Feeling Frazzled? Sustainable Suggestions for Last Minute Holiday Gifts

To state the obvious, the holidays are upon us, once again, like it or not. Are you desperate for last-minute ideas or feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of buying gifts for family members and friends?  Want to give more meaningful gifts, or reduce your spending, or generally simplify the holidays? The Center for a New American Dream is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Americans conserve natural resources, reduce consumption, and promote social justice. Here are a few last-minute suggestions from their “Simplify the Holidays” brochure: 

  • Give homemade gifts:  re-gift something you don’t use; give a book you enjoyed to someone with similar tastes; collect favorite family recipes; make salsa, jam, or baked goods; record an interview with an elderly relative

  • Give a gift of time:  give coupons for doing a household chore like taking out the garbage for a month, baby-sitting or dog-walking, a massage, picnic or candlelight dinner, balloon ride or other fun outing

  • Give the gift of experience:  offer to teach someone something you are good at, such as photography, knitting, canning, doing the butterfly stroke, gardening, playing the guitar; give a membership to a museum

  • Gifts to charity:  give a designated amount of money to a charity that a child designates; donate to a cause in the name of a friend or relative; support a homeless center or refugee family; volunteer in your community

You could also give the gift of a year's registration to participate in the Municipality of Princeton 's Curbside Organic Waste Program or offer to share one with a neighbor. 


The Center for a New American Dream also has suggestions for wrapping gifts with comics, old maps, fabric, or last year’s wrapping paper; using beads or scarves instead of purchased ribbons; re-using gift boxes, repurposing cereal boxes, or finding boxes at the liquor store.

For lots of other ideas, as well as for creating new traditions for next year’s holiday season, read or get a free download of the center’s “Simplify the Holidays".  And here are more suggestions from the SoKind Registry.

Many thanks to our volunteer Betsy Garber for contributing to this post.