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Planning an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Updated on November 1, 2008

The commercialism of Christmas always gets to me.  Shopping becomes a chore; planning what to get people for gifts is a complete hassle.  Most of the people in my family don't really need anything, so they don't make lists.  One of my relatives, without fail, makes a list then buys everything he needs anyway.  Another gives people digital alarm clocks and other useless gadgets each year, which end up being given away to others for birthday gifts.

My dad's side of the family gave up on this kind of Christmas many years ago.  This hub contains some of the ideas we put into practice.  I sneak some of these into the overly commercial gifts for the other side of my family, and they usually are delighted. 

Give food as gifts

If you are a baker, chances are you have some recipes your relatives love. Why not make a gift basket or tin of their favorite cookies, breads, or other baked goods? If your gift recipent is a baker or cook themselves, include a recipe card, mini-cookbook, or another cooking-related gift. Wrap in a tea towel, and tie a cookie cutter onto the ribbon as a package ornament.

If you are not a baker, there are boxed sets of cookies and other goodies available in the gift section of most grocery stores. Often, food gifts like sausages, spiced ham, and peanut brittle are only available during the holidays as specialty items, and many people will not buy them for themselves but enjoy eating them. 

Shop the thrift stores

If you have a collector in your family, shopping can get really expensive really fast. Go to Goodwill, Value Village, Salvation Army, or another thrift store in your area. Most thrift stores start putting out Christmas things in the middle of November, and new merchandise is set out every week. This is the best place to find crystal, china, Christmas stockings, matching tea sets, vintage nutcrackers and dolls, and ethnic items. Often, the people doing the pricing don't know the value of the items, so they put a generic price on them. It's good for them because they get the item sold, and good for you because you get a bargain.

You can also find Christmas bows, ribbon, vintage ornaments, and decorations for great prices at thrift stores. Stay away from their elaborate front-of-the-store displays of things they brought in specially for the holidays, and look through their regular shelves or the "Christmas bargain" section. Be sure to look in the candle section for your tea lights and tapers.

If a friend or family member celebrates a holiday other than Christmas at this time of year, you can find them gifts at thrift stores, too. Look for blue and white candles in the candle section, dreidels in the ceramic section, and Kwanzaa items in the glass and wood sections. 

Give a book

For avid readers, no present can be better than a book.  If you're not sure what to give, try a gift card to their favorite bookstore.  If you know they like a certain category, say crafts or crosswords, give a magazine subscription that will keep giving year-round. 

Foster kitten Spooky playing with a crocheted ball toy.
Foster kitten Spooky playing with a crocheted ball toy.

Buy fair-trade and handmade

If you buy new items, consider buying something that is a fair-trade product.  Merchandise marked as "fair-trade" supports the local economy of the country where it is made by paying the workers livable wages.  Fair-trade items can be found at many specialty grocery stores and also online.  For some fair trade retailers in North America, click here.

Another good alternative to commercially bought items is handmade.  Many areas have crafter's bazaars around the holidays.  If you are a crafter, you can make your own gifts for the people on your list.  You can also buy handmade items online through sites like Etsy

Memories as gifts

If you are truly at a loss for a present, give a memory.  Write about fun times with the gift recipient and copy your writing onto scrapbook or journal paper, then bind it into a book or frame it.  Give pictures or picture books.  Write a poem.  Children can draw pictures for a handmade book.  Get the whole family involved by sending out pages, then compiling them for a grandma or grandpa. 

Share your gifts with others

For others who have all they need and then some, why not give a gift of sharing?  Give a gift coupon book with things like "going shopping" or "having lunch" with you.

For a greater impact, give a gift that shares with the world.  Heifer Project International, Food for the Poor, Habitat for Humanity, and ELCA Good Gifts are just some of the organizations who have a "gift catalog" of food, building supplies, farm animals, school supplies, clothing, and water for people in impoverished nations.  Many of these gifts come with cards to send to the gift recipient, telling them what you bought in their honor. 

Wrapping ideas

Sure, you can use commercial wrapping paper, but why not make the package as special as what's in it?  Buy brown kraft paper, decorate with drawings, rubber stamps, and/or cutout magazine pictures, and wrap your presents in the custom paper.  Create your own package tags from old greeting cards or magazine pictures glued onto cardstock.

There is also recycled commercial wrapping paper available.  For greeting cards, stamp your own or buy recycled.  Instead of ribbon, use raffia.

If your gift recipient is a quilter or fabric crafter, wrap their present with a "fat quarter" of fabric.  You can get these large-size remnants at the fabric store.  Use yarn instead of ribbon for knitters or crocheters. 

Most of all, have fun!  The holidays are about memories and traditions.  Try these ideas, and you'll have new happy memories in the years to come.  The true meaning of Christmas is love and giving. 


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    • nightcats profile image

      June Campbell 

      10 years ago from North Vancouver

      Environmental concerns are very high on my list for Christmas, and for every day. I completely agree with your suggestions, especially the one about the thrift shops. You can often find wonderful things there that you can alter or reuse. Witha little imagination, somebody's throw away becomes a great treasure

    • Dottie1 profile image


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      I love being creative and making something special for people that I think they will enjoy. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • DarleneMarie profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      Great Hub w/ great ideas...I agree, Christmas has become too commercial. Buying or making handmade gifts requires thought of the person, not just purchasing a gift because you have to buy one for that person.

    • NYLady profile image


      10 years ago from White Plains, NY

      KT: Nice hub with lots of great alternatives to the commercialism we all feel pressured by during the holidays. The baking idea is a very good one -- I do baked goods presents for many of my neighbors and they never complain!


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