Gift giving is a tradition in many cultures during the winter festivities. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the holidays a little more eco-friendly! I love letting my creative side out and making gifts during the holidays. Many green gifts are also budget friendly, so they not only are friendlier to the Earth, but they are also easy on your wallet!
Here are some ideas for hand crafted, eco-friendly, or budget friendly gifts:
Make dry powdered soup, cake, or cookie mixes! Mix up the dry ingredients, package them in a pretty glass container (glass is recyclable and looks beautiful), attach labels with baking or cooking directions, and decorate with a bow! Dry powdered mixes are delicious, have a long shelf life, and taste a lot better than many store bought canned brands. Plus they are something many people love receiving, and they won’t sit around the house, unused. To make this gift even more eco-friendly: try to use as many organic or fair-trade ingredients as you can!
Give homemade baked goods and candy! Homemade candies, cookies, cakes, and other goodies are excellent gifts for friends and family members with a lot of food sensitivities or diet restrictions. They also make great gifts for anyone with a sweet tooth! Certain desserts like black bean brownies are very popular choices now: they are healthy, and many recipes are gluten free or do not contain refined/white sugar. Use as many organic and locally grown ingredients as possible, and package them in a reusable container. See my link for my favorite recipe for black bean brownies!
There is nothing like homemade jams and jellies. My sister makes the most amazing jams and jellies (from fruit she picks herself in the spring, summer, and fall. She uses store bought fruit in the winter), and nothing makes me happier when she makes sugar free versions, and presents me with a jar or two! There are a lot of gorgeous glass canning jars, which can be made even more beautiful with decorations like ribbons and fancy labels. Use organic or locally grown fruit when you can.
Another thoughtful gift idea: cook easy to prepare meals that can be frozen. When my sister was pregnant a couple years ago, one of the things she appreciated the most were home cooked meals that a couple friends brought over. Home cooked comfort food is a great gift for busy moms and dads, the elderly, those with health issues, or people who don’t have time or who don’t know how to cook. Prepare some of your loved ones favorite meals. A few good ideas: soups, stews, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, casseroles, and quiche. If you can, try to make some of the dishes vegetarian (which are usually healthier, delicious, and more environmentally friendly). You can make many of these items organic or with locally grown foods.
Make all natural skin care! There are many simple all natural cosmetics you can easily make at home. A few ideas are sugar and salt scrubs, body and massage oils, melt and pour soap, simple facial serums or elixirs, aromatherapy sprays, and simple aromatherapy blends or perfumes. Many ingredients used in skin care can be found locally at your favorite health food store. Package them in nice recyclable jars, label them, and decorate with a ribbon! Make them super green by using organic or fair trade ingredients! See links for my recipes.
Some of the most elegant and professional looking gifts are herbal vinegars or herb infused oils. Many stores carry fancy, expensive, herb infused vinegars and oils, but you can easily make your own for a fraction of the price of store bought! Make them eco-friendly by using organic oils or vinegar, and herbs. Herbal vinegars and oils can be used for foods or skin care (depending on the oils, vinegar, and herbs used). Be sure to use food grade oils or a nice vinegar, and also research herbs before infusing. Package them in a beautiful bottle (you can find many bottles locally at kitchen stores): I like using blue glass bottles but you could use any kind of glass (clear, brown, green, etc). Try to use organic ingredients if possible (either certified organic, or 'organic'--plants grown in an organic manner without synthetic pesticides but which aren’t certified yet). See links for easy recipes.
Framed photographs, photo albums, or scrap books make thoughtful, inexpensive, beautiful gifts. Create something that they will remember by putting your loved ones favorite pictures in nice frames, a photo album, or a scrap book. Although some frames are very expensive, many are budget friendly and can be found at great prices during this time of year.
If you knit or sew, make your loved ones a nice scarf, hat, or other clothes. I have received many beautiful scarves, hats, and gloves from my sister over the years. They are some of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received. Try to use organic or natural materials. I don’t knit but I’ve seen my grandmother, mom, and sister knit: it is very time consuming, and they make complex patterns too. So whenever I receive knitted items, I am even more appreciative since I know how long it takes to make one!
I mentioned this in my last eco living article, but it bears repeating. Donate to a loved one’s favorite social or ecological non-profit organization. You’ll not only make your loved ones happy by supporting something they care about, but you’ll make a difference in the life of someone else or you’ll be helping to protect the Earth and all its green places and animals.
Once you make or put together a gift, here are some quick eco tips for wrapping all your lovely hand made or eco-friendly gifts. I often place presents in gift bags since they are not only pretty but they can be reused. Or place small items in gift baskets. You can also reuse paper! Many people wrap gifts in comics or paper they have saved from previous gifts. Brown paper bags also make great wrapping paper: they can be decorated with artwork, ribbons, bows, stickers, and more!
Delicious black bean brownies from Ania Catalano’s book “Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature's Ultimate Sweetener”: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/amazing-black-bean-brownies-recipe.html
My all natural beauty article on “Ways To Use Herbs In Beauty Care”: http://allnaturalbeauty.us/ani54.htm
My blog entry on how to make infusions, tinctures, and herbal vinegars:
My blog post on how to make herbal infused oils: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2005/11/how-to-make-herb-infused-oil-herbal.html
My recipe on sugar and salt scrubs: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2005/08/simple-body-scrubs-brown-and-white.html
My post on massage and body oils: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2005/11/how-to-make-your-own-massage-body-and.html
My directions on how to make aromatherapy lotions and creams:
Melt and pour soap, includes my recipe for a lavender soap: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2005/11/how-to-make-your-own-herbal-soaps-skin.html
How to make facial serums and my recipe for a pimple remedy: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2005/10/pimple-juice-skin-care.html
My entry on how to make an aromatherapy spray: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2005/09/make-your-own-aromatherapy-sprays_10.html
Several of my old blog entries on how to make perfumes or information on perfume making: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2006/06/all-natural-perfume-aromatherapy.html
About The Author:
Li Wong is the owner of Earth Alkemie, an all natural, vegetarian skin care and mineral makeup company. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies (Biology) and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy. Li has been crafting natural cosmetics and studying aromatherapy and herbalism since 2001, and is currently a student of Jeanne Rose’s Aromatherapy Studies Course. Environmental interests include conservation, botany, ethnobotany (uses of plants by indigenous peoples), mammals, organic standards in cosmetics, urban wildlife issues, environmental education and awareness, and public perception. For more information on environmental issues, Eco Living, natural cosmetics, aromatherapy, and herbalism check out: Solarkat’s Eco Blog. http://solarkatecoblogspot.com