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5 practical ideas that will never end up in landfill.

This season, more than ever before, people are feeling pressure to cull the excess when it comes to gift-giving. Without going into the gloomy details of our human and planetary woes, let’s look at some alternatives to traditional store-bought gifts. After all, we can express love for one another by giving the most valuable gifts of all: time and thought.

Share a talent.

What are you good at? What’s your jam? Don’t take that expertise for granted—gift it to your favorite people. If you have a way with words, why not offer to finesse your bestie’s resumé. If you the world’s most patient babysitter, offer to watch your nieces and nephews so your sister can decompress at the gym. If you’re great with a needle and thread, why not offer to mend a favorite sweater or patch a set of knees. If you’re great with beauty and makeup, gift a beauty session for your mom’s retirement luncheon. There are unlimited ways that this gift of time and energy can play out. 

Put it into words.

Putting your words down on paper can serve as powerful gifts. Why not write a poem or a song to your loved ones that shows your care, vulnerability and thought? I remember making a list of “365 Reasons I Love You” for my partner on our first anniversary. It took serious time and creative thinking. Or, recollect a memory on paper for your grandmother or friends. It is such a wonderful gift because it is truly one-of-a-kind. Another tip is to write a gratitude letter, telling friends and loved ones why they matter so much to you.

Reveal the family recipes.

Exchanging cookies and other treats is a popular holiday pastime. Why not step up this tradition by gifting your favorite homemade food alongside the recipe? Every year, I like to make a granola that I call “Granola Nirvana” to our kids’ teachers, along with the recipe. It’s a staple in our house and special because it came from one of my first mom friends, with whom I am still close. It’s an added bonus that the mason jar we gift the granola in can be reused. So, make it meaningful—gift your grandma’s 5-grain bread or your Polish godmother’s pirogies. (Just don’t tell grandma you gave away her secret!)

Gift an experience.

Instead of the usual experiential gift suspects (movie, restaurant, theatre), try venturing off the beaten path. This concept is all about knowing the person you are gifting, so really think about what they enjoy, and get creative. How about an acupuncture session or deep conditioning treatment that your friend or spouse has wanted to try but not made time for? What about a day ice-skating with your more athletic friends? My partner made me a stack of experience coupons last year, hand-illustrated with phrases like “movie and a mule” (my favorite cocktail) and “date night in” (where he cooks something fancy for me after the kids go to bed). He knows me well.

Pay it forward.

Make a donation in the name of a friend or family member. If you know of a cause that they support, research an organization that has a history of positive impact on that cause. If you don’t want let go of the physical act of opening something, you can let them know about the donation in their holiday card. To be ultra sustainable, make the cards out of extra wrapping paper or paper bags or scrap fabric.

Show your loved ones you really care by keeping their hearts full and their homes uncluttered. Happy Holidays from TNFI!

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