Your Green Gift-giving Guide

How to Share the Holiday Spirit More Sustainably

Who doesn’t dream about finding that special holiday gift? The look of joy on your loved one’s face as they open that perfect present can be heart-warming; unfortunately, it can also be expensive, stressful, and wasteful. It won’t surprise anyone who’s ever hosted their family for a winter gift-giving holiday that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day than any other time of year.  On top of the extra shopping bags, wrapping paper, and trash cans full of wasted holiday food, this season tends to be a time when many of us accumulate stuff. Some of that stuff, no matter how well-intentioned, is doomed to spend the rest of its useable lifecycle buried in a closet or chucked into the basement before getting tossed out of the house during the next spring cleaning.

Giving the gift of waste and clutter doesn’t benefit anyone, and it hurts the planet! Your in-law doesn’t need that bulky new “As Seen on TV” kitchen gadget which might be used once before condemning it to a lifetime of dust collection. Challenging ourselves to approach gift-giving with a little creativity allows us to be more eco-friendly and sustainable as we enter the holiday season.

Sustainable gifts won’t make you a grinch! Here are some ideas to inspire you:

The Gift of Experience

Few things are more special than memories created through experience, so why not make a gift of experience? Seize the opportunity to enjoy quality time with a loved by doing something special that you wouldn’t normally have time or interest for. You could take the opportunity to purchase tickets to an upcoming show or event they’d enjoy. Heavy metal just isn’t your thing? Buy the concert tickets anyway; you don’t necessarily have to go, and they’ll definitely be appreciated.

The Gift of Time

Who hasn’t found themselves wishing for more time? With this person powered gift you can help a loved one live life to the fullest.

Need suggestions? Watch your recipient’s kids for a week, pay for their lawn care, or take care of extra chores around the house! You can make fun coupons or a spinning wheel from recyclable materials found around the home! 

The Gift of Knowledge

“A gift of knowledge is infinitely preferable to a gift of material things.”

E. F. Schumacher

Many places offer great classes that will inspire your recipient to exercise their creative side or provide them with a new skill that will last forever. Your recipient is a homebody? There are multitudes of places offering online courses in any subject under the sun. In or out of the house, learning is a sustainable gift that will not only last a lifetime but can be passed down for generations.

Locally, the Missouri Botanical Garden offers a wide variety of classes: DIY crafts, fine arts, photography, cooking, not to mention a multitude of courses in gardening and landscaping. Each class is expertly designed to educate, inspire, and enrich lives. More importantly, they are intended to help strengthen the connection between us and the wonders of the natural world. 

To learn more about upcoming classes at the Missouri Botanical Garden visit

The Gift of Something You’ve Made

The best gifts come from the heart so dig deep! Find your hidden talent and use it. A homemade gift shows them how much you care in the time and effort that goes into creating them. Bake, paint, crochet, knit, take nice photographs, make awesome crafts with your holiday gift-giving. Not sure if you have a hidden talent? Recruit other family and friends to help you make one-of-a-kind eco-friendly gifts or visit a reuse specialist, such as Perennial’s Community Workshop + Store to work on your next reuse project.   Works of art are as much creator as they are creation; when you’re gifting art, you’re giving them a piece of yourself. In many ways it’s the most personal gift of all.

The Gift of a Membership

Looking to offer more than just a one-time experience? Making gifts isn’t your thing? Try a membership to the Missouri Botanical Garden or another of your favorite cultural institutions. Year-round benefits make memberships the gift that keeps on giving.

All Missouri Botanical Garden members enjoy exclusive benefits, including:

  • Free admission to the Garden, Butterfly House, and Shaw Nature Reserve
  • Discounted admission to festivals, Garden Glow, and other signature events
  • Reciprocal privileges at 300+ gardens across North America
  • Passes for free tram tours and Children’s Garden entry (unlimited access at higher levels)
  • 10% discount at all retail locations
  • Valuable savings on education classes, workshops, and family programs
  • Plus much more!

Garden memberships start as low as $50, to learn more or purchase a gift membership visit today!

The Gift of Something You’ve Grown

With a little advance planning, you can make the season greener by growing your own horticultural holiday gifts. Once you know how to properly propagate your favorite houseplant, it’ll make the perfect gift to green anyone’s space. Having plants indoors helps purify the air, reduce stress, and makes people happier all around—which makes a plant the perfect gift! If you aren’t as botanically inclined, try to gift the gardeners in your life bulbs or unique varieties of seeds to enjoy this holiday season.

The Gift of Charity

Honor your friends and family by supporting a charity or organization they support. Organizations like or make this easy to do, but choose an organization, local or global, that is close to your gift recipient’s heart. If you are a little short on cash this year, volunteer your time in service of your gift recipient and help support one of their favorite causes.

Still feel obligated to give a material gift?

Make this an opportunity to provide your recipient with some great, eco-friendly options that help reduce their environmental footprint. Material gifts should help build up your recipient’s collection of reusable items to replace disposables such as straws, plastic to-go containers, and plastic bags. Shop around at local stores and think small scale when shopping for material gifts this holiday season. 

Alternatively, if your gift recipient is more of the home improvement type, LED light bulbs or a new low-flow showerhead are gifts sure to be appreciated, and if not they’ll be thankful to see the value when the savings come around!

Kat Golden
Sustainability Education Manager

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