Tips & Tricks: Sustainable Gifts

Hello! It’s been a minute, huh?

I am finally done with the first semester of my junior year and am very much looking forward to taking a well deserved break. After being apart from family over thanksgiving, I was able to visit my mom and my brother for Christmas. The cat came with as she is moving back in with them now that my mom has moved. She was absolutely fantastic on the plane, which, let’s be honest, was a huge surprise.

Waffles in cat jail on the plane

It’s taken her a little bit to adjust to a new home, and she’s not fully there yet, but she’s doing pretty well. She loves the California sun and warm weather much more than the cloudy Chicago winter we left.

While staying inside, I have been taking time to wrap and decorate my eco-friendly gifts for my friends and family. I love wrapping presents and wanted to find a way to still make them look cute but be sustainable. Through listening to others in the sustainable community, along with my own ideas, I was able to do just that. So, I wanted to share the fun way I was able to make my gifts this year sustainable and cute.

Materials needed:

  • Citrus fruits of your choice
    • I ended up using two oranges as that gave me the perfect number of slices for all of my gifts. If you have a lot of gifts, use more, if not that much, use less.
    • You can use lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, any citrus you like
  • Recyclable brown paper or newspaper
  • Twine
  • Holly or Winterberries
    • If you use winterberries: keep them away from children and pets as they are toxic, but they look great!

(You can always do it differently by using scarfs or other ideas, but this is how I did it)

To dry the oranges:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking sheet or two (depending on your needs) with either parchment paper, a silicon baking sheet (which is the sustainable option!) or aluminum foil
  • Cut the fruit of choice into thin slices discarding any seeds
  • Put the slices on the baking sheet about a half inch apart
  • Back at 200 degrees, flipping every 30 minutes, for about 2 to 3 hours
    • Because they will be of varying sizes, take out the slices as they dry
  • (Optional: Sprinkle the oranges with sugar)

Cut the Winterberry or Holly into sizes of your choosing, then get ready to wrap.

Wrap your gifts in brown recycled paper or old newspaper and wrap with twine to give it some extra flare. Then decorate as you feel with the oranges and winterberry/holly.

They turn out really cute! And it is all sustainable! As they sit under the tree, I have received great feedback. People love how they look, and it’s so incredibly easy.

So! Now that you know how to wrap the gifts, what do you put in them?

I know, I know. Christmas is two days away and this is a little late, but everyone is always searching for last minute gift ideas. So here are some that I got for my family.

  • Wine
    • This is a great gift as you can find some great wine from sustainable vineyards. When purchasing, look to see if the vineyard is SIP certified.
    • You can also book a wine tasting at a local vineyard, which a great, low waste experience gift! However, in our current covid era, leaving the house isn’t advisable. So, instead you could buy different wines from the same or different vineyard and do a home wine tasting. Makes the experience come to the home and is a fun change from the usual routine. You can even make tasting sheets to rank the different wines you try!
  • Photos
    • Photos are a great sentimental low waste gift too, especially if you can get them printed on recycled paper.
    • I was able to make a little photo book for my family for the holidays (they already opened it, don’t worry) and they love it.
    • Photos are something that are not that expensive, can be a great sustainable option, have a lot of sentimental value, and are a great last minute gift idea
  • Experience gifts
    • I have talked about this before, and just mentioned it when I talk about wine tastings, but experience gifts are truly one of the most sustainable gifts you can give. They are low waste and just plain fun.
    • Gift cards to restaurants or the movies support local businesses in your area through covid and are a great sustainable idea
    • Tickets to a play or an amusement park which can be used once things open back up are great ideas
    • You can also give sustainable gear for people that spend time outside, like backpacks or sustainable cork yoga mats
  • Second Hand gifts
    • Regifting or gifting second hand items is something that we should normalize. Walk into any thrift or consignment store, or even scroll down eBay and you can find incredible stuff. Things do not always need to be new. Normalize getting things refurbished and second hand. Not only is it more sustainable, but it is often cheaper!
  • Buy a tree or carbon offsets!
    • I, again, have talked about this before, but carbon offsets are a great gift, and can easily be a last minute gift as it is done all online and you print or email the certificate. They supports companies and projects that are working to reduce carbon emissions. I bought one for my mom last Christmas, in fact, and funded the planting of trees, clean water initiatives, and several other projects
    • Gift a Tree! You can also plant a tree (or trees) in dedication to someone for Christmas. This is a great gift and that person is now tied to a sustainable project. This also a great last minute gift idea that is done all online! Treedom Trees is a great company that allows you to plant or dedicate trees. You get to pick your kind of tree, a farmer will plant it and photograph it, and you can follow its journey as it grows and follow the larger project it is apart of.
  • If you must shop, shop small, shop business of color.
    • It is so important to support small businesses and businesses owned by people of color every holiday season, but this holiday season especially. They typically do not operate on the same large scale basis that other corporations do, so it is a sustainable way to shop in its own right. Make sure your favorite business survive this pandemic. Don’t know what to get, buy a gift card. Everything helps.

This is just a short list of great last minute ideas and ideas for the future for the people you care about most in your lives.

I hope everyone has a great holiday season and it is spent with people you love, either in person or virtually.

Stay safe, stay home, stay wearing your mask. We’re not through this yet.

Happy Holidays