Cut Back on Holiday Gifting Stress – 5 Es of Sustainable Gift Giving

The holiday season is officially upon us with Thanksgiving quickly passing and Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa just around the corner!

This time of year can bring so much joy, from seeing friends and family to getting a break from school work it is a much needed relaxation vacation in the middle of the academic year. Unfortunately, this time of year also brings about stress and waste.

From wrapping paper, shopping bags and cards to food waste and unnecessary gifts – a lot gets thrown away this time of year. Research shows that on average Americans throw away 25%-43% more trash during the holiday season (from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day) than any other time of year. This combined with the stress of needing to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, can counteract all the good vibes we just mentioned above.

To practice some financial and environmental wellness this season, practice the 5 Es of sustainable gift giving:

  • Embrace Local Shopping
    • While purchasing gifts online is convenient, shipping costs contribute to waste this time of year. The longer the trip, the more of an impact. Contribute to your community and shop the old-fashioned way – in a store preferably a locally owned one. And don’t forget your reusable shopping bags!
  • E-Gift Cards
    • Gift card giving gets a bad rep but why not give someone the gift of buying something they really want for themselves. Keep in mind, plastic gift cards contribute to a significant amount of waste in this country. If you choose to go to gift card route, opt for a paper or digital gift card to cut back on waste.
  • Experiences
    • We all have that person on our shopping list who has EVERYTHING. Instead of buying an item just because, choose to gift them an experience instead. There are so many fun and unique experiences to take part in but also thinking practically works too. Options – cooking classes, museum tickets, concerts, spa treatments, summer pool passes, the list goes on!
  • Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper
    • Wrapping paper is a large contributor to the waste generated over the holidays. Skip the wrap and instead opt to package gifts in reusable bags, cloth wrapping ‘paper,’ tote bags, or mason jars. If you plan your gift right, you can even make the wrap part of the experience! Example – wrapping a book in a scarf.

*If you are at a party with lots of wrapping paper and bags, be sure to gather what can be recycled and save gift bags for next year!

  • Evaluate Gift List
    • An easy way to save is by skipping individual gifts and convince your group to host a ‘White Elephant’ or ‘Secret Santa’ instead. This gives everyone the opportunity to by 1 gift instead of 7 (or more), saving everyone a little extra cash and cutting back on unnecessary gift giving. If your group is not open to the gifting games, create a list of who you are shopping for and how much you plan on spending. Create budget off of this list to keep your spending under control.

Don’t let the financial and environmental stressors of gifting ruin your holiday season. Remembering this time of year is about so much more than gifts. It is spending time with those we love and being grateful for what and who we do have in our lives.



Prevent Waste During the Holidays | SCDHEC

Holiday Waste Prevention: How Much a Typical Person Generates – Brightly

A Guide to Sustainable Gift-Giving – Life with Less (


-Jordan Helcbergier (she/her), Wellness Coordinator