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Bill Roth headshot

7 Sustainable Holiday Gift Ideas

By Bill Roth

Tis the season, and we all are buying gifts. The question is how to do so without saddling friends and families with returns, throwaway gift paper or mounds of fattening desserts.

Here are seven gift ideas that show you care for not only the person receiving the gift, but also for people and planet.

1. Make a donation

This is my favorite gift. I give to a charity that I think aligns with the gift recipient’s passions. Does she love dogs? A gift in her name to the humane society always results in a truly genuine positive response. What family is not touched by health issues like heart disease or cancer? A gift to the Heart Association or Cancer Society is a thoughtful and meaningful way of saying you care. Looking for a charity? I use Charity Navigator to find credible nonprofits. The site also has top 10 lists that cover a diverse range of charities.

2. Shop local

Make a local difference this holiday season. For every dollar you spend locally, you create about 45 cents of added wealth for your community in the form of jobs and taxes. Start with Yelp’s top 20 cities for local shopping. Or do a search for your local community, and I bet you will be surprised at the ideas that surface.

3. Give a digital gift

For us bald old guys, the standard 20th-century gift was a magazine subscription. Of course that creates 12 months of magazines in the trash. Try the 21st-century gift version by giving a digital subscription. Amazon’s top 100 digital magazines includes something for everyone.

Other ideas include giving a digital movie or digital music. If you have a millennial on your list, a digital gift will demonstrate you care -- and that you may be cooler than they thought.

4. Healthy food gifts

Am I shooting myself in the foot here by recommending the giving of healthy food? Don't get me wrong. I love holiday desserts. Sign me up for pumpkin pies topped with whipped cream and big platters of chocolate chip cookies! I don’t want to be a Grinch, but we are in a national weight crisis. So, what about giving good food instead?

One idea is signing someone up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) membership. These memberships deliver in-season fruits and vegetables to the door. We all need to eat more good-for-us food. Make it easy for a friend or loved one by giving them a CSA membership.

5. Give a repurposed gift

Gosh, people are so creative. It amazes and delights me when I see what artists can do with the things we throw away. Have you ever shopped online with Etsy? Here’s a link to the e-commerce site's repurposed gift items. You'd never know they were made from trash.

Or, in the spirit of shopping local, search out your community’s artists and craftspeople. So many of these talented people are repurposing things to make art -- and giving them your patronage will brighten their day as well as your loved one's.

6. Give an experience

Depending on the experience, giving something like a concert ticket or hosting a party has a lower environmental footprint compared to something that has to be made, packaged, shipped and gift-wrapped.

Millennials love experiences. Research has found that 78 percent of millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience over buying something. Give your millennial something they really want. Give them an experience. Take comfort in knowing that this year they will not be throwing gift wrapping paper away or going through the hassle of exchanging your gift so they can buy the fun time they're really after.

7. Sustainably produced gifts

If you are giving something like clothes, then buy the ones that are sustainably made. Please consider an alternative to fast fashion where a garment is worn and then discarded. Here's a list of 35 fashion companies that have great looks that are responsibly produced.

Image credit: Pexels

Bill Roth headshot

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

Read more stories by Bill Roth