By Ellen Mortfield, Executive Director, EcoSuperior

It’s the annual internal struggle of the holiday season—we all want to make our friends and family happy but hate giving in to the excesses of consumerism. How can we get back to feeling good about gifting? Choosing gifts that help the planet is one option to consider. What if the gift you give helps someone start a new healthy habit or gives them an easy way to make an eco-friendly change in their life? That’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Even little stocking stuffers can make a big difference. For example, consider a simple set of bicycle lights, white for the front, red for the rear. For someone who’s been thinking about cycling to get fit, or maybe to drive less, a set of bike lights might be just the thing to make them feel safe enough to try cycling to work this spring. That’s $10 well spent.

Instead of stuffing the stocking with disposable trinkets, look for small items with big impact. For someone who packs a lunch every day, there are nifty things like re-usable sandwich bags and beeswax-based reusable food wrap, or the waste-saving but oh-so-trendy bento boxes. A fashionable reusable shopping bag pairs well with a smart set of reusable produce bags, and both of those items keep a whole lot of plastic out of the landfill.

DIY Russian Tea

Thanks to the efforts of several local restaurants, Thunder Bay is currently embracing the idea of life without plastic straws (see Straws Suck Thunder Bay on Facebook)—one more step in the battle against plastics in the Great Lakes. It is of course possible to forego straws altogether, but a washable, reusable stainless steel straw might be perfect for the diehard slurper. Eating out sometimes involves those regrettable plastic forks and spoons, but not if someone thoughtfully stuffs your stocking with a stainless steel spork, or a set of reusable bamboo cutlery that can reside in your purse or backpack at all times.

Homemade gifts in a mason jar are a great way to keep it local and affordable. How about some jam from the frozen strawberries or blueberries you picked last summer? A little jar of all-natural homemade body scrub or lip balm is easy, thoughtful and a good reminder to read labels and choose personal care products wisely.

Simplify your gift giving by sticking to an eco-friendly theme. You’ll feel better; your friends and family will get a great boost for greener living; and the planet will thank you too.