Good Gifts for the Holidays

Goodlifer: Good Gifts

The holidays are all about gathering with loved ones to enjoy a bountiful meal. Many of our most cherished memories evolve around food. But, we all tend to cook too much and a lot of that delicious holiday food tends to go to waste. Over the course of a year, half (half!) of the food in the U.S. is wasted, and although much of that waste happens during transportation and retail, 14% occurs in households. Our holiday gift tips are all about how we can keep food — such a precious resource— from being wasted.

By now, everyone has (hopefully) learned to bring reusable totes when going to the grocery store. But, many still use the plastic bags for produce. I know I did for a long time, not thinking that I had a choice. Duh! These reusable ones from Etsy will make you truly plastic-free!


Islandprovisions1: Organic Cotton Produce and Bulk Goods Grocery Bag:
This one is for the hardcore environmentalist, made from USA grown and milled organic cotton fabric, the bag can hold about 8 cups of wholesome goodness, a head or two of broccoli, 5 medium sized apples or just about anything else you would normally put in a plastic bag at the grocery store. The drawstring on this bag is also from USA grown and milled organic cotton. The seams are double stitched with heavy duty cotton thread in order to keep the bag sturdy (for those heavy bulk purchases).
$7 for one bag


WindsparrowStudio: Organic Cotton Produce/Bulk Food Bag SPROUT design:
This bag is hand-printed with a design of a sprouting seed with the words “Eat, Grow, Live, Live” in non-toxic, fade proof black ink. It’s big (17″ x 13″) and will fit a lot of veggies, grains and other bulk products. It’s also cute enough to be used as a gift bag or used to store things on open shelves.
$9 for one bag


Fabrik: Reusable produce bags
These are a bit of a compromise, they are made from heavyweight nylon tulle (not organic), but the see-through material means the cashier can read the produce number, a must in some stores. The material is also very lightweight, which means it doesn’t add to the scale. The bags can easily be washed and reused, so if you get a lot of wear out of them, the nylon could be justified.
$6 for three bags (small, medium, large)


Wonderthunder: Happy Vegetable Reusable Vegetable Bags in Red
Just looking at these bags makes me happy. They are drawn and screen-printed at the designers’ home using water-based ink on preshrunk and recycled cotton muslin, and also have an organic cotton drawstring. The fun design make them a great gift for anyone on your list.
$20 for four bags (small, medium, large, herb)


Use-It-Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for the Frugal Cook
This book by Catherine Kitcho contains more than 125 recipes using ingredients that are frequently left over from other dishes and often go to waste. Each chapter focuses on a single ingredient like tomato paste, cheese, applesauce and cooked rice, to name just a few. There are recipe styles to suit every taste, including comfort foods, light and healthy alternatives, and creative gourmet combinations.

So, let’s focus on the waste created around eating. No matter how conscious we are at home, a lot of us live by different standards at work. Why? With the right tools any of us can eliminate waste created by the likes of paper plates and utensils.


To-Go Ware: Stainless Steel Food Carrier
This stainless Steel Tiffin Set is a clever lunch box system that hails from India. It is reusable, lightweight, and has a lid that doubles as a plate. It’s easy to carry and clean, and works for both cold and hot food. The tiers (there are 2-tier and 3-tier ones available) enable you to bring, say, salad and an Indian dal in one container without having to risk the two getting mixed.


ECO-TAV: Cotton and Hemp Sandwich Bag
Get rid of disposable plastic cling-wraps or ziplocs! This sandwich bag is made from an organic cotton and hemp blend, it is large enough for a sandwich of any size (and can also accommodate a croissant, a muffin, some cookies, even cut vegetables) and can be easily cleaned in the washer and dryer. It is designed and made in Canada by a belly-dancer named Tracey.
$8 for one bag


To-Go Ware: RePEaT Utensil Set
This handy bamboo utensil set comes packed in a case with a carabiner on the back, making you able to carry your eating utensils wherever you go (even restaurants). The holders are made out of RPET (recycled PET plastic), and the bamboo flatware and chopsticks are lightweight, heat and stain resistant, hand finished with top grade natural, food-safe wood oil, and won’t impart or absorb flavors.
$11.95 (includes bamboo fork, knife, spoon & chopsticks)


The average person uses 2,400 – 3,000 paper towels at work, in a given year. This may be a stretch to some, but these reusable hand towels are a great green alternative to paper towels. They are quick-drying, made of lightweight, 100% organic, fair trade cotton, and cute enough to make great gifts.
$8 for one, $21 for three or $35 for five

DIY Bonus: Make your own cloth napkins. Five minutes, no sewing!
Handmade gifts are always nice, and with a fabulous eco-friendly fabric, these will be a hit with anyone from your 22-year-old sister to 80-year-old grandma.
Free (plus cost of materials)

While we struggle not to eat too much for the holidays, many people around the world struggle to find enough food. Give the gift of hope to those most in need of it. Nobody will wish that you had bought them a reindeer sweater instead.


Pack of Seeds
Give a pack of seeds to a struggling farmer in a developing country. A unique investment in rural communities, this gift helps ensure that there are plenty for the next planting season and that traditional seed varieties are not lost. Protect endangered foods and native crops and feed the hungry. Because helping others is the true spirit of the holidays.


A school meal program for one child
What’s more important than feeding our children? It’s hard to nourish the mind if the belly’s empty. This gift ensures that children in poor communities get a nutritious meal at school. With proper fuel, there’s no stopping the potential of young minds.

Happy conscious holiday shopping! To keep the low-impact theme going, wrap your gifts as minimally as possible; I find that newspaper with a nice personalized label always does the trick. Finally, remember that re-gifting is only tacky if you give the gift back to the person who gave it to you.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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