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Keeping the Health of Our Planet In Mind This Holiday Season

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This is my favorite time of year- there is a warmth and charm that surrounds the love-filled chaos of family gatherings and holiday cheer.  Despite the magic of the season, the overwhelming busyness of the holidays can wear on us physically and mentally.  At work, as clinics become overbooked as patients try to get their visits in before the new year (especially if they have met their deductibles and/or are anticipating their health insurance changing next year). And at home, stretched between holiday travel, social obligations, and family commitments.

As busy as things are, one of my favorite activities is researching gift ideas for people I love and am lucky enough to have in my life.  Whether one celebrates the holidays from a religious perspective or not, gift giving is a special way to show appreciation, both on a personal and professional level.  Finding the right gift can be a challenge- between my family and friends, I am surrounded on all sides by professional women.  I have noticed that most of us have all the things we need, and we buy ourselves the things we want when we want them.  Keeping this in mind, I have tried to think about gifts that I would not necessarily think to buy for myself, but would be delighted to receive.

Along with being an ENT physician, I am a strong advocate for the climate health crisis, and in thinking about our future, I have been trying to live as sustainably as possible.  This holiday season, I am striving to be mindful about minimizing waste and conscientious of the impact the gifts I choose have on our environment.  To that end, I have spent far too many hours researching sustainable companies, and I want to share some of my top picks.

I am hoping that sharing this list will both inspire ideas and alleviate some of the time constraints spent looking them up.

 

From day to night, gift ideas for bright, accomplished, rock-star women:

Woron store is known for its sustainable fashion and vegan products, and I have added more than a few things onto my personal holiday list, including this bodysuit.  Also a great gift for really anyone, from your Grandmother to your friends, would be these lounge wear pants that epitomize comfort and warmth.  Take note- the top and bottom are sold separately.

This bodysuit (seen left) is a classic and chic option for any professional woman- it can be worn casually paired with jeans, but also try layering it under summer work dresses to convert into a winter style!

The company ethos “planet comes first” initially attracted me to Ninety percent, but when I learned that 90% of distributed profits go to charitable causes, that impressed me even more.  Most of the clothes are more in line with weekend lounge over work, such as this organic cotton dress and this adorable organic cotton striped playsuit, which would make a lovely gift for a sister or close colleague.

SANDQVIST has mastered Sustainability 101, minimizing their climate impact from the materials used to the distribution of goods.  While this structured shoulder bag is a sleek option for work, I love the design of this mini bag.

I have multiple pieces from Cuyana– from lounge pants to silk tees.  The price tag is a little higher than you may feel comfortably paying initially, but the pieces last.  The company is not necessarily one I would consider “green”, but the ethos is “fewer, better things”, which I appreciate from a sustainability standpoint and is an aspiration that thus far, every one of my pieces has held up to.  While the company is mainly known for its variety of high quality and functional bags, one of my favorite gifts is the silk striped scarf– it is a good price point and is a foolproof gift for anyone on your list- it can be used to simply dress up a bag or add a feminine flourish to an outfit.

 

For the professional (and not so professional) males:

Veja trainers are made using only fairly-traded and organic materials, and for those giftees that are running around but still want to keep an element of style in their life, this is a great gift option.

Based on where they work, they may even get away with wearing these versatile Veja trainer vegan shoes (seen right) in the office.

Similar to Cuyana, I view Filippa K as sustainable fashion with a ‘less is more’ mentality.  The clothing is made with ethically sourced material and is built to last.  Shopping for the special males in your life can be somewhat challenging.  If your usual go to is a sweater, scarf, or hat, then check out these options to feel good about gift giving and to add a flourish of style. Bonus- there is a 30-day free return policy!

SANDQVIST has lots of functional and well-crafted bags to choose from, with options to gift anyone from my sister to my grandfather.  For the professional males in your life, the structured briefcase is a practical choice.  The weekend bag is also a functional gift option, which can double as a gym bag and is made using 40% recycled material from post-consumer waste.

Another foolproof piece from Cuyana is the men’s toiletry case.  It is simple, elegant, and can be monogrammed for a personal touch.

 

For the Gen Z giftees:

Bling can be expensive, and Catbird Jewelry is no exception.  But, I love that this company is a part of No Dirty Gold, which is a campaign with Earth Works, which has a 4 star Charity Navigator rating!  Plus there were a few pieces within a reasonable price range that I know my 11 year old niece would love including this tiniest key charm necklace and this friendship bracelet with pearls.

Education is important in my family.  My sisters and I joke that if anyone tells our Mom they want to study something, she will buy them every book they could ever need/want.  While her enthusiasm for learning is unrivaled, I do love gifting kids medical sets and watching them explore different parts of the body as they test out the various equipment.  Green Toys products are made from 100% recycled plastic, and lucky for me, they have a perfect Doctor kit, complete with an otoscope!

People Tree is one of the pioneers in sustainable Fair Trade fashion and they have been continuing this commitment to environmental best practice ever since.  I love this Layla velvet skirt or this Beaten Bar necklace for a delicate touch.

Having grown up with a fascination for science, I love how popular everything from NASA to telescopes, have become.  This Galaxy print pajama top (seen left) is a great gift for the science lover in the family!

One of my favorite gifts from my cousin when I graduated from medical school was an “on-call bag”.  It was a toiletry bag, that I still use years later, filled with on call essentials, such as a toothbrush and face wipes.  This face mask from Woron would have fit in beautifully into the on-call essentials, and is also an ideal gift item for a giftee going off to college.

 

 

Stocking stuffers:

While reusable water bottles, metal straws, and eco-friendly lunch boxes are all potential options, here are some more appealing alternatives that are much more likely to make any giftee smile:

Herbivore Botanicals: 100% vegan and of course, PETA approved! I recently had a facial and the aesthetician told me more than once that I should use a rose based toner, so of course I was drawn to this Rose Hibiscus Face Mist.  They also have some practical beard tonic options for the bearded men in your life:

NOTO botanics: Lots of great options to choose from to gift anyone from your best friend to your mom, just be careful- no returns! Some fun options are this gold glow stick or the rooted oil roller.

People Tree: I love the collaboration with BBC Earth and these adorable earrings.

Shop the entire BBC Earth collaboration, including this cute bag (seen right) which focuses on vulnerable species and the threats that polar bears and cheetahs face.

 

 

For your staff:

In the past, I have always done a traditional gift card or check.  It is simple, straightforward, and you cannot go wrong with money.  Now, I will admit, a huge part of me this year wants to donate to Earth Works or to Save the Elephants in the name of my staff.  But then I remember the Friends episode where Chandler gifts donations to the New York Ballet, and Rachel asks if it is returnable.  And I have to remind myself that just because I feel very strongly about sustainability does not mean I get to make that choice for everyone.  So, I will again be giving money this year (and will maybe also plant some trees in their name).

If you want any more sustainable gifting ideas or are interesting in talking more about the climate health crisis and what you can do to help, send me a message on Twitter! @NeeluTummala

 

* All images pictured in this article are copied directly from their respective company websites.

Author: Neelu Tummala, MD, MS

Neelu Tummala, MD, MS

Neelu is an ear, nose, and throat physician and a clinical assistant professor of surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She is a passionate advocate for the climate crisis, with an unflagging interest in educating others on the health effects of climate change.


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