Sustainability Corner: Keep the green in your wallet with guilt-free holiday gifts

Johanna Poppel

During Thanksgiving break, my mom discussed her new seasonal job at a mall.

She spends her mornings unpacking small articles of clothing out of individual bags from numerous boxes.

This time of year always makes me cringe when I see the overconsumption created by of shoppers worrying about holiday gift giving. Retail stores market many items as gifts. However, they are items that many people don’t particularly want or need. Packaging used to wrap these items is often immediately thrown away in the trash. Also consider the pollution and waste created by the production and transportation of these items.

This winter, if you enjoy giving gifts, give the planet a break with all the usual trash and give a gift that matters.

Try some of these clever presents that are sure to make a good impression—on the gift recipient and the planet.


Those good old days in which kids would offer their parents coupons to do specific chores should come back in style.

Of course, no need to limit vouchers to your parents. Offer a skill you possess to a friend or someone you adore.

One can offer many services such as cleaning, fixing things around the house, or pet sitting. Or think of a specific skill you possess.

Perhaps you are great at fixing bicycles, awesome at tutoring chemistry or enjoy giving pedicures and massages.

Find a way to personalize a service, so a skill you possess can be beneficial to its recipient. A gift of service can save a friend much time when in need and will bring them much joy as well.

Do it yourself (DIY)

The holidays are famous for sweets and cookies.

Spread some cheer with your favorite home-baked goods recipes, or even learn to make candy.

Classic spa items like body scrub and soap can be made from simple household items.

Simple knitting or crocheting projects can offer warm socks, hats and scarves in the chilling temperatures.

If a sewing machine is available, pick a fabric appealing to the recipient and sew an easy pillow or apron.

Incorporate the three Rs of sustainability—reduce, reuse, recycle—when making projects.

For example, collect wine corks and make a framed cork board. With the rise of websites like Pinterest, many DIY projects within an array of needed supplies and skills can be found online.

Use a good wrap

Don’t be generic. Avoid overpriced wrapping paper with overused holiday patterns.

Instead, consider reusing everyday paper to wrap presents. Consider the abundant sources of newspapers on campus.

Use the cartoon page or any section of the newspaper that may be of interest to your recipient.

Small personal touches can make individuals feel special, and they are more memorable than tinsel wrapping paper plastered with snowmen and Christmas trees.

Make a collage of magazine pages and paper bags, too. Be creative and incorporate reusable bags and reused paper to cover gifts. Remember to recycle all remaining paper at the end of the season.

Happy holidays, and have a happy new sustainable year.
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