The holiday season can be a stressful time. There are gifts to buy, meals to make, houses to decorate, and places in which to travel. Being kind to our planet might be the last thing on your mind, but now is the exact right time to do so. 

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, household waste increases by more than 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, thanks in large part to excessive holiday meals, packaging, and gift wrap from all those new purchases, and throwing out the old items that the new ones replaced. It doesn’t have to be that way, though!

With a little bit of thought and planning, you can enjoy the holiday season while giving a gift to the environment. Here are just a few suggestions…

  • Shop locally and in person. This will cut down on miles traveled and cardboard boxes used while supporting the local economy and in particular, small, independent businesses.


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  • Be creative with your gift wrapping. Old maps make great wrapping paper or consider wrapping an item in a reusable bag or fabric.
  • Purchase experiences rather than things. So much of what is bought is rarely used, then forgotten about or discarded. Consider creating a gift certificate for a hike and picnic or a gift card for camping at state parks.
  • Be very selective about what you do buy. Consider items that are made of recycled materials, with a low carbon footprint, are zero waste, and/or are upcycled in nature. The festivals hosted by Friends Groups offer locally crafted goods that make perfect gifts!
  • Donate to a worthwhile charity in the person’s name. Nonprofits like the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) rely on individual donations to fulfill their mission. The gift-getter feels good about helping a worthy cause and you get a tax write-off.
  • Consider a Living Gift through PPFF or other charities of your choice


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Showing your loved ones that you care about them this holiday season doesn’t have to involve lavish five-course meals and spending hundreds to thousands of dollars. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that spending time with those closest to us (whether in person or virtually) cannot be underestimated.

Your presence can be your present, but if you choose to give, give wisely and sustainably.

To find out more about living gifts and other ways to support stewardship of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests click here:

By Jessica Aiello, PA Parks & Forests Foundation

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Holiday Gift Giving for People and the Planet