is something you can enjoy and reminisce together for years to come.
2. Thoughtfully written card with cash (or money sent through ZellePay, Venmo, Paypal, etc). Money given directly as a gift shouldn't be offensive. In Western cultures, giving money can be seen as not being thoughtful, but in many Eastern cultures, giving money is totally acceptable, customary, and appreciated. You can buy something valued at $50 which they'll appreciate maybe as a 6/10 gift happiness since it wasn't what they wanted, or you can just give them the $50 and they can buy something to give themselves a 10/10 satisfaction.
3. A donation to a nonprofit to a cause they believe in. You can also write off donations in your taxes if the donations are going toward a 501c3 organization in the United States.
4. Decorative or edible plants: It's so fulfilling to raise something and see it grow. There are a lot of vegetables and herbs that are easy to care for and you'll be giving them a supply of food or fresh veggies. Instructions for caring for a plant are easily accessible on Google but if you want to go the extra mile, you can write them a little 1-page sheet on caring for them. Eating fruits, veggies, and herbs from your garden is so delightful, while indoor plants can help brighten a place and purify the air.
5. Perishable but tasty foods -- cook a meal for them with their favorite foods, deliver them a meal from their favorite restaurant, or help them out with a grocery run for their regular necessities.
6. Non-perishable but tasty foods -- a great way to reduce waste is to give foods that they won't be in a rush to consume. E.g., coffee, canned food from the garden, pickles, salsa, veggies, jams, pasta in a box, perfectly measured bakery ingredients that they can easily bake for fresh cookies, bbq or chili sauces, and spices.
7. Reusable products -- give them a gift that will keep on giving. There are many reusable products these days that are really convenient. Here's a small list: kitchen towels, a bidet, reusable straws, reusable water bottles, beeswax food wraps, reusable shopping bag, travel mugs, reusable underwear, reusable pads, reusable glass jars / tupperware, rechargeable batteries, bamboo utensils, and more.
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8. Not 100% reusable products but still more sustainable: bamboo toothbrush, toilet paper made of hemp or bamboo, natural pumice stones, natural loofahs, bamboo utensils, handmade soaps, or shampoo and conditioner bars.
Alternative White Elephant:
I normally don't really like White Elephant exchanges because people might buy new stuff that people won't end up wanting which seems wasteful. After the event is over, you can always give away a gift you didn't like, but there had to be a better way...
"Another fun idea is a second hand gift exchange. For the last couple years, a group of friends and I have been holding a gift exchange party where everyone brings something second hand (whether it's something they just received for Christmas but didn't want, or a nice item from your house you don't want anymore). Then we do a white elephant style exchange and viola, no wasted items!"
In conclusion: When making purchases try to look for companies that are more sustainable or have better shipping and packaging methods that reduce single use plastic. Remember: get them a gift they'll enjoy! It's okay if the product is not eco-friendly, just make it something they'll use and cherish.