Christmas is almost here….and along with that beautiful atmosphere of love and peace comes a frantic flood of consumerism! I don’t love spending time in the shops, except those run by friends who make truly special things, and so I’ve come up with another way of giving gifts.

So let me give you some advice on reducing your impact on the Planet this holiday season, without needing to leave your loved ones gift-less. I’ve recently returned from a trip in central Italy, where I realized the importance of pop-up shops and small markets in finding special holiday gifts. Here you can find all sorts of wonderful things made by artisans and artists, handmade foods sourced from local producers who don’t need to package their products in a dozen layers of plastic.

Before Christmas comes, visit a market or two, even a farmers market: what better gift could one give than food made with love, from primary materials of the highest quality, and guaranteed by someone you trust? Have you ever thought of making your own personalized Christmas baskets with handpicked products, turning the things you have at home into something special? It’s easy and unique! You can also decorate it with bits of nature: pine cones, berries, branches, leaves, etc…

In general, when I buy something, I am also sending a message that encourages sustainability. It might be a reusable bag for groceries or cloth napkins to take on a picnic lunch! The shops that specialize in Fair Trade and sustainable products are also a great way to support projects in developing countries and be sure that your gifts were made in humane working conditions.

I also love to give “cuddles”…trips, experiences, spa treatments, dinners…they are gifts that do good for the mind and the body, and maybe the person who receives them wouldn’t have otherwise taken a moment to relax.

Giving someone your favorite book, travel guide, or recipe collection is a wonderful idea. You don’t even need to wrap it—for this and other gifts, use newspapers or colorful magazine pages to give it a personal touch! Lately I’ve often received gifts of homemade food— olive oil, honey or jam made by friends—and these kinds of gifts are some of the most touching: you feel all of the love of those people in what they’ve prepared for you.

Why don’t we do it too?

How about spending an afternoon with your partner, your daughter, your friend, or solo to bake cookies and wrap them with love before delivering them to your loved ones? Maybe you don’t have much to spend on gifts, but with a little free time you can make something special.

Give a coupon for a dinner at your place, photographs for their business, new orders to fill, or other small services you can offer. Do you have fun with herbs, flowers, and eco-cosmetics? Wouldn’t it be lovely to receive homemade soap with natural ingredients, a crocheted scarf, or a custom mixed tea to warm up wintertime with? Even if you can’t make it yourself, you can easily find someone else who can in your area—which means you can give an eco-friendly gift and support your local economy!

Need new clothes for holiday parties? Throw a swap party or visit a vintage shop. You’ll find pre-loved clothes that seem like new, clothes that give your holiday look new sparkle instead of languishing in the back of someone else’s closet.

Enjoy and add to this list—I’d love to hear your suggestions for things to add and try out for myself next year!

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