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Eco Friendly Gifts: 9 Ideas for Families

November 1, 2011

Girl opening Christmas giftsThe holidays always seem like a time of wonderful excess – lots of food, love, gifts, hospitality and good cheer.  But when my kids were little, I found that they can also be full of lots of stuff that seemed contrary to our attempts to live a greener, more eco-friendly life.  Wrapping paper, anyone?  So over the years, we’ve had lots of chances to examine our holiday gift-giving traditions and see what we wanted to keep, jettison, or modify to better align with our green efforts.  Here are 9 of our best ideas that you might like!

1. No Wrapping Paper  Several years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to buy any more wrapping paper.  I’d use what I had in my closet, and after it was all gone, I’d figure out another way to wrap gifts that wasn’t so obviously wasteful.  Well, I still have lots of that old wrapping paper left because we’ve had so much fun coming up with other ways to wrap! See our previous post with our favorite ideas for wrapping paper alternatives.

2. Give Experiences, not Things      We realized that if we felt like we had too much “stuff” then our friends and family probably did too.  Think about concert or theater tickets, dinner parties, a day at the zoo or beach, tennis or art lessons.  What do your friends like to do?  What could you do together?

3. Give a Global Education  Send a Kiva gift card (or choose your favorite micro-lender), then your friends can select a recipient for the donation and follow the progress of someone in need in a distant part of the world.  Children can learn so much about macro- and micro-economics, politics, family life and their own life through programs like these, it’s something you should do for yourselves too!  You can start with as little as $25.

4. Give One Instead of Many  Give a family gift instead of a separate present for each member.  You might give a family game, event tickets, a scrapbook of a vacation you took together, or a jigsaw puzzle of a favorite place or theme.

5. Give Something Really Useful    An emergency kit, membership in the AAA, a solar charger for a cell phone, first aid kit for the car, something we all maybe should have, but don’t!

6. Give of Yourself   Give homemade jam, home-baked treats, meals for people who need help – new baby, recent surgery, an elderly relative or neighbor – or your time to help with errands or household chores.

7. Give a Garden   Do you garden?  Offer your time and expertise to help another family start a small vegetable or herb garden.  If you’re not close by, or don’t have the time to help personally, put together a starter kit for them with basic tools, gloves, seeds, and a reference book to get them going on one of the best family projects around!

8. Give Fewer, but Better Gifts Choose high quality, well-made gifts for children.  After the cheap junky toys have broken or lost their appeal, a great play kitchen or a solid set of wooden blocks will still be generating ideas for hours of imaginative play.  When your child outgrows them, just pass them along to a cousin or friend – no additional packaging, shipping, or manufacturing needed.

9. Don’t Give   A few years ago, we agreed that our generation (our siblings and all the spouses) just wouldn’t exchange birthday or holiday gifts.  We do buy gifts for our parents, and all the children, but it’s so much easier this way and allows us to spend a little more on the kids.

So get creative and see how much you can give with the smallest footprint!

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