Sustainable Gift Giving: Focusing on What Matters Most This Holiday Season

The month of November has been a tragic one, which has colored our state of mind leading into this holiday season. During times like these we are presented with the opportunity to reevaluate what is most important in our lives, and to discover what truly matters for each of us.

According to the Grant Study, an ongoing research study conducted over the past 80 years by Harvard University, our relationships are the biggest influencing factor on both our happiness and health throughout our lives.

This holiday season think about the ways in which you can strengthen your relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. All the stuff we buy, give and receive during the holidays takes an enormous toll on the environment, including increased resource extraction, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation, and especially increased waste. Think about all that excess packaging, boxes, wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbon, cards, and tape.

This year consider gifting experiences instead of things. Providing experiences that are meaningful to your loved ones will create memories that last a lifetime. Better yet, giving the gift of an experience that you can enjoy together can deepen your relationship and create shared memories for years to come. Here are some suggestions to get you started, but the possibilities are endless.

Workshops and classes—Music lessons, Foreign language course, Writing workshop, Script writing class (, Cooking class, Surf lessons, UCLA extension class, Backyard beekeeping workshop, Improv class, Native plant workshop (theodore-payne-foundation-6606817237), Sewing class.

UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) offers an introduction to mindfulness and free guided meditations that you can stream or download. There are also six-week online courses ($165-$200, free to UCLA students) Mindfulness Awareness Practices (MAPs) for Daily Living (

Memberships—Museums; national or state parks; gym, yoga, meditation, Pilates, spinning, spa; Co+opportunity Market & Deli, Santa Monica (; The Arboretum (; Every Kid in a Park for fourth graders (

Short excursions—Nature hikes, Winery tours, Day and weekend trips, Camping or Glamping, Farm stays (, Outdoor expeditions like outward bound ( or NOLS (, Visit a wolf rescue (, Electric bike tour, Food tour of LA, Horseback riding, Esalen stay (

Tickets—Concerts, Movies, Sports, Orchestra, Theatre, Musicals, Opera

Wellness—Massages, Day spa, Meditation retreat (, Reiki session (, Sound bath, Yoga therapy (, Tarot card reading, Forest bathing (

Give your time—Lend your help or expertise, help someone organize their closet or garage, make someone dinner, bring a new mother a whole week of freezer meals

Certification courses—UC Master Gardener or Victory Gardener, UC California Naturalist, UC Master Food Preserver program, City of Burbank Master Recycler Program

Project 333—Capsule wardrobe online micro-courses on “Dressing for Less.”

Herbal Academy (—Online study programs for a glimpse into the world of herbs.

Permaculture for Families—Spiral Garden Seedlings is an immersive online program to learn about permaculture, its 12 principles and three ethics through family-centered workshops.

Private sessions and consultations—Personal organizer, Life coach, Business coach, Sustainable living consult, Wardrobe stylist consult, Meditation guidance, Family photo session, Energy clearing, Feminine rising authentic love program.

Kids—Indoor climbing, Children’s museum, Summer camp, Art classes, Swim classes, Boat ride, Maker camp, Wildlife rescue, Tinkergarten, Rock N’Roll Camp for girls, Mindfulness retreat for teens, Ice skating

Volunteer—Make a date to volunteer for a cause that’s important to your recipient: join a tree planting event at TreePeople, Attend a beach cleanup, or check out VolunteerMatch for many other options

Becoming conscious of what we give and how we consume is the first step to reducing our environmental impact and this holiday season is the perfect time to make the shift. Let’s take this opportunity to realign ourselves with what truly matters in our lives, the lives of our loved ones, and with the planet.


Simone Paz is a sustainable living and zero waste event consultant in Los Angeles, CA. She works with individuals, businesses and communities to reduce their negative impact on the environment and align their lifestyles with their personal and environmental values. She is an accredited LEED Green Associate through the U.S. Green Building Council, a Climate Reality Leader, a Global Green Eco-Ambassador, and has a California State certification in Recycling and Resource Management. For more information:;


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