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Our Guide to Sustainable Gifting: Ideas for Mindful and Ethical Gifts this Season!

Sustainable Gifting Guide

Americans toss 25% more trash than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s — about 1 million tons of extra garbage weekly, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation. Here are some ideas for ways to gift thoughtfully and reduce waste! The manufacturing and distribution of goods create pollution, deforestation, and harm to people, animals, and our ecosystems- so here are some recommendations for useful, functional, and sustainable alternatives:


Instead of material items, choose gifts with a lower impact! 

  • A massage, facial, or wellness service 
Garden landscape
Image credit: Maryland Office of Tourism 
  • A kayak/canoe rental or another outdoor adventure 
  • Entry to a botanical garden or arboretum 
  • Local restaurant gift certificate 


  • Shop locally owned, small businesses (prioritize businesses owned by women & people of color).

    Shop local with maryland flag
    Image credit: Route One Apparel 
  • Support fair trade items.
  • Shop from thrift stores and online secondhand stores.
  • Provide a gift receipt so folks can return/exchange anything extraneous.
  • Gift reusable items like portable bamboo utensils, reusable straws, water bottles, travel mugs, canvas bags, and more! 
  • Provide a gift receipt so folks can return/exchange their present. 


  • Create a DIY scrub, cleaner, or other upcycled item: check out our instructions and tutorials. 
  • Save and repurpose glass jars to create kits- such as hot chocolate or cookie ingredients (buy the ingredients in bulk!). 
  • Bake something- like cookies, bread, granola or energy bars and repurpose a reusable container.
  • Ferment something- if you are trying to stay healthy, ferment some kombucha, pickles, or sauerkraut for a less sugary, probiotic treat! 

Nature Based: 

  • Grow something to gift, such as herbs or microgreens! 
  • Propagate cuttings from your plants. 

    Propogating plants
    Image credit: Reader's Digest 
  • Gift a planter kit by bundling seeds, soil and a planter.
  • Make an upcycled planter by painting a container (such as a tin can or glass jar), or repurposing a mug or tea cup.
  • Cut some sprigs from an evergreen tree or holly for festive decor.

Gift Wrapping:

  • Repurpose paper grocery bags or newspaper to create your own reused and recyclable ‘wrapping paper’ (metallic wrapping paper and tissue paper cannot be recycled).
  • Reuse gift bags rather than disposable wrapping paper. Use scrap paper instead of tissue paper for an upcycled, recyclable paper. 
  • DIY gift tags from scrap paper or the front half of old cards. 
Newspaper wrapped presents
Image credit: The New York Times
  • Place gifts in a reusable canvas bag, basket or bin instead of wrapping.
  • Wrap gifts in cloth such as a throw blanket, shawl, scarf, or pashmina that can be a bonus gift as well. 


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