★ Give food! Preferably local food, food that you've grown yourself, or something that you've made yourself or bought from a local producer – jams and jellies, pecans from your tree, pickles, breads, pies, cakes.
★ Give locally! Besides food, look for locally-made artisanal body care products like soaps and bath salts, clothing, arts and crafts.
★ Make gifts! Besides food, think of your own craft and artistic abilities.
★ Give with justice! If you do buy gifts, vote with your dollars. Avoid big box stores and shop at locally owned stores. Explore the after market for treasures that will make wonderful gifts such as antiques and vintage items. Buy imported gifts from fair trade groups that support global economic justice. Buy products made from recycled materials for gifts.
★ Re-gift! This is the giving away of something that was given to you. The hobbits started this in the Shire, so it must be a fine and sensible thing to do.
★ Give sustainability! The list here is very long. Miniature herb gardens. A solar small battery charger and rechargeable batteries. Potted plants either for growing inside or for transplanting outside later. Baskets of cloth napkins and kitchen towels to replace paper towels and napkins. Seeds for a spring garden together with a “Coupon Good For Four Hours Help Creating a Garden in the Spring.” Non-BPA lined reusable water bottle. Tuition for classes that teach a useful skill or art. Bundle clothes line and clothes pins in a fabric bag with a long handle (when hanging clothes on the line, put the pins in the bag, hang it around the neck, so they are conveniently available). And by all means, give the kids bicycles and tricycles – and give only “naturally-powered” gifts to children (or anyone else, for that matter.)
★ Give Global (or local) Justice! Make financial donations to groups working for local or global justice and sustainability in honor of friends and family for the holidays. This could be groups like World Neighbors, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Heifer International, a local food bank, or a group associated with your faith tradition.
★ Give the arts! Tickets to local art galleries, concerts, museums, and don’t forget the zoo.
★ Give favors! Make booklets with your own hand drawn coupons that can be exchanged for events like – “Date Night with the Wife”, “Dinner with my Eldest Daughter”, “This Coupon good for One Major Honey-Do for My Loving Spouse”. “This coupon good for skipping one vegetable and getting extra dessert.” (Only include one of those.) “Stay Up Late.”
★ Make decorations! Use natural materials as much as possible. Save them from year to year as family heirlooms. Pass them between generations. Think fabric, wood, metal, yarn, string, rope, dried plants, flowers, leaves, and paint. Memorabilia – a child's first shoe, a grandmother's handkerchief – can make beautiful ornaments. You could also use consumables – popcorn is a traditional item to string on thread and hang on a tree. After the holiday, the birds will enjoy it! A tree can also be decorated with baked “cookie ornaments”. Be sure to poke a hole in the dough before baking so you can string it on the tree.
★ Recycle wrappings! Boxes of ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, and gift decorations carefully saved from previous years, belong in all houses. One way to honor the giver for the gift of a beautifully wrapped package is to save the wrapping and use it again.. Alternatively, wrap packages in cloth, such as towels or napkins. Even more alternatively, don't wrap the packages, instead, present them with some kind of joyous ceremony. Or hide them, and make a game out of the finding. Or do creative things like re-purpose useful items (socks, stocking caps, helmets, kitchen ware) as “wrapping” for gifts. A little ribbon and a bow, which is easily saved for use in another year, can make any item that can contain something else into a “gift package”.
★ Make a reusable fabric gift bag. Cut 2 pieces of exterior fabric and 2 pieces of lining fabric, all the same size. Put each liner piece on top of its exterior fabric, bend over and sew along the top, thus hemming the opening edge. Stack both pieces of fabric with the liner fabric on the outside. Sew the 3 sides that aren't hemmed ¼ inch from the edge. Turn inside out. Attach a nice ribbon long enough to tie the top when the bag has been filled with a gift, to one side of the bag with a few stitches at its center. Use any kind of fabrics, old sheets are great material for the lining, which can be plain. Use something more decorative for the outer fabrics.
★ Get energy-frugal LED lights! LED lights use 95% less energy than traditional lights and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. They use .04 kw per bulb – that's 100 times less than traditional bulbs and 10 times less than mini-bulbs.
★ Don't buy a fake tree made from plastic and polyvinyl chloride. Consider a living tree, in a pot. It could be a bonsai evergreen that would always live in its pot or a larger plant that you would plant in your yard or at a park or church or school. Or. . . Buy a Christmas tree from a local grower farmer. All Christmas trees sold in the US are farmed. A single farmed Christmas tree absorbs more than 1 ton of carbon in its lifetime. For each tree cut for sale, one to three trees are planted. Recycle your Christmas tree as compost or through a community program (93% of farmed Christmas trees in the US are recycled.) Never cut a wild tree in a forest for a Christmas tree. Or. . . make yourself a Christmas tree as a craft. It can be something new each year, or if you make one that is particularly great, you can save it from year to year and maybe add to it a bit each year. Or. . . make a Christmas tree wall hanging from felt, decorate it, and place your presents in front of it. Or. . . decorate some other kind of large houseplant that you already have.
★ Buy Christmas cards from local artisans. Or. . . make your own paper for your cards. Or. . . buy paper from local artisans to make cards. Make cards that fold to become their own envelope. Send e-cards via the internet. Buy recycled cards. Send all the cards you receive (including birthday and other holiday cards) to St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Nevada, where they will be re-crafted into new cards and sold to support the organizations efforts to help children. Read more about this at http://www.stjudesranch.org/shop/recycled-card-program/ .
★ If you ship gifts, use crumpled newspaper, or popcorn, to cushion the gift in transit. If you pack in popcorn, include a note inviting the recipient to feed the popcorn to birds.
★ Make a commitment to distributive justice that lasts all year. By all means, be generous with a charity that provides food and other necessities to low income households at the seasonal holidays of the “feasting season”. But people are hungry and in need all year long. During the holiday season, give your entire family the gift of service, by joining together in a family (or household) commitment to participate in distributive justice every month of the year.
★ Teach your children why you are doing a low impact and local holiday. Involve them with the planning. Help them to ignore advertising.