Green Gift-Giving Guide

Posted by: Mary Kate Ranii on December 1, 2016

In the days surrounding some of our nation’s biggest holidays, our trash cans often seem just a little bit fatter. We stuff them full with wrapping paper, bows, packaging material, burnt-out string lights and all of those fruit cakes that few actually enjoy…

After all of this extra waste, most of us are left with gifts we do not need or want which leaves them to sit on a shelf for a few months or years before they meet up with the packaging they came in at the nearest landfill. While many are aware of local tree composting and holiday light recycling programs, much of this compostable and recyclable waste ends up in trash cans. The holiday season can feel overwhelming, and can still feed our carbon footprints with single-use and disposable packaging, decorations, and gifts!

But the holidays don’t have to be a source of headaches and waste! Staying green while giving thoughtful gifts can be easy and fun, as we remember to be grateful for our family, friends, loved ones, and, of course, our planet.

Holiday Gift-Giving

gift-givingAt a loss for what gifts to choose for distant relatives, co-workers, or even close relatives? When in doubt, many look to convenient holiday gift packs. Often they are packaged in a “perfect” rectangular box to ease your gift wrapping process. Unfortunately, perfect comes at a cost – these packaging materials are often non-recyclable and are often a huge headache to open. (And how many over-fragrant bottles of lotion does a person need?)

Before purchasing a new product ask yourself these questions: Does this person want or need this gift? Will it be used more than once? Was this product responsibly made? How will I dispose of it when it breaks or I no longer need it? Is it recyclable? Can it be reused or donated?

Items like televisions are not easily recyclable or disposed of in Pennsylvania – you don’t want to give someone the gift of a recycling headache for the holidays!

Use the tips below to find a gift that your recipient will enjoy and actually use!

The Gift of Durability

Is your gift recipient not a fan of DIY creations or experience gifts? Give them the gift of durability. Spend the extra dollar on your loved ones on quality goods that will last more than one season and that they’ll be able to treasure for years to come. While knick-knacks can provide a moment of laughter, oftentimes they end up forgotten 15 minutes later and eventually join the “junk” pile. Some ideas of high-quality durable gifts include: quality kitchenware, camping gear, and clothing. Find more options here!


Give Green

Give your loved ones gifts that will help them be more sustainable in their daily life. High-quality water bottles, travel mugs, and zero waste shopping kits can help your friends and family go zero waste! DIY draft stoppers can make their home more energy efficient and air purifiers protect their health while improving air quality. PRC offers conservation workshops year-round which also make great gifts!


Make it Yourself

Instead of choosing gifts like these, try a DIY. This is truly your time to shine! Gifts in a jar are very popular and rightfully so. These gifts require little to no packaging waste and do not require gift wrapping; they can be decorated simply with a fashionable reusable bow. Gifts in a jar could be homemade baked goods mixes, candles, bath salts, sugar scrubs, jams, salsas, soup mixes and so much more!


Give the Gift of Options

If your schedule does not allow time for these thoughtful creations, gift cards are always a better option than buying something that someone might like. This way your gift-recipient can buy something they will actually use, and you won’t need to worry about gift wrapping waste. Gift cards or tickets for restaurants, movie theaters, cooking classes or other experiences are nice choices since they do not result in end products that will eventually be sent to a landfill. Experience gifting can be especially meaningful to your loved ones if you share the experience with them.


Wrap It Green

Once you’ve selected your durable, high-quality, or homemade gift, make sure you present it in an equality conscious way! Wrap your gifts in reusable gift bags, or use options like Knot-Wraps which double as a gift since they can be reused as gift wrapping or worn as a scarf! Upcycled newspaper and old road maps can double as a unique wrapping material!


The holiday season can be a stressful time with all of the shopping and gift giving that is done. By switching to a greener giving holiday season, you can feel more connected to your friends and family, feel better about your environmental impact, and maybe even save a few pennies!

Want even more holiday greening tips? Check out the list below!

  1. Reuse or make your own holiday decorations! They often produce less waste and are more cherished by family members! (Bonus tip: Compost any natural decorations, such as wreaths or gingerbread houses.)
  2. Reusing packaging materials from your online orders when sending gifts to faraway friends and relatives!
  3. Purchasing holiday cards printed on recycled paper, sending-e-cards, or crafting your own greeting cards!
  4. Make your holiday snacks and food local and organic to cut down on waste and environmental impact!
  5. Houseplants make great gifts as they filter the air and make you feel better!
  6. Recycle broken string lights at a number of local home improvement stores – be sure to call ahead!