1. Give the gift of membership. Ideas: art museums, Monterey Bay Aquarium, or a Sports Center gym pass.
Purchase tickets to a sporting event, concert, ride in a hot air balloon, river rafting trip, bowling, whaleboat tour, the ballet or theater.
2. Surprise someone with a gift certificate to his or her favorite restaurant.
3. Give the gift of lessons. Ideas: musical instrument, kayaking, Yoga, Pilate’s, dance or skiing.
4. Give the gift of relaxation. Try a massage, floatation tank or day spa.
5. Give a garden! Seeds, gloves, tools, etc.
6. Make a donation to a friend or relative’s favorite charity.
7. If you still want a gift to hand to someone, make it yourself. Coupons for babysitting, a night off dish duty, a foot massage, yard work, or other services show you care enough to give of your time, not just your money. Bake a tasty treat.
Consider buying an artificial tree that can be reused every year. Decorate evergreen bushes or pine trees outside a window with removable, reusable decorations. Or rent a tree.
8. Sending a package? Use popcorn instead of packing peanuts. If you receive a gift with packing peanuts, reuse them or donate them to a local mailing store.
9. When shopping for gifts: Look for items that are locally made; not over packaged; are durable, energy efficient, wind up or use rechargeable batteries; are recycled (like antiques or used bikes) and recyclable. Consider if the gift is really needed and where it will go when it is thrown away.
10. Warming up with hot cocoa or coffee? Most coffee establishments offer a discount when you bring in your own durable mug.
11. If you participate in a winter sport, purchase used sports equipment and look for sporting goods that are made from recycled material. Examples include hiking shoes with recycled rubber soles, basketballs made with recycled rubber, and ski jackets and sleeping bags made from recycled plastic bottles.
12. Consider making new cards from scrap paper or by attaching new backs to the fronts of old cards—this can be a craft project for family and friends that helps everyone reduce paper waste while saving money. Also, consider sending electronic cards.
13. Bring your own reusable cloth bag for carrying your purchases, and try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. For example, buy fleece jackets made from recycled plastic bottles, sneakers made with recycled rubber soles, or clothes made from recycled cotton scraps.
14. Last but not least, my favorite! Ride your bike, walk, or take a bus to purchase gifts! You’ll fit into your bathing suits come Springtime!
These suggestions can really reduce the amount you have to throw away after a party:
Buy baking goods and snack food in bulk or large volumes.
Use reusable tableware; if you don't have enough, ask to borrow reusable tableware from friends or family.
Rent dishes, napkins, cups and saucers, tablecloths and glasses instead of using expensive disposables.
If you use disposables, make sure they are compostable or recyclable.
Cut up last year's holiday cards and use as place cards.
Use outdated calendars taped together to make a unique New Year's tablecloth.
Place easily identifiable recycling containers at your celebration so guests can recycle their pop cans, bottles, etc.
Encourage hosts or hostesses to reuse and recycle bows, wrapping paper, cans, glass, etc.
Point out the ways your party demonstrates waste reduction and recycling, and SPREAD THE WORD.
Consider wrapping gifts inside re-useable containers such as cookie tins, flower pots or baskets. Trying to avoid the "gift wrap trap?" Here are some great ideas for gift wrapping alternatives.
Scarves, handkerchiefs or bandannas.
Old posters and maps.
Pages from a child's coloring book taped together (especially nice for relatives who would enjoy the artwork).
Old sheet music.
Newspapers (foreign newspapers are great).
Last year's holiday paper (press with warm iron if wrinkled).
Home-sewn cloth bags.
Pictures or advertisements from magazines and catalogs.
Sunday comic pages.
A present in a present (for example, a hat in a matching scarf, jewelry in a wooden box, cookies in a reusable tin or cookie jar, barbecue grill utensils or picnic supplies in a tablecloth, kitchen gifts in towels or all-purpose cloths).
A plain box decorated with leftover glitter, paint, markers, etc.
A cake pan, basket or a wooden box.
Reusable decorative bags.
A “Hollywood box:” individually wrap or decorate the top and bottom of a box with a separate lid. Encourage the recipient to reuse the box.
Purchase wrapping paper made from recycled paper.