A Green Holiday Season

A hand-made gift, like the T-shirt quilt pictured above, can make for a great sustainable holiday gift.
December 13, 2011

A guide to sustainable gift-giving.

A homemade gift, a donation to a charity or a unique item from a local business. These are some of the ways you can choose sustainable gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.

Between the endless wrapping paper and the gifts you probably will never use but can’t return (or feel guilty returning), the holidays can create a lot of waste.

That’s why Meghan Chapple-Brown, director of GW’s Office of Sustainability, encourages everyone to remember to reduce, reuse and recycle even when holiday shopping.

“I try to look for gifts that are made locally, gifts that are reusable or gifts that are consumable,” said Ms. Chapple-Brown. “It’s something people can enjoy, but it’s not something that’s going to a landfill eventually.”

Last year, Ms. Chapple-Brown gave her staff hot chocolate kits complete with gourmet fair-trade cocoa and milk served in a reusable tote.

And instead of getting everyone on your list gifts, do a service project with a group of friends or your family.

“It’s a nice opportunity to get together with your friends or family and make an impact on the community,” said Amy Cohen, executive director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.

Here are some ways to be green with your holiday gift-giving:

  • Instead of wrapping paper, use a reusable shopping bag or tote.
  • Handmake a gift like a photo collage, cookbook or T-shirt quilt (see photo above).
  • Give a box of tea, a sweet treat or an Edible Arrangement.
  • Make a donation to a charity that has a mission your loved one supports. The donation can be made in their name.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen like Miriam’s Kitchen or D.C. Central Kitchen, a retirement facility like St. Mary’s Court or hospital like Children’s National Medical Center or the George Washington University Hospital.
  • Buy a share on a farm, and each week produce from that farm will be delivered.
  • Give a gift certificate to a local farmers’ market.
  • Buy a local craft at the Downtown Holiday market on F and 8th streets, which runs from noon to 8 p.m. daily until Dec. 23.
  • Buy a Sweetgreen reusable container, complete with a Sweetgreen gift card.
  • “Adopt” an endangered species like a tiger, dolphin or panda bear through the World Wildlife Fund or sponsor a child in the U.S. or abroad. Save the Children allows you to choose a child by region, country, gender and age and communicate with him or her if you desire.