This Year, Give Sustainably

Here at Girl Scouts, we try to keep things green — and no, not because it is our favorite color! A Girl Scout always leaves a place better than she found it. While this concept is often touted when cleaning up a campsite when we are ready to head home, it can also be applied to the ways we reduce our footprint on the earth over time. Less waste through less consumption equals a smaller negative impact on our planet so that we can leave it a better place for future generations.

There is no time we consume quite like the holidays. Between all of the boxes, plastic, Styrofoam, bags, and more from all of the gifts we buy and how we wrap them, it adds up very quickly. Then multiply that waste by millions of people all over the world and we have ourselves a festive season with loads of landfill fodder.

So what can you do to re-think gift-giving this year? There are many options that will leave you feeling green as a Girl Scout that your loved ones are sure to love!

Buy Services, Not Things

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone would come over and clean your home so you didn’t have to? If you would love it, then so would someone else! Gifts don’t have to be physical, material items. They can be for services that ignite one’s passions or to help take away some of life’s stressors.

Does your gift recipient want to learn another language? To play a musical instrument? To perfect their portrait painting technique? To cook? Buying lessons for someone can help jumpstart their passion and is a thoughtful way to let someone know you have paid attention to their dreams and want to help see them come true.

Whether it is lawn and garden care or a gift certificate for a new haircut, or anything in between, there are many different services that can be given as gifts that require little to no packaging and waste.


Normally, experiences would rank high on a sustainable gift giving list. However, with the challenges of COVID-19 and recommendations to not venture out, especially in social settings, unless absolutely necessary, it has dampened some of those experiences we fondly miss.

However, we can still experience some of our favorite things through digital subscriptions! Have a sports lover who otherwise would be thrilled to get tickets to see their favorite team? You can buy them a subscription to make sure they don’t miss any of the action this season. With options like NFL Game Pass, ESPN+, MLB TV, UFC Fight Pass, or Premiere League Pass, they can immerse themselves in their favorite sporting events right from home. A full year subscription to any of these could run about the same price or even less than two tickets to one live sporting event!

Is your gift recipient keeping away from the gym right now, but still looking to stay fit? A subscription to an at-home streaming fitness class provider like Barre3 or Beach Body could be the perfect gift for them. Do they love reading? A subscription to Kindle Unlimited could be just what they want. Are they missing trips to Disney World? Maybe a Disney+ subscription can help ease their longing until they return to the parks. Have a gamer in your life? A subscription to GameFly, PS Now, or Xbox Game Pass could be your answer.

The options are endless and this gift will definitely leave them smiling — all that impact and zero waste!

Fill Their Tummies

We often show love through food and it makes a great sustainable gift because it won’t stick around for long! You can take your green-ness a step further by using recycled and re-used items to package your gifts. Save pasta sauce and jam jars, wash them out, and make homemade food gifts like baking mix and soup kits. You could also spend some time in the kitchen making things like your own homemade jams/preserves, pickles, fruit leather, jerky, and more. You can even give your gift recipient some ideas of how they can continue to re-use their jars and packaging once they’ve eaten all their treats! That mason jar could make a great terrarium or you can give them a recipe for something they can create to drink out of their jar later.

Cooking not your thing (or theirs)? A gift card to a food delivery service like UberEats or Grubhub could be very much appreciated, or a gift card to their favorite local restaurant. You can support a local business during these tough times and give your loved one the gift of their favorite meal — a win-win!

Re-Think Secondhand

Secondhand does not mean second best. It is incredible the amount of new and like-new items people throw away every single day. Your local thrift store is likely chock full of treasures that make beautiful gifts. You can find many new-with-tag and gently loved clothing items at thrift stores as well as some unique collectible and vintage items. You may only pay a few dollars for these items, but particularly the vintage items can have a value of hundreds of dollars!

The amount of time you spend and thought put into finding the perfect gift at a secondhand store is no less meaningful than the time spent at a mall. Buying second hand keeps perfectly good and useful items out of landfills and puts less of a burden on our environment by not creating more new things. Plus, with the money you save buying something thrifted, you can afford to buy them multiple items if something else catches your eye!

Donate to Their Favorite Charity in Their Name

If your gift recipient is passionate about a cause and already has everything they need, then donating to that cause can be an incredibly meaningful and special gift for them. There are thousands of causes and organizations to choose from, so the options for this sustainable gift are virtually infinite!

Homemade Gifts from the Heart

Homemade gifts can be particularly special. They require a lot of time and love. There are any number of DIY gift ideas you can find surfing through Pinterest or with a Google search to help you find just the right project for your gift recipient. Use re-purposed materials to make your gift and you have a sustainable gift from the heart.

The Greenest Gift of All

There’s no gift that earns a green star quite like a plant! Whether it’s herbs, a rose bush, a tree sapling, or an indoor plant to enhance a home, your plant-lover will thank you for this lovely gift! You could of course buy a plant from a local nursery (again, supporting a local business), or you could try to grow one yourself! Now that is a gift of true love and dedication. Plants like herbs and some flowers can grow very quickly, so you still have time!

Wrap It Green

All the excess wrapping materials for gifts can be just as taxing on the environment as all the packaging gifts come in. Here are some eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas:

  1. Furoshiki: a Japanese method of wrapping in cloth. This type of wrapping does not need any additional decoration as you tie up your package with a bow! Use fabric from torn or ripped clothing around your house, use unwanted scarves or dish towels, or you can purchase scraps of fabric that would otherwise be thrown away from a local fabric store.
  2. Kraft Paper: Unlike shiny and laminated wrapping paper, kraft paper can be recycled! You also find kraft paper made of already recycled paper.
  3. Re-Usable Tote Bags: Make your gift bag something that can be used over and over and over again. You can even personalize a blank canvas tote bag by painting it, making your gift wrapping a bonus gift!
  4. Newspaper: Do you receive a physical newspaper? Don’t throw it away! Save those pages for a fun gift wrap and decorate your packages with simple jute twine and some fresh or dried greenery.
  5. Saved Gift Wrapping: Don’t throw away those gift bags, tissue paper, and delivery boxes! All of these can be re-used to wrap gifts so that you don’t have to buy new materials. You can even re-purpose things like toilet paper rolls to make gift card holders (you know, for all those service and subscription gifts we talked about above!).

Gift giving this holiday season does not have to result in an abundance of added waste that clogs up landfills. There are so many gifts available you can give that everyone on your holiday shopping list will love. These gifts create little to no waste, reduce our carbon footprint, and helps us to keep the earth green the Girl Scout way!

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