Low Impact Holiday Guide: Tips for greener giving and mindful celebrations

Low Impact Holiday Guide

Hello, holidays. A time to celebrate, relax, spend time with folks we love...and throw away about a million extra tons of trash per week.

Between Thanksgiving and new year, Americans toss out roughly 25% more waste than any other time of the year. From wrapping and food packaging to unwanted gifts and increased travel, holiday excess is costing our planet.

We need to challenge and change the status quo around how we approach the holidays. We simply can’t continue to see this kind of staggering consumption and waste as a “normal” way to celebrate.

Don’t worry, a low impact holiday doesn’t mean skimping on festive cheer and fun! Read on to find plenty of ideas to delight, enjoy, and feel good in our sustainable holiday guide.

Embrace sustainable gifting

By embracing more sustainable giving, mindful celebrating, and low impact travel, together we can reduce the huge environmental burden of the holiday season. And that's not the only benefit! I also believe a low impact holiday will reward you personally in other areas too. 

Community connection, personal relationships, personal values, creativity, and general well-being can all be nourished with a low impact holiday.

Support your favorite community projects and causes. Shop locally and support small businesses and independent brands. Dial down financial stress with more intentional spending. Nurture relationships with the folks you love by focusing on connection rather than consumption.

Explore your creative side with handmade gifts, food, and decorative touches.

You’d be surprised how centering your values and goals intercept with environmental impact.

Shop small and show your support

Small businesses, local makers, and artisans are at the heart of our communities and 2021 has hit many of them hard. This holiday season *shop small* and support independent brands rather than defaulting to large chains and retailers. More than ever, we need to be connecting with small businesses, especially those rooted in a sustainable mission.

You vote for their cause with your dollars

Supporting independent businesses helps strengthen community ties, positively impacts the local economy, and helps bolster their resilience. When we practice buying locally, on a global scale, we reduce the environmental impact of production and transportation too. Transporting materials and products shorter distances means less carbon emissions are produced.

Buy better: built to last

Choosing quality over quantity! Items made well with high quality materials can last decades as opposed to their cheap counterparts which are destined for landfill in a few short years - or months.

Fast, disposable fashion vs quality, well made garments are perfect examples of this.

Where possible, you can choose hand-made quality items to support small businesses and handmade artisans, too. While it may cost more upfront, over time, the cost per wear/per use actually works out more economical than churning through a higher number of low quality garments. Buy for life, not a season.

Collaborative gifting

Split the cost of a gift between a few friends! Collaborative gifting is eco-friendly and cost friendly too. With a few people pooling their money it's also the chance to give a better quality gift or experience. Something they’ll truly enjoy using or doing.

Shop second-hand

Thrift shopping ticks the boxes for cost effective and sustainable gifting! Feeling hesitant about giving second-hand items? Keep these things in mind:

Gifting second-hand is a way to promote more sustainable alternatives. Sharing how a second-hand gift aligns with your values makes it even more thoughtful.

Second-hand doesn’t always equate to “worn-down”. Plenty of folks are upgrading constantly, letting go of perfectly good, gently used items - or those never even worn or used.

You can discover truly unique gifts, great for loved ones with an eclectic or vintage  taste, that you simply can’t buy anywhere else.

Visit your local flea market and charity stores or try online options like Offer Up and FaceBook marketplace.

Greener gift ideas 

Gift a virtual course, masterclass or personal development experience. Encourage those you love to explore their talents, interests in 2022 by giving an online learning experience.

A virtual course or class is a low impact gift in terms of sustainability but high impact for the potential learning, growth, and enjoyment for the lucky recipient! A personal twist on this could be actually teaching a virtual class yourself to a few of your nearest and dearest.

Let’s say you’ve got a green thumb. You’re an expert at creating herb gardens for apartments and small spaces, you could give a one-off online ‘masterclass’ covering the basics.

Create a fun and festive digital invitation, invite folks to sip a glass of wine, coffee or herbal tea - whatever makes the experience relaxed and cosy for them.

Donate to a community program on their behalf

This gift works beautifully if you know the recipient's preferences for community programs or mission-driven projects they support.

If you’re unsure, you can let them know you’d love to donate in their name and ask if there is a specific cause they’d like to receive it.

If you’re stuck for ideas, a few suggestions for local community programs doing incredible things here in Los Angeles:

Summa EveryThang

Helping give low-income families in South Central LA and surrounds access to nutritious, abundant food-one premium fresh produce box at a time.

A Growing Culture

A Growing Culture is supporting smallholder farmers to reshape the food system. They advocate for farmers’ right to shape their own agricultural system, provide on-the-ground support and facilitate collective learning through farmer-to-farmer exchange.

Food Forward

Food Forward fights hunger and prevents food waste by rescuing fresh surplus produce, connecting this abundance with people in need and inspiring others to do the same.

Embrace your creative side with a sustainable DIY gift

When you make something you give your time, your creativity, and your thoughts to the person you’re creating it for.I think we all appreciate receiving a gift made with love and effort.

The holidays are the perfect time to explore your creative side and get inspired by handmade gifts. The internet is bubbling over with green, sustainable DIY ideas focusing on up-cycling or using natural materials. Nourishing, local foods - healthy gifts that support small businesses. From hampers of local seasonal produce to herbal teas, honey, and jams, nourishing foods and beverages are perfect for sustainable gift-giving!

Where possible, focus on gifting local produce or artisanal items from small businesses to support their craft.

Gift a subscription for organic food boxes or healthy meal delivery. Be sure to find out if the material used to package the food for delivery is sustainable and recyclable.

Source jar honey, jams, loose tea, and dried herbs from local businesses. Put together a hamper of local and seasonal foods from a local farmers market. 

A few suggestions for community-driven food box and meal kit vendors in the Los Angeles area:


Narrative Food

Hello Fresh - is also available across the country. Each of these 3 offer gift cards and /or eGift cards.

While it’s lovely to surprise someone with an unexpected gift, in this instance it can be better to go ahead and let people know. Explain you’d love to give them fresh local produce and ask them to shortlist foods they enjoy. This avoids unnecessary food waste.

Choose a digital gift card

Smaller brands and independent labels usually issue a digital gift ‘code’ via email rather than the physical plastic gift cards issued by large corporations. This small difference saves plastic ending up in landfill.

Explore closer to home

The environmental impact of your trip will vary depending how far you travel from home. Carbon emissions of a flight will have a bigger impact than a 60 minute road trip. Bus and train tickets can also be an option to cut greenhouse emissions. Rather than hiring a car to explore your vacation destination, why not rent bikes instead? You’ll be exercising and minimizing your carbon footprint at the same time.

Skip the fancy (wasteful) wrapping 

Bright wrapping paper sure is pretty. But guess what? Because of the ink, the thinness of the paper and adornments like glitter most wrapping paper can’t be recycled. After it’s torn off a gift, it’s headed for landfill. What a waste.

A few more sustainable alternatives include brown bags, recycled paper, fabric squares from natural fibres, glass jars, magazine pages, or scarves from a thrift store. Or simply give a gift that doesn’t need wrapping. Think ahead and save any wrapping paper you receive this Christmas to recycle next year.

Cut single-use plastic items.

Swap single-use plastic cups, plates, napkins, straws, at your festive picnic or Christmas dinner table for reusable ones or, for straws, 100% biodegradable options.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”— Muhammad Ali

I hope our guide has inspired a few ideas for more sustainable, thoughtful, and joyful festivities.

I wish you a wonderful holiday season and I thank you for the support you’ve shown KLUR.

With appreciation, Lesley Thornton

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