A Sustainable Twist on Gift-Giving

Use these fun eco-friendly gift ideas to make your holidays a little greener.

Woman´s hands wrapping Christmas presents on brown paper decorated with painted snow, fir branches and pinecones on a rustic wooden board. Top view iStock

Give experiences, not things.

Consumers are happier when they spend money on experiences as opposed to things, according to findings from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. 

As such, you may want to consider ecofriendly gift ideas that cater to the hobbies and tastes of your loved ones. These ideas include tickets or annual passes to museums, favorite sporting events, concerts, movies or theme parks such as SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. 

You can also gift a subscription or membership focused on entertainment, such as a streaming service (think Hulu, Paramount +, Showtime or Sling TV). Or purchase a gift that keeps on giving, such as a gift membership to AAA

Zygocactus magenta "Christmas Cactus"

Go with green gifts.

Green gifts can mean several different things. Flowers and plants make beautiful gifts and require little to no wrapping—perhaps just a bow or ribbon. (Think of how you’ll reduce holiday waste.)

You can also buy gifts that encourage a green lifestyle, such as a gardening kit, a gift certificate for a gardening class, a rain barrel or even a compost bin. 

 Other sustainable gifts can be those made with recycled materials. For example, you can find sturdy, attractive messenger bags made from recycled safety belts at U.S.E.D. 

Cariuma makes stylish tennis shoes from recycled ocean plastic. And Pingree, an independent business in Detroit (and a AAA partner), creates sustainable leather products—including wallets, totes and boots—out of materials left over from the auto industry.

close up shot of a hand opening a leather wallet from Pingree Detroit with a visible AAA Membership card Pingree Detroit

Use and reuse.

With many gifts, it’s the thought that counts, but the actual gift may end up being returned, regifted, stuffed in a closet or even thrown away. One way to take the guesswork out of gift-giving and help ensure that nothing goes to waste: Buy your loved ones gift cards for their favorite products or brands. 

Shop online (and save gas) to find hundreds of gift cards for popular brands such as Nike, Apple and Starbucks. Bonus: Earn 3% to 5% in AAA Dollars when you buy in branch and up to 3% in AAA Dollars when you buy online.

top view of presents wrapped in kraft paper and a dish towel, decorated with twine, rosemary and mini pine cones Justin Farrar

Use eco-friendly wrapping paper.

Even though it’s technically paper, most gift wrap isn’t recyclable because of its glossy, glittery or metallic coating. (If it’s recyclable, it’ll pass the scrunch test.) Get creative with earth-friendly options. 

  • Go plain: Purchase recyclable plain brown paper (available in traditional rolls) and then add fun and flair with festive seasonal flourishes. 

  • Use the news: Turn grocery bags, old magazine pages (if the gift is small) or newspaper that’s going to be recycled into wrapping paper. You may also want to use pretty fabric, like a new dish towel or bandanna, and try the ingenious furoshiki technique.

  • Gift tote: Instead of a paper gift bag, use a reusable cloth tote bag that becomes part of the gift.

  • Sprigs and twigs: Instead of ribbons and bows, consider compostable seasonal items, such as miniature pinecones, twine and sprigs of rosemary. 

Giving and receiving gifts feels great, but when you put a little more consideration into how you can also positively impact the planet, that good feeling goes even further.

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