Great Gifts Don’t Have to Be “Stuff”

We occasionally receive comments from folks concerned that our “buy local” work encourages more consumption. To be clear, our goal is to promote more conscious purchasing from independent businesses, not purchasing more. But those comments inspired us to offer these tips for low impact or positive net impact gifts.

We’re not focusing on “green gifts,” for which there are countless other sources, but consumable or non-material gifts that support independent entrepreneurs. Keep in mind that your giving is only part of your impact. Consider communicating proactively in a tactful way that you prefer to receive gifts that are green and sourced from an independent business. Sharing this article likely would convey the message with minimal effort, for example (see share buttons on left).

Local Ideas 

  • Gift certificate to an indie restaurant, pub or cafe (bonus points if it supports local farmers, ranchers and brewers!)
  • Tickets to a local theater, concert, sports event…
  • Donating in recipient’s name to one of their favorite non-profits
  • Offer your skills described on a gift certificate (so the giftee won’t forget your offer or hesitate to use it)
  • An online subscription to recipient’s favorite local newspaper or other publication
  • Credit for a class at a community college or continuing education program
  • Punch card or gift certificate to a local gym, recreation center, yoga studio…
  • Gift certificate for massage, hair styling, housecleaning, landscaping or other personal service
  • Child care for a play day/night
  • Lessons to learn a new skill from a  local provider (ideas below)
  • A close-to-home getaway at a special B&B or inn.

Physical Things Likely to Reduce Net Consumption
In many cases, giving well-chosen physical items can clearly yield environmental benefits. For example:

  • A water cooler or filter system for folks who habitually use disposable bottles
  • A home soda fountain for consumers of soft drinks
  • Services to conserve energy around the house (many local and state governments now offer free energy audits through utility companies).
  • A quality commuter bicycle (can even be second-hand), tune-up, fenders, panniers or other items to make commuting easier
  • Regionally-grown and produced foods and beverages
  • LED lighting or other efficiency improvements
  • Durable, locally-crafted items that replace disposable mass-produced ones

Gift Ideas for Kids (can complement some material gifts)

  • Trip to a museum, amusement park, sports event, bowling, theater…
  • An outdoor adventure
  • An outdoors skills course
  • Many of the class ideas offered below

AMIBA_posterconcepts-finalThe Gift of New Skills

Consider giving lessons for cooking, brewing, dance, pet training, computer skills, fitness, foreign language, musical instrument, outdoor skills, first aid, massage, photography, video production, writing, pottery, knitting, painting and other arts,

One reader wrote us to say, “My brother is a music promoter and I donated 5 hours to help him improve his website…gifts of expertise are especially useful to people who work for themselves.”

Lastly, if you’re gifting to someone you know has needs for physical items, consider a gift certificate to a local independent shop in their community, so you know an item will be valued and used.

By Jeff Milchen (@JMilchen)

If this topic interests you, we also recommend:

Why Buying Green Means Buying Local

Top Reasons to Buy Local

See Index of All Holiday Resources

The Multiplier Effect: How Local Ownership Creates Jobs and Wealth


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