The holidays can be a time of celebration, connection, sometimes overshadowed by expectations of consumption. Here’s your guide to giving sustainable and non-material gifts this holiday season.

hot air balloonGive experiences, not things

Studies have shown that experiences, not things bring us the most happiness. Giving experiences can maximize quality time with people you care about and create memories. Like a physical gift, think about making it personalized and getting a ‘gift receipt’ - find out about alternative dates, cancellation policies, and refunds before you buy.

Experience gift ideas:

  • Volunteering

  • Concert, theater, or film tickets

  • Lessons or a class

  • Museum, aquarium, or zoo passes

  • Travel funds

Gifts that reduce waste

If a new item just makes the most sense for a certain someone, read some reviews online, ask around and make sure you get a version that will have a long lifetime of good performance. Consider fair trade, recycled content, recyclable, and don’t forget the gift receipt.

Waste-reducing gift ideas:

  • Reusable travel mug

  • Reusable shopping bags

  • Elfin Book, a reusable smart notebook

  • Bike helmet, bike light, and other commuting accessories

  • Durable reusable to-go food containers

  • Photovoltaic charging devices (like Luci Pro)

  • Low-flow shower heads

DIY upcycled and homemade gifts

While they can take some time and planning, homemade do-it-yourself edible, upcycled, or recycled holiday gifts can be inexpensive and treasured gifts.

If you have an idea but not the tools sewing machines and a plethora of other Maker tools are available at Building 61, the Boulder Public Library’s Makerspace.

And if you like the idea of upcycled but don’t have the time to do it yourself, check out upcycling artists on etsy.

It can be pretty simple to take a non-upcycled DIY idea to your local thrift store and find used materials to give new life to old items.

Upcycled DIY gift ideas:

  • Bicycle chain jewelry or bowls

  • Etch used glass pitchers and cups

  • Recycled crayons and homemade coloring book

  • Plants raised from cuttings

  • Chalkboard painted coasters

  • Bottle cap magnets

Homemade food items like Challah bread or preserves, spiced nuts, or popcorn balls can be fun, easy and delicious to make. If any of these don’t come out perfectly, they’re easy to get rid of and you might have a great #pinterestfail on your hands.

Charitable donations

For the person who has everything, a donation in their name to a cause they support might be the perfect gift this year. Non-profit organizations like Heifer International can make gifts like these more tangible by providing donations of a goat, cow, chicken, or other livestock to subsistence farmers around the world. 

Agree to forgo gifts

For select family and friends, consider having a conversation about forgoing gift-giving all together this year or next year. You might agree to only give non-material gifts or start a yearly pillow fight tradition in place of gift giving - this season might be a great opportunity to start the conversation.

Have a meaningful and joyful holiday season Buffs!