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'tis the Season for Conscious Gift Giving

by Marie Heffernan

Photo: Marie Heffernan
Tis’ the season to be jolly, Falalalala lalalala! There are many things to love about this time of year - ice skating, steaming cups of cocoa, staying cozy by a fireplace, visiting family and friends, and warm hugs. One of the best things is the spirit of giving and of selflessness. Sometimes, however, gift giving can be overwhelming in our current consumerism driven society. As a conscious consumer concerned with ethics and ecology, how should one shop for gifts this holiday season?

Give the gift of essentials! Consider buying something that this person will definitely need, rather than another item that will only see the light of day on Christmas before it is banished to the back of the closet for the rest of the year.

Essential gift ideas:
The Organic Crop Top/Bralette by Naturæ by Lola & August (coming soon...)
  1. Intimate Apparel – This is an item that frequently needs to be replaced, so gifting an eco-friendly and ethically made panty or bralette is a great way to ensure you are not overflowing the recipient’s closet with unwanted clothes. Keep it skin sensitive and natural by going with Naturae’s 100% organic cotton intimates.
  2. Socks and Hosiery – These are another item that constantly need replacing, no matter how hard I try to get 30+ wears out of my clothing, tights always seem to rip on the first couple wears. I gave myself, my mom and sister opaque organic cotton tights last year for Christmas, and they were the perfect cozy tights for winter.
  3. Lip Balm, Lotion, Soap – It’s so easy for the skin to get chapped and dry in the winter months, give the gift everyone uses, a gift for cleansing and moisturizing. Just make sure the ingredients are natural and organic!
  4. Plants – This is a perfect gift for any time of year. Plants improve air quality in the home, as well as quality of life! A few years ago my sister made me a beautiful terrarium which I still have today.
  5. Zero Waste gifts – I plan to gift some items to my family this year to help inspire waste reduction in the home. One thing my mom would love is a glass refillable tooth floss dispenser to reduce plastic use. Another great gift is a pretty tote for shopping and saying no to single use plastic bags.
If you’re unsure what essential item your friend or family member truly needs, try gifting an experience rather than an object. You can even go enjoy the activity together and spend some quality time together, which is what this season is all about.

Gift an experience:

Best friend workout!! Photo: Marie Heffernan
  1. A class at a favorite workout, dance or yoga studio. A great way to spend time together, while getting a head start on those New Year’s resolutions!
  2. Dinner together to catch up. If you know how to cook, make dinner for them yourself, they will love you forever! A few years ago a good friend of mine came to my apartment and cooked me a delicious birthday dinner of champagne fettucine Alfredo. The best part was that I did not have to leave my apartment as she brought all the ingredients to my place. It was way better than a material gift, I am still smiling at this memory three years later.
  3. Going to a show or movie together. This can be as classic as a movie night or tailored to fit your friend’s specific interests and passions.
Another heartfelt option that reduces waste in the process as well are homemade gifts. I find these to be especially endearing and tend to be cherished. There is something so easy about getting a store bought gift. If it’s easy for you to get, it’s also easy for the recipient to throw away, or more optimistically, re-gift or donate. As I mentioned above, one of my favorite gifts was a homemade terrarium from my sister.

DIY gifts, which also reduce waste:
  1. Homemade nut butter and jelly, all wrapped up in a mason jar. Last year, my dad made jelly and I paired homemade peanut butter to create a perfect gift. To make nut butter, just place a couple handfuls of your favorite nut in the food processor with a bit of coconut oil. Process until creamy. The best part is by gifting in a mason jar, you are contributing to your friend’s ease in reducing waste on the go. Mason jars are perfect for smoothies, or chai lattes.
  2. Cozy winter oats mix. This gift idea came to me because I am always running late and frequently have to bring my breakfast to work. I love starting the day with oatmeal, and I tend to get elaborate with it. Luckily, I can bring all the dry ingredients in a mason jar and just add hot water later. This would also make a yummy, cozy winter gift. Place 1/3 cup oats in the jar with a bit of cinnamon and turmeric sprinkled on top. (Turmeric is wonderful for the body and healing inflammation. It’s not a super strong taste either so trust me on this one.) Add a few nuts, assuming your friend does not have an allergy. Cut one or two dates in small pieces and add this to the mix to sweeten. Leave instructions in the card to simply add 2/3 cup hot water and stir until oatmeal consistency.
    Photo: Marie Heffernan

  3. A calendar of family pictures. A calendar is a gift which is needed every year, without fail. One way to make documenting time even more special is with the faces and memories of friends and family.
Now that we know what conscious gifts to give, the question remains how to give them? What are the best ways to wrap presents without contributing a mountain of wrapping paper to landfill?

Gift wrap waste reduction ideas:
  1. Gift bags – Sandra, founder and designer of Lola & August and Naturæ, uses bags rather than wrapping paper so that she can reuse them. She even asks the gift recipient to reuse the bag as well.
  2. Cards as labels – every year my mom reuses the previous year’s Christmas cards, by cutting the front cover or inside message and taping to the gift as a label.
  3. Fabric ribbon – This ribbon is clearly more eco than its single use plastic counterpart. Fabric ribbons can be reused for future gifts, or for sewing projects for any of your designer friends.
  4. Fabric gift wrap – a beautiful way to make use of scrap fabric and wrap a gift
  5. Old maps, old calendars and newspaper – Save trees and give your gifts a unique character
  6. Embellish with real pine tree sprigs and pinecones – Find pieces in your backyard or ask the local bodega owner selling trees to share some.
  7. Post-consumer recycled gift wrap – If fabric or newspaper reuse is too granola, try to find a gift wrap made of recycled paper
Wrapped with museum exhibit map, silk ribbon, eucalyptus sprigs.
Photo: Marie Heffernan
I hope these tips guide you for a more meaningful gift exchange this holiday season. Also, try not to sweat the gift giving so much this year. This time of year can be filled with anxiety in preparation. Give from the heart, and know that you and your loving gift will be appreciated by those that care about you. The most important thing is to experience this joyous season to the fullest. Wishing you and your loved ones a blissful holiday season!

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