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7 Last Minute Sustainable Gift Ideas

7 Last Minute Sustainable Gift Ideas

By Melissa Rappaport Schifman Editor-At-Large
Dec 21, 2018

As the holiday season wraps up, you may be looking for that last-minute gift idea. But before you grab the nearest shiny thing, ask yourself- do your loved ones need yet another trinket, ornament, or tie? Why not think creatively and give them something that is a great gift and better for the planet? Here are some unique ideas.

Give the Gift of an Experience

Give your family member a coupon that says you will play hooky with them one day and take them on a nature excursion. There are almost always state parks within driving distance, and except for having to drive a car, what could be greener? The earth's beautiful waters and landscape instills a sense of wonder. And, instead of getting a thing that has to be stored, maintained, and might not be wanted, you'll both have a memory that lasts forever. Other ideas for experiences include an adult "play date" where you go to a movie, an art gallery, or an excursion to the indoor rock climbing gym.

Give the Gift of Homemade Food in a Reusable Container

The label should include the ingredients and the recipe, so if the recipients like what you made, they can make it themselves. And the reusable container encourages people to shop in the bulk section of the grocery store, which reduces waste compared to pre-packaged food. Ideas include homemade organic almond butter (use only almonds and almond oil, and a little salt) or nut-free granola. This recipe for nut-free granola is adapted from Jamie Oliver's cookbook (he includes nuts and coconut flakes):


  • 2 cups organic thick-cut rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

Optional: ¼ cup mixed seeds (sesame, poppy)

Optional: nuts like raw cashews, almonds

  • 1 ½ cups dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Put all dried ingredients except the dried fruit in a big bowl
  3. Mix in the olive oil and maple syrup
  4. Stir well and smooth onto a baking pan. Set the timer for 20 minutes.  Every 5 minutes or so, stir the granola with a wooden.  Remove from the oven when golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Mix in dried fruit.

Your home will smell really good when you cook this. Serve with yogurt – yummy! Keeps for a week or two in an airtight container. 

Give the Gift of Yourself

Are you really good at something, like organizing closets, cooking pancakes, or taking care of plants? Give a gift certificate for your services. It’s another way of showing your love, and it only costs you time, not money. 

Give Money to a Good Cause in Honor of Someone

Ideas for organizations that are working to improve our planet’s (and our) health include:

iMatter Youth Organization
iMatter Youth Organization

iMatter Youth Organization

iMatter was started by thirteen-year-old Alec Loorz back in 2007 (under the name Kids vs Global Warming) to help combat climate change. It has grown over the years to an extremely effective youth-led movement that is the living, breathing definition of climate action. Youth groups are forming all over North America, from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Minnetonka, Minnesota to Ventura, California. They work with cities and give them climate report cards, holding them accountable to make sure they step up, produce a climate action plan, and work for the benefit of our future. It’s a simple message and a powerful delivery.  

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees program
The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees program

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees program

This amazing program has an audacious goal of planning one billion trees in the United States, Brazil, and China by 2025. Their website says they are up to 81 billion. Why is this important? They are helping reverse the devastating deforestation our Earth has been experiencing. Forests sequester (store) carbon, filter the air and are home to many species. In a nutshell, forests support people and nature.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)
The Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)

EWG works to eliminate toxins from everyday products. (They normally offer a great Holiday Gift Pack with donations, but supplies run out quickly!)

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

RMI has been at the forefront of our transformation to a clean energy economy since its founding by Amory and Hunter Lovins back the 1970s. Their insights are often central to public policy decisions when it comes to transportation, buildings, electricity, and other areas of innovation.

Trust for Public Land
Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land is a lesser-known organization doing the work behind the scenes to create parks and protect land for people. Their goal is to have every person lives within a 10-minute walk (or less) from a park; in other words, “ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.”

Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market

Give a Gift Certificate to Natural and Organic Grocery Store

Like local co-ops, or Whole Foods. Supporting organic foods is a great way to support the planet and increase the demand for pesticide-free agriculture. And everyone needs groceries!


Give Anything from Patagonia

Patagonia has comfortable and useful sweaters, jackets, fleece, hats, mittens—any type of gear to help you enjoy the great outdoors. The company Patagonia is the real deal: they are giving back $10 million in tax cuts to grassroots environmental organizations. Check out their recent announcement in Fast Company on how they changed their mission to one simple goal: “Patagonia is in business to save the planet.” Now, how awesome is that?

They also sell the GUPPYFRIEND™ Washing Bag. This little bag “protects synthetic garments and reduces the number of microfibers that may enter rivers and oceans from washing. After washing garments in GUPPYFRIEND, remove the microfibers from the bag and throw them away in the trash.” Who knew that washing synthetic clothing could result in polluting our waters? Patagonia does, and they know how to prevent it!

Give the Gift of Knowledge

Books are always a hit; they can be wrapped in a reusable bag, or you can give an audio or electronic copy. For someone interested in sustainability, here are some favorites: 

  • Prescriptions for a Healthy House, by Paula Baker-LaPorte. One of the earlier books written on this topic, this is now in its third edition and is chock full of interesting information, focused more on home construction.
  • Homes that Heal (and those that don’t): How Your Home Could be Harming Your Family’s Health, by Athena Thompson. This book focuses less on new home construction and more on home maintenance. The title sounds daunting, but we all do so much to try to keep healthy minds and bodies. Our homes need to be healthy too!
  • Building a Sustainable Home, by Melissa Rappaport Schifman (full disclosure: recently published, this was written by our Editor! ☺) For anyone who is thinking about building or renovating a home, this is an indispensable guidebook book that will help prioritize decisions and cut through the clutter of the overwhelming number of “green” choices. Here, Rappaport Schifman shares her story of LEED Gold certifying her own home, includes bottom-line costs and benefits, and incorporates her perspective on what “sustainability” really means for our collective health, wealth, and soul.
  • Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. Okay, this is a little broader than homes, but it is a must-read. The book rank orders 100 solutions to global warming that are achievable and feasible and cost-effective today. Each solution is like its own magazine article, so it is digestible. Its optimistic outlook can restore hope in what can seem like a lost cause. This should be required reading for every human. 

Bottom Line

We don’t want to put a damper on gift-giving time, and we don’t believe that thinking about sustainability means you have to sacrifice comfort, convenience, or even the joy of gift-giving. We just think we humans can do a little better. Keeping sustainability on your radar means we all benefit—whether it’s saving resources, saving money, being healthier. And bringing awareness to your friends and family can make gift-giving time even more rewarding. 

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-08-06T16:12:45+0000

Article by:

Melissa Rappaport Schifman