I heard someone joke about going to the local thrift store the day after Christmas to donate the just-unwrapped and unwanted bounty of gifts. Yes, we definitely have a collective problem with too much stuff (and too much waste), which is just one of the reasons why it’s great to give experience gifts or contributions to good causes in the recipient’s name. But sometimes the best gift really does come in a package you can hand to your loved one for opening. For gift-giving that’s more meaningful, ’tis the season to:
When you buy items from stores or auction sites that benefit nonprofits, your dollars support their work. Also, sites like Bidding for Good offer products and experiences that benefit a variety of organizations.
If shopping on Amazon, use Amazon Smile, which allows you to choose a nonprofit organization to receive a portion of sales. (Climate Resolve is a choice!)
Support the independent businesses in your neighborhood by shopping local—especially at book stores and places that sell the works of local artisans or products made sustainably. It’s even better if you can shop on foot or bike, leaving the car behind.
Homemade gifts, including food and personal care items, are twice as nice. Extra touches: attach a recipe for the recipient and consider a vintage glass jar, container, or tin that can be reused.
Put another way: give tasty edibles. Choose locally grown produce, sweet treats, and other items for out-of-the-ordinary dining experiences at home. First stop: food vendors at your local farmers’ market. Bonus: adding a cookbook or favorite recipe. My grandmother always said, “Food is love.”
Give movie, concert or theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, or museum memberships and you’re giving the recipient an experience to enjoy. The same goes for magazine subscriptions, books, music CDs, and DVDs of movies or TV shows. Also consider giving games or a puzzle from a photo-printing service that allows you to create one with a personal photo.
One size fits all: House plants, herb gardens, and seeds, or outdoor plants for loved ones with yards.
It’s true about one person’s trash being another’s treasure—and when you buy from antique markets, consignment and thrift shops, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and other sources of second-hand items, you do your part to reduce waste to landfills. Think of it like the island of misfit toys from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”—there are worthy, good-as-new items out there looking for a home.
Another factor to consider: the maker of the merchandise. Give from companies with responsible business practices—organic, Fair Trade, sweatshop-free, environmentally-friendly, etc. Look up B Corps companies and ones signed on to 1% for the Planet.
Clare Fox is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, whose mission is provide healthy, affordable, fair, and sustainable food for everyone in Southern California. LAFPC fulfills this mission by working closely with LA communities and the City.
Tell us about your work on climate change.
We made great steps this year toward getting food out of landfills, where it is a major contributor to methane emissions locally. Nearly one third of our landfills are made up of food! This year, we made great progress through the City of LA’s new RecycLA program. This new commercial and multi-family residential waste program now offers food businesses the option to donate edible surplus food to hunger relief organizations. Whatever can’t be eaten will now be separated into green bins and eventually composted. My organization — the Los Angeles Food Policy Council — helped create partnerships between waste haulers and food recovery organizations, and produced a guide called “Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources In Our Food System.” We also helped the LA Board of Public Works move toward zero food waste at LA City Hall, including a new food scrap drop off for compost at City Hall’s weekly farmers market, and a new food waste grant challenge with a total grant pool of $100,000 available to the public.
What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?
I became inspired to work on food justice and sustainability after I was able to recover from health problems in my 20s by changing my diet. I realized that not everyone has that opportunity, and in fact, often low-income communities suffer unnecessary diet-related disease due to lack of access to fresh food. I see this as a human rights issue. Today, I am continuously inspired by people who grow their own food, tend to the soil and are creating a cultural awareness of regeneration. We need to move towards “closed loop” energy, waste and agricultural systems that regenerate natural resources, not deplete them.
What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?
One of the greatest barriers I see is lack of access to capital for innovation and industry that is truly regenerative and equitable. From mid-sized sustainable farms and food manufacturers, to low-income entrepreneurs like street vendors struggling at the margins of our economy — some of the most creative, resourceful and cutting-edge entrepreneurs struggle to access capital that would help them scale, and often face immense regulatory barriers as well.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
1. Agriculture shifts to regenerative soil building to simultaneously sequester carbon from the atmosphere, better retain and spread water, and infuse our food with the life-giving nutrients of healthy soil!
2. Food waste becomes a thing of the past! All food is either donated, upcycled (think dehydrated snacks made from nut or juice pulp) or converted into feed, energy or compost. No more methane-emitting rotting food in landfills.
3. A just transition to a carbon neutral economy with good green jobs and economic opportunity as a means for eliminating racial and economic inequality.