During the busy holiday season, filled with Christmas’s enchanting magic, and New Year’s joyful celebrations, it’s easy for us to overlook the environmental cost of our celebrations.

In Malaysia, a rapidly growing population, now numbering 32.8 million, is paralleled by an escalating solid waste crisis. In 2021 alone, the country grappled with a daily deluge of 38,427 metric tonnes of waste. A significant portion of this ends up in landfills, creating a distressing scenario. To put it into perspective, the amount of waste accumulated annually could fill iconic structures like the Petronas Twin Towers in just a few days.

In light of this, the festive season presents us with a unique opportunity: to reimagine our celebrations with a sustainable lens. Let’s embrace this season as a time to be more environmentally conscious, integrating sustainability into our holiday traditions. Here are seven  Ways to Give Climate-Friendly Gifts 

1. Gifting Locally Sourced Food and Beverage

Sustainable food and beverage gifts are an excellent way to show you care about both the recipient and the environment. Gifting a basket filled with organic and locally sourced produce, showing freshness and responsibility towards local farming communities. These can be presented in upcycled or recycled gift baskets, adding a personal touch while supporting 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Refill) initiatives.

2. Giving gifts that support a more conscious lifestyle

Eco-conscious home and living gifts are not only practical but also encourage a more sustainable way of living. Reusable shopping bags and tote bags are perfect for the environmentally aware, helping to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainability with each use. For those who love a clean and green home, natural and organic cleaning products are a thoughtful choice, free from harsh chemicals and kinder to our planet. 

3. Reimagining and rethinking gift wrapping

Instead of traditional wrapping paper, consider using reusable materials like fabric like scarves, which can be repurposed and are small bonus gifts in themselves.Paper bags and boxes also have a charm and can be decorated with your own personal touch (think doodles or painting). You can be creative by making your own gift tags using recycled paper or natural materials like leaves. This approach is not just creative, but it also significantly cuts down on the waste typically associated with gift-giving. Additionally, consider being an ethical shopper by reducing online shopping from platforms like Lazada and Shopee, known for their reliance on single-use plastic packaging. By avoiding such platforms, you’re actively reducing the demand for unnecessary plastic and wrapping materials.

MAKE SMTHNG Week Event in Bangkok. © Wason Wanichakorn / Greenpeace
Food wrapped in a reusable bee wax wrap, made by participants during a workshop organised by Greenpeace Thailand at the MAKE SMTHNG Week event. The event aims to encourage people to buy less, live a plastic-free lifestyle and value what they already have by repairing, upcycling and transforming old stuff in order to reduce excess consumption. © Wason Wanichakorn / Greenpeace

4. Sharing experiences over material possessions

Consider the gift of learning with tickets to eco-focused workshops and classes. These experiences not only provide your loved ones with new skills or knowledge but also encourage sustainable practices in their daily lives. For adventure enthusiasts, nothing beats the gift of an outdoor experience, like a hiking or camping trip. These adventures in nature provide a refreshing break from chaotic daily life and allow your loved ones to connect with the environment in a meaningful way.

Tree Planting Activity in Chiang Dao, Thailand. © Chanklang  Kanthong / Greenpeace
Participants join tree planting activity at Doi Na Tham in Chiang Mai province. Greenpeace Southeast Asia organises tree planting activity at Chiang Dao at Chiang dao Youth camp in Chiang Mai province to restore Chiang Dao forest which has been damaged by forest fires causing smog in the north of Thailand. © Chanklang Kanthong / Greenpeace

5. Bringing a piece of nature into someone’s home by gifting plants

Plant-based gifts offer benefits that extend beyond mere aesthetics. These gifts contribute significantly to creating a healthier living environment. Air-purifying plants, for instance, are not just beautiful; they actively cleanse the air, reducing pollutants and improving air quality. Plants can transform living spaces, adding a green and vitality that enhances the overall ambiance. For those who consider themselves the opposite of having a “green thumb,” often humorously referred to as having “numb thumbs,” or for anyone who tends to lose track of the days, cacti and succulents are ideal gifts. With their diverse shapes and low-maintenance nature, these resilient plants require minimal care, making them perfect for individuals who appreciate the beauty of greenery without the constant upkeep.

International Day of Forests in Jakarta. © Jurnasyanto Sukarno / Greenpeace

While plants play a vital role in air purification, they cannot single-handedly combat the severe air pollution during haze season. The implementation of effective measures such as transboundary haze acts is crucial to address this pressing environmental issue.

6. Hosting your own gift-giving event

Hosting a social gathering centered around climate-friendly gift-giving is a fantastic way to spread awareness and appreciation for sustainable practices. Imagine an event where friends, family, community members or colleagues come together to exchange gifts that are kind to the environment. Such a gathering could take the form of a climate-friendly gift exchange, where each person brings a gift that is either made from sustainable materials, supports green initiatives, or even swaps pre-loved clothes or items.

Make Something Week in Hong Kong. © Patrick Cho / Greenpeace
Clothes swap pop-up during the Make Smthng Week event in Hong Kong.

7. Donating to environmental causes

Giving to a charity in your loved one’s name can be very fulfilling, especially when the cause of the charity is what they are passionate about. An idea is to donate to an environmental charity in their name. This kind of gift shows you respect their interest in protecting the environment and helping the planet too. You could support different causes like fighting climate change, wildlife protection, or combating plastic pollution.

Fundraising Team in Manila. © Geric Cruz / Greenpeace

In wrapping up this gift guide (no pun intended), as we embrace the spirit of giving during the holiday season, it’s essential to remember the impact our choices have on the environment. Climate-friendly gift-giving isn’t just a trend; it’s a meaningful way to contribute to a healthier planet. Let’s make this holiday season a time for conscious choices, where every gift we give also gives back to the Earth. Your thoughtful selections can make a significant difference in promoting a greener, more sustainable future for all.