Whether it’s Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s/Father’s Day, special occasions tend to be festive and all-out in gift-giving. The downside is that these celebrations often leave behind a pile of waste and unnecessary things.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we put a little more thought into our gifts so that they’re good for the recipients and good for the earth? The presents we give should be heartfelt, extending our gratitude towards the person and sharing the wisdom we gained during the challenging year.
This year, let’s pledge to be more conscious and intentional with our gifts by specially choosing presents that are sustainable. Sustainable gifts are those that have the least damaging impact on the planet, and they’re often beautiful and one-of-a-kind. Not just picked off a rack at a store, but chosen with much thought and love. Here are 12 sustainable gift ideas you can give to the dearest persons in your life.
1. A class or course of interest
What’s an interest that your recipient loves to dabble in? Maybe it’s painting, photography, writing, cooking, or something specialized. Look up available classes and workshops in your area or online, and sign up your loved one! This is a gift that keeps on giving, as it enriches the recipient with further skills to do what they love.
2. A zero-waste pantry-stocker or beauty essential
If you want to give a material present that you can wrap with a bow and place under the tree, choose a product that not only suits your recipient but also creates zero (or low) waste. For starters, see that the item is packaged in biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable materials. Steer clear of plastics and styro! These materials make everlasting garbage and are also linked to human health hazards. You don’t want to gift that!
If you can, opt for a product made of 100% natural ingredients. We highly recommend Made Mindful Virgin Coconut Oil for your loved one who enjoys cooking or is beauty-conscious. Our VCO is a fantastic ingredient for frying, sauteing, and baking, and is also a natural skin moisturizer and hair conditioner! Even better? It’s extracted without chemical processing and is packaged in reusable glass bottles and biodegradable boxes. Sustainable, pretty, and ready for gifting!
Related: How We make Made Mindful VCO
3. A local artwork or handcrafted item
We really wish more people knew how terrific our local products are! Be it a Ben Cabrera sketch or a buri mat woven by local homemakers, there are endless Pinoy products within our reach that are beautiful, artistic, and well-made. To name a few, you can find:
• Premium wooden bowls and kitchenware from places like Itogon Woodcarvers’ Village, Baguio
• Stylish textiles from ethical social enterprises like Anthill Fabric and Balik Batik
• Super-aesthetic handmade ceramics such as those by Masa Studio
• Cute wearables and home accessories like those crafted from pili nuts in Albay, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon
• One-of-a-kind mats and bags woven by enterprises like Tagolwanen Weavers.
As these products directly support local livelihoods, your purchase is a gift not only to your loved one but also to the artist or craftsperson who made the item. And what’s more, because you’re buying it domestically or from your own community, you are actually limiting your carbon footprint. By contrast, items shipped from overseas entail more carbon emissions during their long transport.
Check out your municipality’s “One Town, One Product” hub, which is set up by the Department of Trade and Industry to showcase products of local entrepreneurs. Or visit Christmas markets, bazaars, and small shops that sell Filipino-made handicrafts. You can also see exhibits and art shows in town to discover pieces your recipient would love.
4. A book or journal
You can never go wrong with a life-enriching book as a present. Take your time in selecting an edition that could bring more mindfulness and peace to your loved one’s life, because really, that peace and mindfulness is the real gift you’re giving. You can make it more eco-conscious by gifting a volume that you previously owned and loved, or opting for the paperless e-book or audiobook edition.
Another mindful option is a blank journal that you specially choose for your recipient. There are tons of journal types out there, from classic blank notebooks to daily inspirationals to gratitude journals. Whichever you choose, include a nice pen to make journaling more enjoyable.
5. A nature getaway
Now here’s a gift that you and your recipient can enjoy together. Take your loved one out on a trip to nature, be it the mountains, the beach, or the nearest forest reserve. Make it extra-special by packing a picnic basket that you prepare yourself. (Put your goodies in reusable containers, and remember to leave no garbage at the site.)
When you get to the location, help your loved one relax and forget their daily worries. Put your phones away. Invite your companion to sit, savor the fresh air, and have some heartfelt conversations. Try “grounding” or “earthing” together -- the therapeutic technique of walking barefoot or lying skin-to-earth on the ground. You’ll both return from this experience feeling renewed.
6. Wellness retreat
For a more profound gift of relaxation and renewal, let your loved one experience a few days of wellness, be it in the form of a meditation course, a yoga hideaway, or a spiritual retreat. Many centers, organizations, and farm resorts offer a variety of these retreats across the Philippines, and there’s bound to be one near you. You can choose a quiet meditative retreat in the mountains, or a dynamic paddleboard yoga program at oceanside locations, for example.
Opt for a program that would be enjoyable to your recipient while encouraging them to disconnect from the busy word and reconnect with their inner self.
7. Tea package from a local herbarium
Many Filipino farms now make artisanal food and beverages from their homegrown produce. Some of them have shops that you can look up online. See if you can find one that sells loose-leaf teas such as green tea, mint, blue butterfly pea, ginger, and the like. Maybe they even have Philippine flavors like pandan, lemongrass, or malunggay! Check also if they sell honey from local beekeepers -- this would be the perfect complement to the teas.
For a complete tea-drinking gift set, put together a selection of teas, a jar of honey, and a simple tea ball or tea pot. So charming!
8. An at-home photoshoot
It’s ironic that we take a gazillion photos with our phones these days, but they rarely count as meaningful memories. Most of our selfies and groufies end up in a digital photo dump somewhere, never to be opened again. This year, how about really marking the occasion with a nice photograph in an actual frame? It’s a real reminder if your recipient can put it up on their wall or side table, and glance at it every now and then.
Because this keepsake is meant to be displayed, you’ll want it to be well-made. Arrange a photoshoot at home for your family or friends! Put some effort into decorating your space, and invite everyone to look their best. If possible, hire a professional photographer to take a set of photos. You can also ask a friend with a DSLR and portrait-taking skills.
Afterwards, print your photographs in quality photo paper -- a copy for each person in the picture. Make it extra special by scribbling a note on the back specifically for each recipient. Then put the photographs in nice frames and finish with a bow.
9. A home makeover
Got an eye for interior decor? Put it to good use by doing a free room makeover for your loved one!
You don’t have to buy new stuff for this gift of service. Instead, “shop your house” for lovely things that you (or they) already own. Maybe you can swap accents between rooms, repurpose some forgotten items, or bring in a potted plant that would grow nicely indoors. Go full-service by including some cleaning, organizing, and polishing, and top everything off with a pleasant aromatherapy scent in the air.
At the end of the day, your recipient should step into a room that feels new and cozy. We wouldn’t mind receiving this gift at all!
10. Spa day with homemade scrubs
A spa retreat is a lovely gift idea for your tireless mom or for your always-busy friend. But if you’re going for something more affordable -- and more sustainable -- prepare an at-home pampering day instead!
Ask your recipient to pencil in a day for spending time with you, then turn your place (or theirs) into a relaxing, spa-like environment: soft light, soy candles, calming music, the works. Then, add the cherry on top: a collection of homemade scrubs and masks that you make with natural ingredients. Virgin coconut oil is a great base ingredient for these because it’s a natural emollient (keeping hydration in skin) while also being an antimicrobial substance.
Try these simple recipes made with VCO -- they work wonders and have a sweet scent, reminiscent of a real spa!
VCO & Honey Hair Mask -- Nourishes dry hair
2 tablespoons Made Mindful Virgin Coconut Oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg, whisked
Warm a pot or ceramic bowl. Pour VCO in it, then whisk in egg and honey. Keep mixing until mixture is even and smooth. Dip your finger to make sure that mixture is just warm but not hot.
Dampen hair with water, then work VCO mixture through strands. (If you have oily scalp, apply mixture about an inch away from scalp.) Wrap hair with shower cap for 30 minutes, then wash with your favorite shampoo.
VCO-Avocado Face Mask -- Soothes stressed, dry skin
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Made Mindful Virgin Coconut Oil
¼ cup avocado
2 drops lavender oil
Mix all ingredients and apply on your face as a mask for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
VCO & Sugar Body Scrub -- For gently exfoliating while moisturizing skin
½ cup Made Mindful Virgin Coconut Oil
1 cup brown or granulated sugar
Optional: 10 drops of your favorite essential oil
Combine all ingredients and gently rub on your body parts. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
Bonus: Using VCO as a hydrating shaving cream
You can use Made Mindful VCO as a shaving medium for pretty much any body part! Wash the area you want to shave, then massage a liberal amount of VCO on it. Shave as you normally would, but keep rinsing your razor to wash off oil buildup. After shaving, rinse skin with warm water and pat dry. Apply a new layer of VCO to seal in moisture.
11. A mindful, wonderful meal
Here’s an at-home gift idea that’s classic and delicious! How about preparing a yummy dinner for your loved one this Christmas? It can be a nice intimate dinner for two or a lively dinner party with family and friends. Whichever you choose, plan out the menu to include your recipient’s favorite dishes and desserts. And of course, cook and bake with Made Mindful VCO to make your foods more wholesome and flavorful!
If you’re looking for simple, scrumptious recipes for this special dinner, we have dozens in our Mindful Living Handbook! Just sign up to the Made Mindful newsletter to receive this weekly guide. To start you off, here are easy and delicious desserts you can make with Made Mindful VCO.
Cranberry, Nut, and Oat Bars
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup slivered or chopped almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or more cranberries
2 tbsp chia seeds, optional
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup liquid sweetener, such as agave nectar, coconut nectar, maple syrup
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
2 tbsp nut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 340 F/170 C. Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with non-stick baking paper, leaving an overhang on the sides.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the oats, nuts, cranberries, chocolate, chia, salt, and cinnamon with a spoon until incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, mix the liquid sweetener, VCO, nut butter, and vanilla until smooth.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.
5. Spread the mixture into the dish. Rub some VCO onto your hands and press the mixture well. Alternatively, place a piece of baking paper on top of the mix and press evenly.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
7. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator until completely cold before slicing into bars. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
For the filling:
4 cups mix of diced yellow mango and blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tbsp all purpose or whole wheat flour
For the cobbler dough:
1 1/3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt 5 tbsp VCO
1/2 cup nut milk (or cow’s milk), plus 2 tbsp if using whole wheat flour
For the top:
1 tbsp raw sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
2. If using frozen fruit, defrost first and drain the liquid.
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the fruit, sugar, and flour together. Place the mixture into an 8 or 9 inch round or square baking pan.
4. In the same bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together with a spoon or spatula. Make a well in the middle and add in the VCO and milk. Mix well until a smooth dough is formed.
5. Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough onto the top of the fruit or you can use your fingers to form the crumble. Sprinkle with sugar and a little VCO.
6. Bake for 45-50min until top is golden brown and juices are thickened. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
12. A handwritten letter
A good, old-fashioned letter is perhaps the most genuine gift ever. It allows you to express sentiments and thoughts you don’t usually say to your loved one in everyday life. Sometimes, we take it for granted that our loved ones know how we feel about them, but when we put those feelings into actual words -- “I love you,” “You are wonderful,” “I am so grateful for you” -- they can be incredibly powerful. Such a letter is a gift from soul to soul.
To make your letter more sincere, write it in your own handwriting. This takes time, effort, and sometimes, courage. Even more, handwritten letters are so rare these days that it makes one that much more special, like a gem that deserves safekeeping.
A note on gift-wrapping
Make your gift truly mindful by wrapping it in sustainable materials, too. Skip the polyester ribbons and the virgin-wood-pulp wrappers. Try these eco-conscious gift-wrapping ideas instead:
- Reuse nice paper bags. Top off with flowers and leaves you pick from your own yard. (P.S. If you have time ahead of Christmas, press your flowers in between heavy books. After a week or so, they’ll look so pretty and ready to be glued to your gift box!)
- Reuse a paper box and hand-paint it with your own design.
- Practice furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping things with cloth.
- Use a clean piece of newspaper. Tie it up with paper twine and finish with a gift tag you cut out from a colorful page. Or, if you have red fabric lying around, it would make a nice contrasting bow to the black-and-white newsprint.
- Wrap with magazine pages. Strategically use pages that look artful and don’t contain branding. You can even do decoupage, the art of gluing cut-out paper pieces to create a design.
Related: How to Help Our Fragile Planet
With these sustainable gift ideas, we hope you can share with your loved ones a mindful celebration -- one that gives gracious thought to gift-giving, and stays gentle and low-impact on the planet.
Want to live mindfully everyday? We’ll walk you through a simple mindfulness journey, step by easy step. Sign up for our newsletter to get our weekly Mindful Living Handbook!