Gifts for Your Mother (Earth, that is)

As with most mothers, it’s the simple things, the heart-felt things that matter most to the Earth. Practicing simple habits throughout the season can make a big difference. 


Before purchasing a gift or other item for the holiday, do a quick mental checklist. Does the item have:

  • Low mileage? (Is the backstory like a retelling of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?) Opt for locally-made and regionally-made products. You will significantly reduce the transportation pollution connected to your gift and you will boost the local economy.
  • Minimal/ No packaging? Almost one third of municipal waste in the U.S. is discarded packaging, according to the EPA. Paper or cardboard packaging is more easily recycled than plastic
  • Natural content? From cradle (production) to grave (disposal), plastic and other petroleum-based materials (such as polyester fleece) wreak havoc on the environment and the health of the people who live near the facilities. A gift made of natural materials is also the least toxic option for the recipient.

Tip: Give home-made gifts, an experience such as tickets to a play, museum, or movie, an activity such as ice skating, or a service such as a massage for a 100% score on your checklist.


  • Opt for LEDs when updating and adding to your holiday light collection. They use 70% less energy than traditional bulbs. Use a timer to control when the lights are on.
  • Wrap your home! No, not with yards of gift paper and bows! Install storm doors & windows. Cover windows with plastic if you don’t have storm windows. Block drafts under doors.
  • Ask Santa to install a programmable thermostat for an estimated 10% cut in energy costs and use.


Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. Non-material gifts win in this category as well. (Like most moms, I’m sure Mother Earth approves of a little healthy competition!) Experiences or services don’t need to be wrapped. Neither do football fields. We would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials. Ways to reuse materials:

  • Reuse gift bags.
  • Repurpose old t-shirts, maps, sheet music, newspaper comics, scarves, fabric, handkerchiefs instead of using new wrapping paper.
  • Turn cereal boxes inside out and decorate them.
  • Use reusable tins or decorative storage boxes.
  • Save used gift wrappings for the next holiday. Recycle any wrappings that can’t be reused.
  • Close the loop: Buy gifts made from recycled content.

Food Waste

About 40% of the food grown in the country is wasted, according to Forgotten Harvest, a food rescue organization in Southeast Michigan. One way to make a difference, they say, is to adjust your expectation of cosmetic beauty and buy “ugly” produce. Oddly-shaped produce often sits on the shelf and becomes waste before it is even sold. More ideas:

  • Make a pointed grocery list and stick to it. Don’t buy or make more than you need.
  • Have reusable containers handy for leftovers for you and others. Look up new recipes for leftovers.
  • Compost any food waste in a backyard pile or a vermiculture (worm!) bin.


Keep it real whenever you can. Whether it’s a tree, a wreath, a swag, or table centerpiece, real greenery is healthier for you and the planet. Artificial trees and decorations are made of PVC plastic and cannot be recycled. They can also have lead, phthalates and other toxic chemicals. Experts recommend that parents don’t let children play under artificial trees. Real trees, on the other hand, are renewable, recyclable, and produce oxygen. Farmers plant one to three seedlings for every tree cut.

Opt for natural garlands as well, instead of beaded garlands. HealthyStuff research has found beaded garlands (that look like long strands of Mardi Gras beads) to contain a multitude of toxic contaminants, such as lead and high levels of hazardous flame-retardants.

Consider these ideas the ultimate handmade card to Mother Earth: they are not hard, they just take a little extra time, consideration, and love. 

Published on December 14, 2016