December 06, 2023

Five Ways to Embrace Mindful and Sustainable Gifting in the Modern Era

A sustainable holiday gift pack featuring compostable maaterra plates.

Today, we can find any gift we can think of online, and yet, as exciting as this may seem, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for a time when less was possible. When searching for the perfect item for a child was a magical experience at a toy shop or discovering a present for a loved one while traveling felt serendipitous. Now, in the era of Amazon, globalization and mass production, the art of gift giving feels far less captivating. I find that the more we produce, the more we lose, and I mean that both literally and figuratively–whether that’s a closet full of forgotten sweaters made from unlivable wages or an abandoned attic full of plastic trinkets that harm the planet. However, not all is lost. Despite this age of hurried consumerism, we can still embrace more thoughtful, eco-friendly choices. Here are five ideas for mindful, sustainable gifting this holiday season.

1. Donate to a Cause in Their Name
Donating to a meaningful cause in your recipient's name is a beautiful way to give a gift without harming the planet–whether that’s through environmental conservation, providing education for underprivileged children, or aiding animal welfare.

2. Support Local Artisans
I try to support local businesses over global giants like Amazon. I like how handcrafted gifts from local artisans make for more distinctive gifts but also help the local economy and reduce the environmental toll of long-distance shipping. Vintage stores and thrift shops are also great places to discover secondhand, sustainable treasures.

3. Elevate with Eco-chic Wrapping Materials
I like to replace traditional wrapping paper and ribbons with luxurious, eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton, linen or silk. These elegant textiles not only add a touch of opulence to your gifts but also serve as a gift in themselves, as they can be repurposed for years to come.

4. Give the Gift of Memories
In my family, we have paired down our gift giving and are focused more on shared experiences during the holidays. We come together often for day-long celebrations. I put beautiful wood puzzles on the coffee table and a stack of our favorite books on the end table. We plan a late afternoon pickleball tournament followed by dinner where everyone contributes (I bring the plates!). These priceless experiences can’t be purchased. Consider giving memories like these. Cooking classes are a great option as well as tickets to a museum or Broadway show. I love how experiences can enrich the recipient's life without contributing to clutter or waste.

5. Write a Meaningful Letter
My kids know that, while I appreciate their thoughtfulness, I don’t want or need another pair of slippers, rather I do want a handwritten note from each of them (I subtly gift them a box of stationary each year). I recommend taking the time to pen a letter like this or create a digital card filled with gratitude, meaningful reflections, and heartfelt memories. It doesn’t cost anything, but it means a lot.

In a world increasingly driven by profit and convenience, where much of the magic and art of gift giving has been lost, I believe it is more important than ever to give thoughtfully, considering the recipient and the planet. Not getting consumed by holiday excess is my gift to myself and my family–whether that’s donating to a cause in their name, sharing a meaningful experience or writing a heartfelt letter. I hope that these intentional, sustainable gift ideas inspire you.

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