Jessica's Sustainable Food Holiday Gift Guide

I love the holidays.

I like the lights, the feeling of rushing toward something as a community, the traveling, the time for reflection, and even the gift giving.

Yes, the gift giving!

Some people dread this part of the holiday season. It’s a challenge every year to select something new, cool, and exciting to give to family members and friends. Perhaps I’m the odd one out here, but I really LIKE picking out gifts. Maybe because I start early (Myers-Briggs J, remember?) and let the process happen organically. I keep my eyes and ears open and brainstorm a ton before settling on choices for the year. Plus, I’ve learned to manage my expectations of both giving and receiving.

Let me share a story….

Four years ago, for our first holiday season together, my (now) fiancé and I agreed ahead of time on our gift-giving rules. We had only met 2 months earlier, and it seemed like picking out a gift for my almost boyfriend (squee!) had potential to be really stressful. As a way to avoid that, I suggested that we decide up-front what we would get each other. Gift giving can easily go to crazy town and no no no, I didn’t want that for either of us.

We settled on books. We each would select one book we really liked and wrap it up to gift. Fingers crossed the other person hadn’t read it!  

Because we were both traveling for the holidays, the exchange would be after we returned to LA, a few days into the new year. Well, that winter break, on my trip home to Massachusetts, I went through every book in my parents’ house. I pulled them out of bookshelves in every room, creating piles of potential gift-books all over the floor. A smattering of my reading history for everyone to trip over.

And then I made my choice.

Our reunion day in LA arrived and we gave our gifts. It was exciting, intimate, and perfect. I gave him a copy of Veronika Decides to Die, by Paulo Coelho. He gave me a copy of Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (which, by the way, if you’ve never read, get on it immediately). Our 2011 thought-intensive low-cost gift exchange was perfect for that year. It removed the pressure of expensive gifts and let each of us share something we cared about.

So why did I tell you about this experience?

To show that gift giving at the holidays can be whatever you make it. That the pricey gifts aren’t necessarily the best, or the most memorable. That it’s about sharing your love of something with someone else.

With that in mind, my gift guide for 2015 serves a source of inspiration. If you care about sustainable food (as you know I do), bring someone new into this movement with one of these gifts. This list can be a springboard to expose your gift recipient to something you care about. Make sure to include a personal note or story about why you picked this gift, why it matters to you.

Or not. If you’d rather just gift and let be, that’s cool too.


My 5 suggestions for sustainable-food-related gifts:

1) A compost bin - All the rage these days as composting can reduce trash in landfills, help you waste less food, and fertilize your garden. Plus, cool for kids who might interested in worms! From a kitchen countertop bin to a backyard composter, there are many options. Think about what your gift recipient will be most likely to use.

2) A cookbook - Okay, everyone has tons of cookbooks already, but how about sustainable food cookbooks?? Not so much. Check out the new Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook by NRDC Staff Scientist Dana Gunders as a cool option. Or, if you know someone who gets a CSA box, Linda Ly’s cookbook is a great choice. For the more advanced cooks in your life, check out the Chefs Collaborative cookbook.

3) A Food product - Of course there are thousands of great food products out there that support sustainable food organizations and efforts. Consider looking for something in your gift recipient’s city first, that makes the gift more meaningful. Here are few ideas from Los Angeles to get you started: Food Forward (jams), Grist & Toll (flour), and Belcampo (meat).

4) An experience - I love learning how foods are grown or made. Gifts like this create memories rather than more stuff. Give the gift of experience and understanding to anyone who likes trying new things, anyone with kids, or anyone you've already given everything you can imagine. A couple of fun examples: the Back to the Roots Mushroom Farm or an Urban Cheese Craft cheese-making kit.

5) A subscription/donation - Support the food movement with your gift by picking something that gives your recipient a benefit and also helps further the cause. A few great ones to choose from:

  1. Civil Eats: a front-runner in the sustainable food news sector.
  2. Food Tank: a think-tank building a community of all sustainable food stakeholders.
  3. Slow food: an international grassroots organization dedicated to better food.


So there you have it. Gift inspiration for the sustainable foodies in your life.

Did I miss any great gifts? Have you ever received any of these? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy (and delicious) holidays!