Climate Corner: Gifting for the planet made easy

Dec 2, 2023

Jean Ambrose

I don’t know about you, but for many years I had anxiety attacks on Black Friday because I knew there were only three weeks left to purchase gifts for Christmas. My stress level skyrocketed. Too often I would run out of time and grab something I wasn’t happy about that was probably discarded soon after it was opened.

Since I became involved in the climate movement as a member of MOV Climate Action, a new world of gifting possibilities has opened. I can share my passion about reducing waste, especially single use plastic. I can share products and practices that might encourage the recipients to change habits that contribute to the climate crisis, to those that don’t.

I’ve done some research to help you step on this new path. Let’s think about the whole gift giving experience to give you some benchmarks to make decisions: How can we green the whole process of shopping, wrapping, and disposal?

Shopping: Make sure you minimize your own waste and take reusable shopping bags and your water bottle. Avoid overly packaged products; those wrappings typically can’t be recycled.

Keep it local; you’ll reduce your use of CO2 for shipping and also provide much-needed support for local artisans and businesses.

The website Done Good ( has vetted more than 100 businesses and makes it easy and affordable to use your purchasing power for good. They list companies that are committed to creating high quality products that are good for the people who make them and good for the planet.

Reused (or pre-loved!) gifts can come from your own household, thrift stores, or even online resellers that specialize in vintage and secondhand goods. Places to start: thredUP, Poshmark, VarageSale, and of course eBay

Wrapping: That shiny paper can’t be recycled, so think about recycled or reusable options. Repurpose what you have around the house–newspapers and magazines, pillowcases, napkins, recycled paper decorated by your kids. Or make the wrapping part of the gift, such as a reusable shopping bag or gift bag, a scarf, or mason jar. Use natural decorations such as pine cones and branches, dried flowers, or leaves.

Less is More: Everything we buy is a choice that can contribute to a healthy future for our planet and our grandchildren. Avoid last minute plastic trinkets or gag gifts that will end up in the trash. Homemade gifts and long lasting quality items will be meaningful and not forgotten, especially if they demonstrate your knowledge of the recipients and their interests.

Share Your concern for the Planet through your gifts. There are small companies specializing in rethinking everyday products to be as close to zero waste as possible. A gift pack of zero waste laundry detergent, soaps, cleaning supplies, and personal care items with subscription refills will support new habits. Companies like Net Zero, BlueLand, and Free the Ocean provide alternatives to heavy plastic packaging. Think about the small changes you have made in your own life — cloth napkins, reusable shopping bags, bamboo plates and tableware — and help your loved ones take that step to more aware consumption habits.

If you have people who garden on your list, share a bag of homemade compost along with directions on how you fit composting into your own lifestyle.

Some people are replacing gifts with contributions to non-profit organizations made in honor of the person you are gifting. Heifer International makes grants of livestock to low-income families to increase their self-sufficiency. A child could help pick the gift of rabbits, chickens, goats, or lambs to be made in their name. If you plan to make this change to charitable contributions instead of gifts, let your recipients know ahead of time with an early card or message so they will know you’re not giving personal gifts this year.

Help move the people you love off fossil fuels by buying them electric tools and appliances. Check out the Electric Gift Guide put out by Rewiring America for ideas to electrify all aspects of our households. (Companies like Home Depot are making a major shift to all-electric lawn care equipment.)

Let’s make this the year we refuse to succumb to the holiday consumer mania, and spend with the people we love, our planet and our community in mind!


Jean Ambrose is trying not to be a criminal ancestor.