Your Gift to Mother Earth

A guide to sustainable gift giving.


Photo by Mia Andreeva

Tis’ the season of holiday cheer and of course, presents. As the holidays approach many are out and about shopping for the perfect gift for loved ones. While the winter festivities bring joy to us, they also bring harm to the environment. According to Stanford University, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash than at any other time of the year, not to mention the increase in carbon emissions due to the rise in online orders. 

This is a preventable issue. Our excessive waste is the result of unwanted gifts, wrapping paper, and heaps of New Year’s confetti. Sustainable gifting can be overwhelming; products claiming to be eco-friendly are often expensive, and most of the time, not the item we are looking for. So, here’s how to give a great sustainable gift.

Conscious Giving.

We often give gifts people don’t need. Sustainability isn’t just about the carbon footprint of the item itself, but also whether or not the person will actually use it, and if so, for how long? 

When asked about the worst gift they’ve ever received, Senior Graham Cobden said, “Someone once got me a literal sheep ottoman; It came in a big box and I was expecting something interesting.”

While a sheep ottoman might have been someone else’s dream gift, it’s Graham Cobden’s worst nightmare. “It’s really hard; now it’s taking up space, collecting dust, and shedding fur.” The simplest thing you can do to avert this situation is to ask your friend what they want. Have them make a list and select one from it. If your friend commits to the “I don’t care” act, gift cards and money are always excellent alternatives. 

Local, Local, Local.

Now that you have the perfect gift in mind, it’s time to purchase it. The first step is to stray away from the comforts of online shopping. Traditional shopping is more carbon-efficient than online since it eliminates shipping-related emissions.

Try buying your gift second-hand by scouring thrift stores. Buying locally is also a great option. Local businesses make local purchases, which means that less transportation is required for their products. It’s important to note here that if the gift in mind is only available online, you should purchase it there. Sustainability values usage, it’s more beneficial to the environment to get your loved one a gift they will actually use than to get one that has less of an initial carbon footprint but won’t be used for as long. 

Wrap it up with a bow tie. 

Wrapping paper is a major culprit in our garbage problem. The concept of wrapping paper in itself is wasteful; it’s hard to reuse and has a lifetime of two weeks maximum. Although recyclable, most people put it straight down the trash; often those who do recycle forget to take off the tape, which is non-recyclable. There are many alternatives to wrapping paper; tote bags, fabric cloths, paper grocery bags, and newspapers. Or just don’t wrap it, put it behind your back and in the big reveal say “TA-DA”. Want to make it pretty? Use this messenger issue to wrap up your gift.