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The Environmentally Conscious Holiday Gift Guide

By Andrea Schiller December 17, 2018

The holiday season is upon us. Many of us are looking forward to seeing our loved ones as well as planning for big dinners and the perfect presents. Sadly, the holiday season is one of the times when landfills receive an inordinate amount of trash. Some statistics:

  • We produce 25% more trash in the U.S. than the rest of the world during the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving
  • There are about 2.65 billion holiday cards sold each year in the US alone. These cards can fill a football field 10 stories high!
  • About 50 million Christmas trees are sold each year, and 30 million go to landfills, rather than being composted or turned into wood chips

The spirit of the holidays is in giving, joy, and gratitude. Fortunately, you can still live this spirit – sustainably – with a few tweaks to your shopping and giving.

Holiday Dinner Ideas: Potlucks, Compostable Utensils, and Healthy Recipes

Food bank workers Especially if your city doesn’t compost food scraps, consider these 3 tips to trim your food waste, as well as save money and food prep time:
1. If you are cooking for a small group, you probably don’t need a huge ham or a whole turkey.
2. If you are having a potluck, remember that there will be more food on the table than what you will be cooking!
3. For a large corporate event, consider working with a local nonprofit like Food Runners to donate food from the same day of an event.

Latkes for HanukkahIf you’re frying latkes for Hanukkah, remember not to pour oil down the drain, which can clog pipes and cause sewer problems. Instead, add the oil to your compost, or if you use olive oil, you can feed it to your dog!

Also, save any leftover menorah oil for next year – don’t throw it out.

Consider compostable utensils and other sustainable options for holiday dinners.Another waste area to watch for: disposable dinnerware, utensils, and plastic glasses.

To eliminate this, consider using compostable dinnerware. These can easily be found in grocery stores or online with World Centric, Eco Products, or Amazon.

Better Gifts: Less is More, and Cash is King

Before stressing yourself, your budget, and the environment, consider just asking friends and family what they want!

If you think that might spoil holiday surprises, here are some more sustainable holiday gift ideas:

Sustainable holiday gift ideas Use wrappings you can recycle, like fabric or reusable paper bags. You can find artsy gift-wrapping inspiration.
Hanukkah Photo credit: J. Milewski

Consider Hanukkah candles that are plant-based, paraffin free, and thus cleaner burning, like GoodLight or these.

Photo credit: J. Milewski

Giving Make donations to the charities that align with your loved ones’ interests. You can find a list of different charities as well as themed “impact funds” in Philanthropy Cloud, via United Way.

Take the time to write a letter to explain to your family member why you have chosen to donate to the cause on his or her behalf. That can be one of the best gifts someone gets!

Also, recurring donations to nonprofits are especially needed.

Cash gifts are popular Give cash gifts. According to a survey from the Japan-based online retailer Rakuten, 70% of people do not like the gifts they receive, which typically results in more trash ending up in landfills. And, teenage faces light up when they receive cash!
Secret Santa Make Secret Santa a tradition. This format helps keep unwanted gifts out of landfills, because each participant can give one other person one gift.
Solar powered toy car Choose gifts that create less trash while you use them. Avoid buying toys that require batteries to operate; choose solar powered toys instead such as a solar operated robot or solar powered car. Here are some sites that offer great environmentally friendly gift ideas for any age: Earth Easy, Toasting Good, and Uncommon Goods.

Sustainable Christmas Tree Suggestions

Holiday tree

Thanks Dylan Hansen for sharing this photo of a future sustainability enthusiast!

Christmas might not feel like Christmas without a tree. When comparing a fake tree versus a real one, which is more environmentally friendly depends on if your real tree is composted or wood chipped or not, and how long you might keep an artificial tree. If you want to really go with a zero waste option, you can use the plants at home, or use a potted tree that you can bring indoors for decoration and leave outside during other parts of the year.

If you decide to go with a real tree this year, make sure you check for how to recycle it in your area. Remember to remove decorations, tinsel, and lights from your tree before taking it out to the curb.

Choose reusable, compostable, or edible decorations
Choose reusable, compostable, or edible decorations. That can be anything from a wreath to a gingerbread man… or maybe add a popcorn and cranberry garland to your tree this year! Or, how about adding a popcorn and cranberry garland to your tree this year?

Rosemary Rosemary is an example of a great reusable (and edible) Christmas tree.

Holidays are a time we make more memories with our family and friends. Let’s fill our hearts with warmth and not fill landfills with trash. Being mindful of how we buy or not buy this season will have an impact on our planet.

P.S. And while we’re talking about sustainable gifts…let’s not forget the sustainability of your sanity for you (or your friends) who work in nonprofit fundraising.

Coming soon – Batch Gift Entry, a new feature for Nonprofit Success Pack (part of Nonprofit Cloud) designed to more easily enter data into a nonprofit’s Salesforce instance.

With this new feature, nonprofits will have access to a new interface for high volume, mouse-free data entry. The tool will also include reusable templates. Additionally, the feature will be able to process large batch files on one page, while employing matching logic to prevent duplicate entries in an organization’s instance. Batch Gift Entry is currently being piloted, with general availability expected in early 2019 to organizations using Nonprofit Cloud.

Happy gifting!

About the Authors
Andrea SchillerAndréa Schiller is a Senior Product Marketing Manager on the team focused on nonprofit fundraising. She is passionate about using technology for social good. In addition to her work in helping nonprofits understand technology to achieve their goals, she is President of Latinoforce, a Salesforce Employee Resource Group Her nonprofit contributions include starting and managing TeachTech Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit that focuses on bridging the gap between older and younger generations in technology literacy. Originally from San Diego, she has also completed an Ironman race and studies part-time at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Funda ErdinFunda Erdin is a Principal Product Manager at Salesforce and an active volunteer with Earthforce, the environmental resource group for employees. Her extensive certifications include: Sigma Black Belt, Salesforce Advanced Admin, Service Cloud Consultant, Sales Cloud Consultant, App Builder, and Apttus CPQ Admin. She has also completed coursework from MIT on artificial intelligence and implications for business strategy, and from UC Berkeley on Business Process Management. Funda lives in the San Francisco bay area and enjoys volunteering with Earthforce when she’s not working on IT.

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