Posted by: coachingparents | December 9, 2009

5 Eco-Friendly Holiday Gifts to Give, Life Lessons Included

By Dr. Caron Goode

For many parents, even the thought of holiday shopping is enough to make their blood pressure quickly rise.

In addition to the financial pressures that come along with purchasing gifts for what seems to be a growing number of people each year, parents often feel pressure to buy bigger and better gifts and to be sure that those gifts don’t leave their children with the slightest hint of disappointment come Christmas morn.  

Unfortunately for many parents, it’s often them who feel the bittersweet disappointment as they watch their children “ooh and ahh” with excitement over a freshly opened gift, only to see it get lost in the stack of others, never to resurface or capture their child’s attention again.

By the end of the holiday season the realization slowly sets in. A lot of money was spent for the moment and the children received too much to truly enjoy anything.  Parents across the country vow not to make the same mistake the following year, but once the holiday music begins to play, the pressures settle in and last year’s vows are long forgotten.

In an economy where everyone is trying to keep their purse strings pulled tight, parents have a real opportunity to approach their holiday giving a little differently each year.

It’s no secret that we live in a culture of abundance and of immediate gratification.   It’s also no secret that our abundance and our need to have things “here and now” takes a toll on the people, places and things around us. 

The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to teach children how our gift giving practices affect our environment. It opens the door to talk about waste, excess and the difference between wants and needs. It also gives us the opportunity to teach children that a new item purchased from a store isn’t the only kind of gift worth giving.

As you prepare your holiday shopping list for family and friends, talk about these things and consider what creative environmentally gifts you can give to those on your list.

Here’s are 5 eco-friendly holiday gift ideas to get your started.

Homemade Skin Care Products. Everyone can use a little pampering around the holiday season! Luxury skin care products are something that many people have a hard time buying, but an easy time receiving and enjoying.

To make a simple all purpose scrub, combine Sea Salt with Aloe Vera gel.  If desired, add your favorite scent of essential oil to the mixture. Package in a cleaned jelly jar or other glass container you have set aside for recycling. Affix a handmade label with instructions stating “Gently rub onto skin to exfoliate.  Let sit for one minute. Rinse well.”  Punch a hole in the label and fasten around the collar of the jar using a ribbon. 

Handmade Gifts. From baking to drawing to knitting, most anyone can create a homemade gift. Perhaps you have a knack for knitting. Take the time to pass down the art and knit socks or hats with your older child to give as gifts. If you are looking for the perfect gift for an elderly family member, consider recording yourself reading a book on tape.  Maybe a recording of your children singing Christmas carols or an art project made entirely by them would be a heartfelt gift that would really brighten someone’s day.  Giving homemade gifts provides you with an opportunity to show your children that there’s more to a gift than a price tag. It’s often homemade gifts that are remembered forever.

Eco-friendly Purchases.  If you’re dying to buy something new for a family member, consider making an eco-friendly purchase. From purchasing clothing and linens made of environmentally friendly Bamboo fibers (which also have anti-bacterial properties) to purchasing gift baskets made from organically grown local produce, shop with your children and teach them how to evaluate their purchasing choices.

Gift Certificates for Services. Do you know someone that needs a hand raking leaves in the fall? Or a maid for a day before an upcoming party they’re hosting? Perhaps a babysitter so a favorite couple can have a night out on the town? Does your child always ask you to make a favorite special treat? Consider giving a gift certificate that entitles the bearer to something they value, need or long for.  In addition to teaching children that sometimes “it’s worth the wait” you’ll reinforce that when it comes to gift giving, it really is the thought that counts.

Donations to Charities.  When shopping for the person who seems to have everything, consider giving a donation to a charity in their name. There are all types of reputable charities out there and chances are, you can find one that the person you’re shopping for would greatly appreciate it. Websites like can help you search for the right charity and evaluate the ones you are interested in giving to for financial integrity.

For families who gather together for an annual holiday party and traditionally give a gift to everyone present, a Yankee Swap can be a great way to incorporate affordable and eco-friendly gift giving. Last year, one family I know had a used paperback theme and everyone brought a book they had recently read and enjoyed.  

Once you’ve decided on the perfect gift, don’t stop there. Use the three R’s, renew, reuse and recycle when considering how you’ll package your holiday gifts. Consider using one of these eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas:

•     Cut open paper bags and decorate them using paint, crayons, stamps and stickers. Have a family fun night decorating wrapping paper for all of your holiday gifts.

•     Use old magazines, maps and calendars as creative gift wrap.

•     Gather up any unused fabric you have lying around the house and use it to dress up your gifts.  Place the gift in the center of the fabric, pull up the sides, and fasten with an elastic or ribbon.

As you enjoy preparing for this holiday season evaluate your gift giving styles and see if there’s room a change. Opportunity is knocking and if you open the door, you (and your pocketbook) won’t be sorry!

Dr. Caron Goode is a well-respected leader in the parent coaching industry as the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International ( that trains students in the empowerment model of parent coaching, Dr. Goode has shared her holistic approach to achieving parenting success and managing family relationships in magazines, newspapers and radio. Her most recent books include The Art and Science of Coaching Parents and award-winning Raising Intuitive Children. (


  1. Attention all super mommies: listen up. I know how busy you are, I really do. I know that getting involved in politics may seem like about as much fun as wiping down the highchair (again) or folding the laundry (again). I know that you’re tired. At the end of a long day, your idea of winding down probably has less to do with Canada’s position on climate change than it does with reruns of So You Think You Can Dance (it’s okay to admit it). But I also know how much you love your kids. And this is important.

    This week, Stephen Harper will be meeting with world leaders at the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen. So far, Canada’s role at these international talks has been shameful, to be blunt. Like the bully in school who never learns how to play fair, Canada has been using it’s power to dodge responsibility for our impact on the natural systems that make life possible. Seems a little shortsighted.

    So what does this have to do with you? Well, let me ask you this: do you leave it to your kids to make contributions to their education fund? Do they take themselves to the doctor for check-ups? As mothers, we do everything we can to set our children up for success. Calling the prime minster today is one of those things. Can you imagine a future where children march in the streets for the right to a safe environment? I don’t want to.

    I found out that calling the prime minister actually takes as much time as wiping down the highchair or folding the laundry. Even better: I felt so much relief from knowing that my action could protect my children’s future that I had the best sleep of my life.

    Sincerely, Randi Kruse

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