Mother's Day Gift Guide: Procastinator's Edition
Raise your hand if you don't know what you're getting your mom for Mother's Day! *raises hand* (Yup, that's me!).
Leading a sustainable lifestyle does not only apply to health and wellness decisions. It may seem more natural to think about the manufacturing that goes into the disposable cups that our coffee is served in or the methane produced from the agriculture industry when becoming "greener," but green decisions can apply to any detail of your life. A simple approach I use to motivate my sustainability: if you are doing something on Earth, then think about how it will affect the Earth.
Lucky for my readers, my tips to protect the Earth while making gift-giving decisions will likely save you money and make your gifts more personal and creative! This guide can apply to any gift-giving occasion for any loved one; please share what you think in the comments below!
A note on wrapping
Let's start with wrapping paper. Americans spend over $9 billion on this ultimately useless product each year. $9 billion! The dying and lamination of the paper make it difficult to recycle. So, even if you throw it in a recycling bin, it will likely end up in a landfill or a water system. A few quick tips:
- Don't buy wrapping paper. Doing so will help offset the 4 million annual pounds of wrapping paper ending up polluting America alone.
- Save wrapping paper and tissue that you receive. I am still reusing envelopes, tissue paper, and bags from my wedding (over 2 years ago!).
- I also shamelessly return gift wrapping to my gift givers so they can reuse it (encouraging others to change can contribute to substantially higher environmental impact that simply making personal changes in your own life.)
- Wrap with whatever materials you already have. I love this post from Going Zero Waste. I recommend using plants/herbs, string you may already have around the house (I have 2 cats with plenty of retired toys attached to string), and paper from magazines, junk mail, or paper shopping bags. Your gift-recipient will love these personal touches and the planet will too!
- Replace tape with string. Most tapes include adhesives made with synthetic chemicals that prevent them from recycling or biodegrading.
One notion that should become apparent after reading a few of my posts is that waste is not limited to the landfill waste generated after the use or consumption of a given product. Manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of any given product are all energy-intensive processes. This includes the contribution to your carbon-footprint, water-footprint (the lesser known footprint - the amount of water that goes into the production of an item, for example, 2600 gallons of water to produce the materials for a pair of jeans). For every pound of landfill waste an item produces, 7 pounds of waste is produced upstream (in these earlier processes). So, while Reuse-Reduce-Recycle and measuring your landfill waste are great approaches to start with, a more sustainable approach would be to first Refuse unnecessary purchases even if they seem "zero-waste." If you must shop for something, shopping for local, second-hand, reusable, or zero-waste substantially reduces the impact of any purchase (compared to buying a new, single-use item that has been shipped).
Don't shop... DIY!
To truly gift sustainably, start gift giving with things you already have at home. I absolutely love making my own gifts, and have found it can be less time-consuming than driving to a mall and shopping for hours. It especially helps if you have started DIYing and already have the key materials you need around the home.
The easiest DIY gift (and often most heartwarming one) is a framed picture. Add some handmade coupons and notes, and you have the perfect gift. Be creative! Notes can be handwritten on materials other than virgin paper (or even newly purchased recycled paper). The goal here is to use things you already have. How about a take-out menu from a restaurant you love? Or a card you've received from before? You can cut out the artwork and glue it on to your card.
Have you tried my miracle charcoal+baking soda recipe? You could easily gift this (or a DIY scrub, face mask, or any other beauty product). Make this and package it in a mason jar. Stick some herbs into yarn tied around the bottle for an appealing aesthetic.
I also recently started packaging loose leaf tea in mason jars, or making my own herbal tea blend (try equal parts coriander seeds + fennel seed + cumin for a digestive tea). Have a secret recipe you like to share? Mix your seasonings in a jar or cloth bag for a ready-to-use blend for a recipe your mom loves.
Another DIY project I loved doing was making my own candles. This takes some patience and requires buying things you may not have lying around (candle wicks and essential oils). Stay tuned for a post on recycling your used candles.
The best part about DIY-ing is that the options are endless. Think about anything you love and see available for purchase, and see if you can make it yourself!
...that means food or plants)
Why doesn't love food? Cook a nice meal, arrange your mom's favorite snacks in jars or cloth bags, or take her out for a nice meal.
If she has a green thumb, gift her a flower or vegetable. I love counter top gardening (basil, mint, cilantro all make great options to keep in your kitchen if you don't have gardening space). If you are looking for an easy-to-maintain plant, go for succulents or cacti.
An interactive gift is a grow-your-own plant kit. These are available at many crafting stores and online, but you can also buy your own seeds, soil, and pot to gift your mom. Share the experience of watching your gift grow!
Thanks to sites like Groupon, Airbnb Experiences, and Eventbrite, it's extremely easy to gift a love one a memorable experience. This is a great idea whether you want to gift something big and extravagant, like a planned vacation, or something short and sweet, like a concert or yoga classes. My personal favorite is Paint Nite or Plant Nite.
Similarly, subscription services or gift cards are also an easy and useful gift idea. ClassPass, a few free months on Spotify, or a Rent the Runway subscription are a few.
These gifts are especially great for long-distance gifts. You can send them via email without planning to ship something tangible days in advance. And you are reducing your energy consumption substantially by removing transportation from the gift-giving process!
If you absolutely love giving gifts physical gifts, not experiences, meals, or memories, start looking at your local thrift shop. I have even found amazing items at Goodwill (like my vintage wooden incense holder, for.... ONE DOLLAR! I loved it too much to gift it and use it everyday.)
Facebook Marketplace has made shopping second-hand safer and easier than ever. There is never any packaging, you are limiting the transportation related energy cost to your own commute, and there is no additional manufacturing required. Talk about zero-waste! Some of my best Facebook Marketplace finds? This West Elm buffet table valued at over $1000, that I scored for 200 bucks.
If the thought of shopping second-hand doesn't settle with you and you need something brand spankin' new, look to local shops and markets. I love the SoWa Open Market in Boston, where I find plenty of great nick-knacks from local vendors. Many are handmade, customizable, and extremely unique.
The least exciting, and least sustainable, option on this list is to shop for reusable items. You really aren't limiting the manufacturing or transportation energy/waste consumption in this case, but you can find useful swaps that can encourage the recipient of your gift to make sustainable lifestyle changes. Some stores near me that have great sustainable options in plastic-free packaging are Credo Beauty or Lush for makeup and skincare, Patagonia or Everlane for apparel and some brands are Tom's for their signature shoes, Numi for tea. You can also shop at Meow Meow Tweet or Life without Plastic online for great options like stainless steel straws, reusable water bottles,
Look for B corporations near you; this is a group of over 2,500 companies that are commited to solve social and environmental problems through business. Here is a list of some more ideas from Trash is for Tossers and another from Loam Magazine .
Happy Mother's Day!
*I hope my mom doesn't read this post.