It’s that special time of year when many of us celebrate major holidays with family and friends. Often, gift-giving is a part of the holiday tradition. Giving and receiving gifts can add to the magic of human connection — especially when gifts are an expression of your love and values. But in an age of rampant consumerism, I think it’s worthwhile to take a step back and reconnect with the true meaning of our holidays — our “holy days” — before pulling out our credit cards and buying mass-produced stuff for the people we love.
One of the “bugs” in the human brain is that we are terrible at predicting how happy we will be if certain things come our way. I remember as a kid being utterly convinced that this or that toy would make me happy for the rest of my life. And if somehow I got that toy, it almost never lived up to my expectations.
But it’s not just kids who have this problem. In Stumbling on Happiness, psychologist Dan Gilbert shares research that shows humans are terrible at “affective forecasting” — that is, predicting how something in the future will make them feel.
What Truly Makes Us Happy?
Not more stuff, or better stuff, or newer stuff. The longest-running study on happiness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, started in 1938 by following 724 men (about 60 are still alive). One of the biggest factors correlated with happiness in the research was close relationships: with spouses, family, friends, and community members. The more time these men spent enjoying the company of others, the happier and more fulfilled they were.
A close second was meaning: doing work (paid or volunteer) that fulfilled a sense of purpose. Being of service was good for those served, and even better for those doing the serving.
Which brings me back to the holidays. While different religious traditions observe different festivals and tell different stories, there are always underlying themes of togetherness, compassion, unity, and love. I can’t think of a single holiday that’s celebrated by focusing on your own needs to the exclusion of others.
A Sustainable Approach to Gift-Giving
So instead of just buying the latest and greatest thing, try giving what is uniquely yours to give this year: a poem, a meaningful story, a massage. If you have a skill, can you deploy it on behalf of the recipient? Fix their dripping kitchen faucet. Mend a wobbly chair. Help them declutter their garage.
Or what about volunteering or donating money to an organization that embodies their deepest values and most profound longings for the world?
Purchased gifts don’t have to be physical things, either. What about gifting experiences, like a membership to a botanical garden or offering to take your loved one on a hike to your favorite spot in nature?
If you do buy physical gifts, choose ones that enable connection, or help them to live healthier lives. A big part of successful gifting is taking the time to think about the person you’re giving the gift to. What do they love? What would they find fun? Or what forms of social connection do they enjoy?
Another strategy for choosing great gifts is to find things that make it easier for people to enhance their health, and if possible, to make the world a healthier place as well. High-quality kitchenware, well-made air and water filters, and fair-trade and sustainable foods and crafts — all of these are sustainable gift ideas that fall into this category.
Let Your Gifts Enhance Life and Happiness for Everyone
Let’s honor our holidays — and our loved ones, and ourselves — by gifting to enhance life and happiness for everyone. By sharing our unique light with those around us. And by seeing, and supporting, through our words, actions, and purchases, the special qualities in the special people in our lives.
In that spirit, our team here at Food Revolution Network has compiled some favorite causes related to food justice, environmental healing, and animal welfare along with some of our favorite food- and health-related sustainable gift ideas. Check them out for family and friends, or even consider them for yourself!
Sometimes the best gift of all is contributing to a cause you or a loved one believes in. These are some of our favorite charities and nonprofits.
Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit working to end not just food insecurity, but nutrition insecurity across the US. They believe access to healthy food should be a right, not a privilege. Some of their programs include working on a produce prescription program with health care providers, closing the gap between those who need food assistance and those who are able to get it through government programs, and doubling SNAP benefits when food stamps are used on fruits and vegetables. Every dollar provides 10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables for those in need.
Our bodies are made of mostly water — somewhere around 60%. And we all need water to survive. Unfortunately, millions of people worldwide don’t have access to this basic human right. Charity: Water funds water programs in 27 countries around the globe. And they work to provide clean water in rural and poverty-stricken communities. If you make a donation for yourself, or in the name of a friend or family member, you can rest assured it will bring water to people in need.
Soul Fire Farm is a community farm based in Petersburg, NY, run by co-director and farm manager, Leah Penniman. Using afro-indigenous farming practices, they seek to regenerate land for community use in order to end food apartheid and uproot racism in the food system. Through food sovereignty programs and workshops, Soul Fire Farm works to bring healing and agricultural skills back to Black and brown folks to reclaim their collective right to connect with the earth and have agency within the food system. They’re currently raising funds for a capital campaign, so they can upgrade their facilities for future training and community programs.
Trees are essential to life. They provide oxygen, store carbon, and revitalize the soil. Trees for the Future has planted more than 145 million trees in dozens of countries. As a result, they’ve improved thousands of lives, helping families transition from unsustainable farming techniques to more sustainable practices. Every donation goes toward the planting of a valuable tree — often a fruit or nut tree — in a low-income community. Help end hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa with this sustainable gift idea, and keep our world full of life-giving trees.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. And the majority of those in prison are disproportionately people of color. Planting Justice works with those impacted by mass incarceration and other areas of inequality. By cultivating skills and resources such as growing food, they keep people out of prison and create living-wage jobs, while also inspiring community healing and food justice. Your donation goes to support projects like the creation of edible permaculture gardens and food justice curriculums in schools.
The Educated Choices Program (ECP) educates students of all ages about the impact of nutrition and their food choices on health, animals, and the environment. Their programs include interactive presentations on topics like “Healthful Eating” and “Modern Animal Agriculture.” Students are challenged to address these issues and think critically about them, discussing their importance in an academic setting. ECP has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of students. Donations support their vital programs in schools, allowing educators to prepare the future leaders of tomorrow.
The folks at Environmental Working Group (EWG) work to educate consumers on the dangers of toxic chemicals and pesticides in the food supply and drinking water. They also maintain a cosmetics database, which tracks the ingredient safety of personal care products. Their reports, guides, campaigns, apps, and product verifications are an invaluable resource for keeping your family safe and healthy.
Known as the “gangsta gardener,” Ron Finley is working to bring community gardening and regeneration to urban spaces. Currently, The Ron Finley Project operates a community garden in a South Central LA neighborhood that serves as a gathering place for horticultural and nutritional education. You can support the garden and Ron’s vision, here.
Factory farms contribute to the destruction of our environment through greenhouse gases. Industrialized agriculture causes food contamination and recalls, antibiotic resistance, and animal cruelty. Many animals raised on factory farms never see a blade of grass in their life. But Farm Sanctuary educates people on the plight of farm animals and the hazards of factory farming. They also rescue animals from cruelty and impending slaughter and give them the opportunity to live happy, healthy, and free lives. Through their animal sponsorship programs, you can adopt a farm animal, which includes an adoption certificate, photo of your animal, sticker, meet and greet at one of the sanctuaries (in New York or Los Angeles), and a discount off of Farm Sanctuary merchandise.
Entertain & Educate
Books, films, and other media entertain us — and they can also educate us. If you’re committed to the Food Revolution movement, you know how important it is to share the knowledge! Consider one of the following gifts for that special someone who has an interest in learning more about how to improve their health or the health of the environment.
Food Revolution Network’s online membership community makes for a healthy holiday gift for yourself or those you care about. Each month, you’ll have special access to Action Hours (along with transcripts, Action Checklists, and audio files), Action of the Week Videos, weekly checklists, recipes, bonus resources, and a private community of like-minded and health-conscious individuals supporting you on your journey. Ready to see lasting health benefits in your life? Join here today.
Get step by step guidance from Food Revolution Network co-founder, Ocean Robbins, on how to use the power of food to heal your body and your world. You’ll discover the best foods to eat and avoid for optimal health, what the industrialized food system doesn’t want you to know, how to navigate healthy eating with friends and family, and how to transform your world through your food choices. You’ll also find a meal plan and healthy, plant-powered recipes to live more deliciously and nutritiously.
Diabetes has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the US alone, nearly 10% of the population has type 2 diabetes. But research has shown that eating a plant-based diet helps prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes. In this cookbook from registered dietician, Brenda Davis, you’ll get 100 quick and easy recipes to balance blood sugar and kick diabetes to the curb. See what foods to eat and avoid with diabetes, how to combine foods, and how to understand what nutrients to focus on for optimal nutrition.
James Cameron’s award-winning documentary on vegan athleticism is now available on both DVD and Blu-Ray. This extended version also includes special interviews, deleted scenes, and bloopers after the film. Game Changers would make a great gift for the athlete in your life, or anyone curious about the real, documented effects of plant-based eating. If it could convince bodybuilders and football teams to eat more plants, maybe it could convert your stubborn Uncle Steve, too!
Food Revolution Summit speaker, Dr. Neal Barnard is back with another best-selling book on health and nutrition. In Your Body in Balance, he explores how our food and environment affect the delicate balance of our hormonal systems. In this step-by-step guide, Dr. Barnard offers his professional insight on how to eat for hormone health, along with the inclusion of a collection of delicious plant-based recipes. If you or someone you love is struggling with health issues, Dr. Barnard can assist you in getting on the path to vitality.
The Need To GROW takes you inside the hearts and innovations of three very different leaders: an 8-year-old girl who challenges the ethics of a beloved organization; a renegade farmer who struggles to keep his land as he revolutionizes resource-efficient agriculture; and an accomplished visionary inventor who faces catastrophe in the midst of developing a game-changing technology. Narrated by Rosario Dawson (The Mandalorian, Marvel’s Daredevil), The Need To GROW delivers an epic story of solutions and the struggles to implement them. It will make you laugh, make you cry, give you chills, and inspire you to participate in the restoration of the Earth. The link above takes you to a limited-time, free viewing of the film, which you can also share with loved ones.
A home chef or cooking aficionado might enjoy one of these healthy, handpicked kitchen enhancements.
Whether you’re chopping vegetables or tofu, every kitchen needs a good cutting board. And I’m not talking about one of those cheap plastic boards you can buy in 3-packs from Walmart. If you’ve ever tried preparing a salad on a plastic slab with the footprint of an iPad mini, you know that most of it will end up rolling off the board and onto the counter, or worse, the floor. With a high-quality, right-sized cutting board, you can look those carrot rounds in the eye and confidently proclaim, “You’re not getting away this time!”
Surprise the chef in your life with a cutting board that’s long-lasting and won’t damage knives.
This beautiful wooden cutting board from Mevell comes at a reasonable price point despite being made from maple. The wood is sustainably grown in the US, handcrafted in Canada, and approved by the National Sanitation Foundation for use in commercial kitchens. Best of all, Mevell plants a tree for every cutting board they sell.
Food Storage Containers
Most food storage containers are plastic, which while cheap and convenient, come at a cost to your health and the environment. Good alternatives are stainless steel and glass, which won’t leach chemicals and are more sustainable options. They make a great gift for the people in your life who are always on-the-go or who have large families and always seem to have leftovers to store.
And for those people who have that special kitchen drawer overflowing with mismatched Tupperware lids, Rubbermaid containers, and Chinese restaurant takeout boxes, a nice set of glass or stainless steel containers might be just the thing to bring a little peace and harmony back into their lives.
This 24-piece food storage set includes round, square, and rectangular glass containers with locking plastic lids. You’ll get containers of different sizes, from one and a half cups all the way up to four and a half cups. The non-porous glass and BPA-free lids ensure your thoughtful gift is safe and non-toxic. This is a great starter set for a couple or family.
These high-quality, food-grade stainless steel containers are lightweight, durable, watertight, and versatile. Multiple sizes and shapes are available to accommodate all kinds of leftovers and ready to go meals. The non-removable silicone seals on the lids, along with three stainless steel latches, make each container leak-proof and airtight. No more accidentally wearing lunch when the car you’re in has to make that hard right turn during morning rush hour! Also perfect for school lunches or picnics. The containers should last a long time and are dishwasher safe. The lids are best left out of the dishwasher, as high heat can degrade the silicone seal.
Pots & Pans
A nice single skillet or a set of pots and pans make for a practical gift that will get used over and over again. Although there are many different types of cookware, these selections won’t leach chemicals into food or the air.
This Cusinart cookware set is one of many fine stainless steel pot and pan sets. All the pots and pans are multiclad with stainless steel interiors and exteriors (for toughness and safety), and an aluminum core for enhanced heat conductivity. This cookware works on induction, gas, and electric stoves and is dishwasher safe.
Many conventional pans and cookware sets are non-stick and use a Teflon coating, which can emit toxic fumes into the air. But this 10-inch enameled cast iron pan from Cuisinart Chef is free from Teflon and provides even heat distribution for use on all stovetop types, including induction. Although it’s a cast iron pan, because of the enamel coating, it doesn’t require seasoning. Enameled cast iron is a great choice because its surface is non-porous and doesn’t absorb any flavors or odors. And it’s dishwasher-safe and easy to clean.
A high-efficiency blender makes a lovely gift during the holidays. Recipients can whip up smoothies, juices, dips, and soups. It’s a great way to encourage healthier eating!
Although it’s on the pricier side, the Vitamix’s high-quality makes it a valuable and highly sought after gift. Most models come with a 64-ounce container made with Tritan, a plastic that doesn’t contain BPA. They also make a 48-ounce stainless steel container (that costs extra). The Vitamix can quickly and easily make a frozen dessert or a morning smoothie. And it can grind up seeds and blend fruits and vegetables with its stainless steel blades.
Around 20% of the municipal water in the US has unsafe lead levels. And that’s just one contaminant. With our water supply under siege by industrial and agricultural pollution, a high-quality water filter is an important resource in almost every kitchen.
AquaTru is a reverse osmosis unit that sits on the countertop and includes carbon filter technology. It delivers high-quality water and flavor. The system removes fluoride in addition to chromium-6 and a great many other contaminants from tap water. Give your loved ones the gift of truly clean water, and get it now (with the link above) for a special $100 discount.
Plant Milk Maker
While it’s not a kitchen necessity, a plant-milk maker can save you or your loved ones both time and money.
There are so many milk alternatives on the market these days. And while we celebrate that fact, buying cartons and cartons of almond milk can add costs over time (not to mention creating additional landfill waste). But with the Almond Cow, you can have the plant-based milk of your choice with just the push of a button. Take your pick of almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk, or the nut, seed, or grain-based milk of your choosing. No straining bags necessary! (Use the code FOODREVOLUTION15 for a special discount.)
Sustainable Gift Ideas
The future of the world is in our hands. Consider one of these healthy and sustainable gift ideas to cut back on plastic waste.
Plastic straw waste is a huge strain on the environment. And many countries and companies have issued plastic straw bans to combat the problem. Some places have replaced plastic with disposable paper straws, but they’re not a long-term solution. Instead, consider investing in stainless steel straws, like this set from Amazon. You’ll get 12 extra-long drinking straws: 3 each of bent and straight varieties for both 20-ounce and 30-ounce tumblers. The set also includes cleaning brushes and a carrying bag. Another great stocking stuffer idea for the sustainability-conscious people in your life.
Only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled in the US. That means the rest end up in landfills and in our waterways, polluting both water and soil. Yuhme has created an environmentally conscious water bottle made from sugarcane that’s CO2 negative. They’re made, not in China, but in Sweden, where workers earn a living wage. And for every bottle sold, they are able to provide six months of clean water to a person in the Central African Republic through their charity partner Water for Good. With several beautiful designs to choose from, this sustainable gift idea will leave you looking good and doing good as you hydrate.
Health & Beauty Gifts
Many conventional health and beauty items contain harmful chemicals that are toxic and can contribute to chronic health conditions. If you’re looking for healthier and sustainable options, try one of these companies instead.
Give the gift of natural, organic, and wild-crafted skincare, makeup, and essential oil products. Annmarie Skin Care uses non-toxic, non-GMO, fair-trade, and gluten-free ingredients. Plus, they never test on animals. Snap up one of their trial kits for yourself or a loved one. Each kit contains a trial size of their Aloe Herb Cleanser and Anti-Aging Serum along with a bonus sample of their Anti-Aging Facial Oil all for just $19.99 (plus, free shipping!).
If you’re looking for healthy, non-toxic skincare, look no further than Purity Woods’ Age-Defying Dream Cream. Made with 10 of the top natural, organic, and cruelty-free ingredients in the industry, this cream can help reduce visible signs of aging, tighten pores, and even protect your skin from the sun. Get your bottle (or bottles) for a special Food Revolution Network member price, here.
Air quality plays a big role in health. And since so many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, a quality air filter is important. You could easily spend thousands of dollars on high-quality air filters. But for about a third of the price of most high-quality systems, you can get fresh, clean air with the AirDoctor Pro. It comes with an UltraHEPA filter that’s 100x more effective than conventional air purifiers. And combined with its dual-action Carbon/Gas Trap/VOC Filter you can rest assured that allergens, gases, and toxic chemicals are filtered out too.
The Gift Of Love
Giving and receiving are fundamental to human happiness and wellbeing. They enrich our lives, they open our hearts, and they make our days more beautiful. There are countless ways to share love and support, and many of them don’t cost a cent. Whether you buy a gift, prepare food, share an experience, write a poem, or give a hug, always remember that your love matters. And that there are limitless ways to express it!
Tell us in the comments:
- Are there any causes you are enthused to support this year?
- What are some of your favorite sustainable gift ideas?
- What gifts do you plan to give loved ones for the holidays?
Feature image: iStock.com/kabby