Green Holiday Giving
A Guide to Thinking Eco When Celebrating the Holidays
The most wonderful time of the year does not have to be the most wasteful. Check out these fun ideas and tips for creating meaningful eco-friendly celebrations and gift giving.
The holidays can elicit all kinds of emotions. It can be exciting to think about all the fun celebrations and gifts that will be arriving this month. It can also be a daunting and fraught time trying to make this season meaningful and less consumerist. However, I can attest that it is possible to make this a season of personal fulfillment and spreading joy while also thinking practically about gift giving and being eco-conscious. Below are a few ways I have figured out how to make this holiday time more meaningful and the kind of celebration I want my family to partake in.
Gum ball felt garland
1. Focus on the Season
Regardless of what holiday you celebrate in winter, there are occurrences happening in nature this time of year that are worth taking time to appreciate. A magical way to take in the changing of the season as we head into winter is going on a full moon walk. Oxley Nature Center has a Full Moon Walk available for all ages. Check the Oxley Website for the date set for the “Cold” Moon walk this December and how to register. While there, consider giving the gift of membership to Oxley Nature Center and help them spread the message of nature connection and awareness in our city.
2. The Gift of Giving
Some of the most meaningful holiday gifts received make a difference in our community. Consider giving a donation to a local non-profit you want to support or a larger organization doing good in the world. One of my favorite organizations to support is Heifer International. I love their mission of providing animals to families and people in need around the world. Children love knowing they can make a difference, and it’s also fun to receive a card showing the gift of a pig, cow, bees, ducks etc.
3. Use Earth Friendly Materials
In pandemic times, celebrations will likely look different than in past years. In order to make things special, you need not look any further then your own backyard or nearby green space. I regularly search outside for inspiration in my holiday decorating. Pine cones and a little festive ribbon displayed on a plate look just as festive as anything store-bought. Grab a can of golden spray paint, some twine or pretty yarn, and those “Gum balls” or acorn caps your local trees drop, and make a simple, festive garland. Here’s an article on how to make these beautiful garlands.
You can also make a Gum ball garland by wetting some wool felt with warm, soapy water. Then, wrap it around the gum balls. It turns out really simple and lovely!
Another way to think eco for celebrations is using compostable plates and flatware that can be purchased at Sprouts Grocery. Or why not use all that festive fine china that we only get out for special occasions. That way you get to admire the beauty of an antiqued past and simply wash up after the celebration.
4. Gift Giving in an Eco Way
I love to give gifts that I know will encourage the kind of behaviors I want to see in my children. When I give them things that encourage being active, going outside and using nature knowledge, I know I have given them a good gift. I also use the adage of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle when purchasing gifts. Buying something used rather than new is a better option when taking an earth friendly approach. I find Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to be a great place to look first when purchasing toys for my children. Often the toys I have found have been in good condition and serve just as much function as a new toy would.
If you want to give something useful, there are many functional gifts to give children that can provide outdoors skills and teach them to be more eco conscious. Below I have compiled a list of some of my favorite functional gifts to give. Click the links to find ways to purchase them.
make simple and beautiful gifts for your explorers to use every time you go outside. They are great for younger and older children alike. Gift yourself one, too, and you can journal together as you discover the nature in your local park or on a hike. You can purchase a lovely pre-made journal with the link above, or make your own following this template and tips for how to get started from the Sierra Club.
Forager Pockets from Chaos Creations are a lovely way for children to gather and collect nature objects when they are on hikes. They also make perfect storage for snack wrappers and other lightweight supplies so that your children can easily carry whatever they need while out on an adventure.
It is a very satisfying for children and adults to grow their own food and watch the process. When I bought this kit my daughters loved checking the mushrooms each day and watching them through the stages from tiny baby to full grown mushroom. The best part, they loved cutting off the mushrooms, sautéing them in butter and herbs and eating them. Up until we grew our own, my children were not interested in eating mushrooms. It was a win, win for parenting.
A wonderful way to encourage your family to get outside and explore, is visiting a National Park. You can make these trips a family priority with a National Parks Pass. This is a wonderful gift of experience everyone can enjoy.
Candle making kits are a lovely gift to give, spreading warmth and light in the coldest season. My family and I use melted beeswax and ball jars to make sweet/affordable handmade gifts for relatives and friends. Check out this article for how to make your own candles.
Another way to inspire awe this holiday season is to give the experience gift of hatching your own butterflies. This fun activity is easy to do and inspiring to watch the many stages of the butterfly. Remember to wait till there are some flowers blooming to hatch and release your butterflies.
This kit includes a compass, binoculars, flashlight and safety whistle, all the gear needed to dive deep into a hike or take camping on all your nature adventures.
This board game, from the Learning Herbs Company, is one of our family favorites. It teaches children and adults all about the power of plants as medicine and basic wilderness survival skills. The company also has other fun products for you and your family to learn about herbal medicine.
After getting your children and loved ones one of these lovely gifts, it’s also fun to think of eco ways to wrap them up. Every year when we take down our holiday decorating supplies, we also pull out a box full of bows, gift bags and ribbon from the previous year. This box has had years of use. We love seeing our gifts displayed in the same bags and ribbons they were in years passed. It creates less waste to re-use the bags and can elicit the same reaction of holiday cheer.
Another way to be more eco in holiday wrapping is to use scraps of cloth to wrap your gifts. The look of a cloth-wrapped candle made with love from your family is a wonderful way to bring out the deeper meaning of celebrating the winter holidays.
6. Shopping Local
It is so easy to click the links to companies all over the country or big box stores selling all your holiday desires at a discount. Taking the time to buy local requires a little more legwork but ultimately brings the gift of helping to create a diverse community full of rich culture.
Some of my favorite places to shop local are Fulton Street Books, Magic City Books, The STEMcell Science Shop, Lavender Blue’s Literacy Market and Kiddlestix Toys. There are so many more great shops to choose from, and I encourage you to support these businesses, as they are the most affected by the pandemic. Check out this short video to learn more about independent Tulsa business to support.
7. The Gift of Service
One of our most unforgettable holiday traditions is to do acts of service in our community. My family likes to choose an activity that brings beauty and health to our society. For that reason, we pick up trash. In many of the wild places we go for hikes we often find trash. Litter is a constant problem in our cities’ waterways and green spaces. Taking the time to bring a bag and pick up the trash we find teaches my children to be better stewards to our land and makes our hikes even more important and enjoyable.
Another way we like to help is to deliver food and gifts to those in need. Bringing some of our holiday traditions to folks that would normally not be able to have elaborate celebrations feels good and helps my children see that we can actively make a difference in the health and wellbeing of our community.
I hope you get to enjoy this holiday season as much as we do. Please share the ways you like to make your celebrations eco-conscious and full of meaning. Happy holidays!
About Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek
Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek is a naturalist, writer and community educator committed to teaching the skills of sustainability and instructing children and adults on how to connect with the natural world that surrounds them daily. Arthrell-Knezek hails from New Haven, Connecticut where she began her work in the arts and environmental activism in 1997.
She graduated from The Evergreen State College In Olympia WA, 2010, with a bachelor’s degree in multi-media art and sustainability studies. She has traveled the world and landed in Tulsa, OK, where she is the Executive Director and Lead Educator of Under The Canopy LLC. Margaritte is a parent to two awesome children and wife to Mykey Arthrell-Knezek.
You can learn more about the programs she teaches at www.underthecanopy.org She is a regular contributor to TulsaKids.com and also keeps a personal blog about parenting in all its real and messy forms called Tap the Root. She was also published in Hilary Frank’s 2019 book, “Weird Parenting Wins.”