The holiday season is hard on our beloved planet. We throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than at any other time of year.1 And about a quarter of the gifts we return can’t be resold, resulting in five billion pounds of merchandise in landfills.2 There’s a lot you can do to reduce waste – while simultaneously giving people more meaningful gifts.
We’re big fans of consumable gifts. There’s minimal waste involved (ideally the packaging is recyclable or compostable) and recipient gets to enjoy eating it, drinking it, putting it on their body, etc. The gift may prompt the recipient to do more cooking; to eat or drink something outside their usual box; to relish goods of higher quality than they’d typically buy for themselves; or to give themselves some loving self-care.
Since we started making our own Dragontree lotions, shower gel, massage oil, and other body care products, we’ve gifted a lot of it to our friends and family. (Check it out!) We also love making homemade goodies as gifts and putting our own labels on them. It’s a fun project, a unique gift, and people will love getting to see your label or a cool bottle in their cupboard. It doesn’t have to be your own secret recipe – even if you just find one you like online, people will appreciate that you made it.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite consumable gifts:
Bath Bombs – Help making bathing more fun and better smelling; great for those friends who need a little reminder to bathe. A real win/win gift.
Body Scrubs – These are a fun home project. You can make the scrubby part from all sorts of things, such as salt, sugar, coffee, cranberry seeds, or ground shells.
Lotion – Many people put it on their skin day in and day out or keep a bottle next to the sink to use after hand washing during these dry winter months. If you give them something new and lovely to try, you know it will get used.
Tinctures – We make some Dragontree tinctures that are very popular, or you can try making your own by soaking dried herbs in 80 to 100 proof alcohol for a week or two (shaking frequently) and straining and bottling. A few years ago we made our own blend of bitters (for use in cocktails and for upset tummies) and bottled it as gifts in old style apothecary bottles.
Spice Blends – I love getting exotic spice blends to add to my cooking. I have many different curry powders, several garam masalas, Moroccan ras el hanout, za’atar, harissas, and more. You can blend your own and create a cute label, or find some at a gourmet ingredient store.
Sauces – I also love trying new sauces. So often the sauce makes the dish. If you have a recipe you enjoy, consider making a big batch and canning it. Or send a favorite local sauce to friends across the country. Some friends gave us a jar made from their tomatoes and it was better than anything we’ve ever bought in a store.
Salsa – One of the best gifts we receive each year is the salsa Briana’s father makes from his own garden vegetables. One opened, the jar usually lasts no longer than an hour.
Desserts – Several years we’ve made salted caramels, which is a fun project. Briana’s family has a longstanding tradition of baking pfeffernusse cookies and peanut brittle. There are all sorts of lovely chocolates available these days. I prefer contributing to a less sugary end of the year, but I know everyone appreciates these goodies.
Natural Cleaners and Fragrances – Help your loved ones have a less toxic home by giving them room and clothes spritzes, soaps, and cleaners that are free of synthetic fragrances and harmful preservatives. Many of these are easy to make yourself.
Various Gourmet Groceries – There are all sorts of interesting salts, artisan honeys, dried mushrooms, vinegars, aged cheeses, nuts, smoked fish, jams and chutneys, and so much other delectable fare that’s fun to give as a gift.
Whether or not you have the time and creativity to make your own, you can know you’ll be helping to reduce holiday waste by giving consumables. Another option we urge you to consider is to fill a bag with various foodstuffs the next time you’re at the market and give it to your local food share or a family that needs it. I like to share some organic foods because I feel everyone deserves to have high quality food and one of the main ways people cut costs when they’re poor is by purchasing lower quality goods.
Wishing you true connection this season (and always),