“True giving from the heart is an expression of love.” Cara Stein
With the holiday season in full swing, it can be difficult to navigate gifting in a way that celebrates loved ones while upholding our environmental and ethical values. Choosing gifts that are thoughtful, sustainable, and responsibly-made can be tough, but we’ve got a gift list to help you find things you love for those you love.
We reached out to members of The Optimist Daily team from around the world to chat about the gifts and experiences they’re giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Here are some of their best recommendations.
For the seeker
Aspire Higher: How to Find the Love, Positivity, and Purpose to Elevate Your Life and The World!
Aspire Higher is the sixth book from career coach and Positive Life Choice Psychology Founder Ken Lindner. Written amidst a global pandemic, racial injustice, political division, and a rapidly changing climate, Aspire Higher challenges us to achieve our highest values and exude ‘Altruistic Love’ not only for our own benefit, but also to help elevate those around us and the world with a newfound sense of shared consciousness.
Firefighter Zen: a Field Guide to Thriving in Tough Times
Firefighter Zen is a gem of a book that’s both personal reflection and useful wisdom and one that sparks the heart of being present. When the world feels uncertain, finding one’s center and acting from there is how we get through the tough times and find post traumatic growth.
Where Should We Begin?
Created by Esther Perel, this card game is perfect for a first date, dinner party, or catching up with an old friend. With creative conversation prompts, the game will get you talking, laughing, and most importantly, connecting.
The gift of Optimism
Want to give a gift that keeps on giving? Get your loved one an Optimist Daily Emissary subscription and let them enjoy the year-round joy of optimism.
For the creative
A houseplant with a thrifted pot
Find a local nursery and artisan to put together a personal plant gift.
How to Write One Song: Loving the things we create and how they love us back
Jeff Tweedy’s latest book, How to Write One Song is a lovely and inspiring book about creativity─Yes it focuses on lyrical and musical expression, but it’s really about building a practice and getting out of our own way in tapping into our inner artist.
Ceramic painting pack
The gift of an arts and craft project is a great one for all ages. Winter weather keeps us inside more and than ever, so why not give your loved ones brain something creative to do. Local pottery studios commonly have at-home packs of premade mugs. Your job is to paint them with a beautiful design and bring them back to the studio. You can also check out online options like this one from The Pottery Piazza.
If you’re looking for someone who values experiences more than material things, then check to see if their city or
town offers museum passes! In the Netherlands, you can order a museum pass or “museumkaart” online, which gives you access to more than 400 Dutch museums for an entire year.
Kristy’s twist: “I gave my best friend, who has a 3-year-old, an annual family pass to the local zoo. She has a great place to drop in, and we can meet there for a quick lunch (outdoors so it’s covid safe), and her little one can feed the giraffes after he finishes his PB&J.”
For the busy parent or professional
Bento Box & Stasher Bags
Bento boxes are Japanese food storage containers. These boxes from EcoLunchbox are stainless steel, leak-proof, and easy to clean. For the ZipLock bag lover, consider Stasher Bags. These eco-friendly plastic bag alternatives are reliable, durable, and come in a variety of fun colors that kids (and adults!) will love.
Seaflex dog toy from West Paw
These dog toys are made from a combination of reclaimed and recycled ocean-bound plastic and zero-waste Zogoflex material. They’re the perfect durable gift for the eco-conscious dog lover in your life.
Solutions board game
Created by Canadian board game publisher Big Talk Inc, Solutions is a collaborative game that urges players to think critically about climate solutions in a warming world. Players face challenges and must propose real-world solutions to keep warming under 1.5℃. You can find it here.
For the foodie
Picnic basket starter kit
Thrift a basket from a local used goods store and fill it with local snacks and beverages. Bonus points if you can find a vintage tea set or locally-made picnic blanket to include.
Imperfect Foods subscription
Imperfect Foods sources foods with cosmetic quirks, irregular sizes, or are just surplus to include in their weekly subscription box. Subscribers can choose from a variety of produce, meats, and grains for a customizable experience. They also have plant-based options and homegoods add ons.
Waste conscious dish soap
Blueland soap is a tried and true favorite of Optimist Daily editor Amelia is the perfect gift for the waste-conscious friend in your life. Blueland’s zero-waste system includes a refillable dish powder container and affordable refills which come in fully-compostable paper packets. The powdered soap is easy to use and just as powerful as liquid versions.
Cleancult is another great brand which offers all your household essentials in refillable glass containers. Available online and at CVS, it makes the perfect gift for the newly-independent college student. Plus, their products are all biodegradable!
A coffee subscription
With coffee being the most popular drink worldwide, chances are quite high that your gift recipient appreciates a good cup of joe in the morning. Now, if that’s the case, you really can’t go wrong by gifting them a coffee subscription from a high-end roaster. Just make sure the coffee beans are sustainably sourced and fair trade.
For the apartment dweller (or for the aspiring gardener without good sunlight)
Countertop grow kit
For year round herbs, tomatoes, lettuce and more without the carbon footprint of shipping from a different hemisphere, a hydroponic growing system like affordable starter kits from Aerogarden or Idoo, or the somewhat more elaborate, and pricier Gardyn.
Countertop compost bin
Again on the theme of sustainable living, a little composting bin can go a long way in making it easy for anyone to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill. If you have more cash to spare, this countertop composting device can make for a really nice gift for anyone who loves a healthy kitchen.
For someone in need of pampering
Lo Care beauty products
For the beauty lover in my life, Lo Care beauty products are my go-to gift. Based in Amsterdam, Lo Care’s products are made with clean, natural ingredients that are good for your skin and the environment. Their timeless essentials are inclusive and compliment a wide range of skin tones, and on top of that, Lo Care rejects adding to the single-use plastic waste that permeates the beauty industry. Instead, Lo Care prioritizes sustainable, durable, and refillable packaging.
Zen gift certificate
Marketing pro and yoga guru Karissa recommends giving the gift of calm with a voucher to a local yoga studio. It’s zero waste, supports local business, and lets your loved one enjoy an activity they might not otherwise treat themselves to.
Lush Cup O’ Coffee scrub
Great for the body and face, this delicious smelling scrub will keep your skin baby soft, even in the harsh winter months. Plus, Lush sources 100 percent post-consumer recycled content for all their plastics and 100 percent recycled paper.
Gifts for the activist
Bread and Roses flowers
For a gift that is beautiful and supports refugee communities, and you’re in London, check out this florist shop that encourages sustainable floristry and empowers women.
One Thread Collective
For something lovely and utilitarian that supports Indigenous communities, we recommend a new company with distribution to both USA and Australia: the excellent and ethical One Thread Collective (shown to the right at a friend’s shopping party). This company was started by Jackie Gilbert and Megan Battaglia, two ethnographic researchers specifically at the request of the Indigenous communities in La Guajira, Colombia’s second poorest region with whom they were working. One Thread Collective is about empowering the makers in this community and helping to connect them to international markets. Other great online places to look for “maker to market” brands include Ten Thousand Villages and Gifts with Humanity.
For anyone, from the heart
The simple joy of a shared book
This is a common practice for staff writer Arielle and her friends: “We love to share our favorite books but lending out our personal copies has proven disastrous. We realized that the chances of ever getting them back are slim as they make their way around the group and perhaps get lent out to other friends and family. Instead, we’ve gotten into the habit of buying new copies (preferably from your local bookstore!) complete with our own comments written next to particularly meaningful passages, which makes for an extra personalized present.”
Regifting is a great way to repurpose presents that weren’t quite “you.” Check out this guide to regifting to make the most of items someone else will cherish more than you.
Everyone loves a good holiday cookie (or the sourdough loaf you perfected under lockdown).
We hope you appreciate these ideas about how to gift in a way that feels great to both the giver and the getter. Whatever gifts you give this year, write a love letter message along with your gift infused with meaning. Let the holiday cheer reign!