The Joy of Greener Gift Giving

Today, we are gabbing with Kathy Curran, who works with us, and we are talking about the joy of greener gift giving during this season of giving.

Kathy was inspired by her adult daughter, who is focused on being green at home since starting her own family. At the holidays last year, her daughter asked for “no stuff,” but you have to open presents at the holidays, right? So Kathy started considering how to change the way they do the holidays and created an opportunity for greener gift giving.

Greener Gift Giving = Rethinking

When considering how to reduce your impact when it comes to gifts, it really comes down to shifting your thinking. Many people are past the idea that stuff matters; instead, they want experiences. Some ideas of experiences include:

  • Annual membership to the national parks or area museums.
  • Season tickets to the local theatre.
  • Gift certificate to AirBnB.

Keep Local

If stuff is important to the people on your list, you can keep it local. When you shop locally, more money is kept local. On average, 48% of what you spend locally stays within the community, as compared to 14% of purchases as chain stores.

Local consignment and secondhand stores tick off two boxes: keeping money local and recycling goods.

Look to the Internet

In a pinch for greener gift giving? Try an ebook or audio book. There’s no need for anything to be shipped, and you’re still providing a type of experience. And if you’re not sure what the gift receiver would prefer, a gift card allows them to choose the perfect book.

Make Greener Gift Giving at Home

Everyone appreciates handmade gifts. Whether it’s your favorite cookie recipe or a hand-knitted sweater, something that is made with love is warmly received. Not personally talented? Gather favorite family recipes or record an older family member’s stories for the next generation. You’ll combine greener gift giving with legacy, and that’s always a perfect fit.


White LED Lights

Colored LED Lights

Gifts for Friends

Unique Journal with Laser-cut cover

Food Wraps – for lunches and food storage

Tablecloth – made entirely of recycled bottles

Full Transcript and Audio

Welcome to the Green Gab podcast! This is Marla Esser Cloos, you’re Green Home coach! And I’m so excited to be recording a whole new batch of episodes. And today in studio, I have somebody very near and dear to my heart. And we’re in a new studio too, but this is Kathy Curran and Kathy works with me. And the joy and the thrill of having somebody that works with me come on and talk about all of this is awesome! So, good morning Kathy.

Kathy Curran:                    Good morning, Marla.

Marla Cloos:                       So, not only are we doing our first podcast together, we are trying out a whole new podcast studio. A whole new process and just a whole new way of life.

Kathy Curran:                    A whole new world.

Marla Cloos:                       Exactly! Exactly! So, today’s topic both of us are really excited about. And we are going to be talking about the joy of greener gift giving. Which I love your journey, Kathy, and I love how it brought us together. Joy has special meaning to both of us as we have been on our own personal joy journeys.

Kathy Curran:                    Yes.

Marla Cloos:                       Yay! But tell us a little bit about yourself, and we’re in Oklahoma City today recording here. So, part of what’s really cool is I’m getting an opportunity now to explore Oklahoma City from a green and sustainability and more thoughtful way of living. And I love it! I’m finding so many sweet, sweet surprises here. And you are definitely one of those.

Kathy Curran:                    Thank you! I’m Kathy Curran, and I have to say that it has been a journey of joy, and I love it that I am 58 years old and still on a learning journey. And I love the things that I have learned about going green and working with you has definitely been a huge part of that. And what I really love is that I get to go home and teach my daughter a little more about going a little bit greener. Because she’s the one who influenced our entire family to go green. We, you know, wanted to steward the world’s resources well as a family, but I think we kinda put it way on the low end of our priority. It was like, well that’s a nice idea if I have time and it’s extraordinarily convenient. We would kinda nod at it. We, you know, we recycled our trash and we were doing good.

Marla Cloos:                       I think a lot of people are there!

Kathy Curran:                    It’s like whoa, you know?

Marla Cloos:                       Right!

Kathy Curran:                    When we drug out our recycle bin. I had made space in my kitchen to recycle things. I thought, “Whoa, you know, I’m doing my part!” But it was really my daughter who, when she began to want to start her family, and wanted to prepare her body to be pregnant, she began to want to clean out her body and to start eating clean. And we were kinda like, “Well that’s great honey, what a good mommy you’re gonna be.” And she started studying about GMO’s and pesticides and watching documentaries on Netflix. And then she started passing off books to me and some of the things I read were pretty scary, I gotta tell you. But I kinda just ignored it for a while, because-

Marla Cloos:                       Out of sight out of mind?

Kathy Curran:                    Out of sight out of mind!

Marla Cloos:                       Okay.

Kathy Curran:                    And then, we were moving from California to Edmond and in a middle of a move you just survive, right? But, she also suffered from migraines. And she realized that when she was pregnant she was not going to be able to take her medication for migraines. And so she began to research essential oils. And from essential oils, she got rid of all of her over-the-counter medications. She got rid of all the toxic cleaning supplies. I mean, really we’re kinda down to we use Thieves cleaner, vinegar, and baking soda. And that’s pretty much what I use in our home. Every now and then, I like my bleach, which she raises her eyebrow over.

Marla Cloos:                       I’m a no bleach person, I’m with her.

Kathy Curran:                    I know! I’m having a hard time.

Marla Cloos:                       I got an answer for you! Remind me to come back to the bleach story in a minute.

Kathy Curran:                    Okay, okay. So, I’m still learning, and I’m gonna slip this in too. Working with you has taught be about incremental green, I love that word “incremental”. Like you, read a little bit at time because I think if someone would have come and shamed me, I would have stopped everything.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh I am so not a shamer blamer.

Kathy Curran:                    You’re not a shamer, and I love that. And, there is another word that you use, “green as you go.”

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah!

Kathy Curran:                    I love that. So, I’m learning to green as I go. So, she got rid of all the toxic cleaning supplies, then it went into hair products and toothpastes and beauty products. And then, when she, we have babies now, we have toddlers, she doesn’t use any plastics.

Marla Cloos:                       I have not gotten there yet. And that’s one of my goals.

Kathy Curran:                    Okay. Our sippy cups are aluminum.

Marla Cloos:                       Easy for you to say.

Kathy Curran:                    With the silicone, non-

Marla Cloos:                       Non-BPA or BPA free.

Kathy Curran:                    Tops. So we wash all the tops, and again when I saw those sippy cups, rolled my little eye balls. I rolled my eyes a lot at my daughter.

Marla Cloos:                       So are you eating crow now?

Kathy Curran:                    I’m pretty much eating crow! Cause then she went into the no VOC’s for her paint when she redid her house, I rolled my little eyeballs. And then she put it to me this way, “Mom, the kids are in your house. Are you going to feed them poison?” I was like, “Uh, well no!” And she was like “And mom, did you want to be around in good health and lots of energy to see your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren grow up?” And that, both my husband and I went, “Okay, we need to get on board.” And I will say that we got on board for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. Not really for us, we’re like, “Okay, we’re gonna be, you know, light-green.” With her.

Marla Cloos:                       And that’s okay.

Kathy Curran:                    But I would say we’re medium green right now. Because, you know, the worst thing that I kinda do right now is I have a Diet Dr.Pepper.

Marla Cloos:                       You do some things I don’t do. I mean, y’all have really dived in.

Kathy Curran:                    Well, she revolutionized our house. I would say she’s a dark green. And she wants to go greener, but she’s, you know, with three littles. But so that’s kind of our journey. And now, I will say, that last Christmas she said, “Mom, please, not stuff.” Now, I’m gonna tell you, I am going to be honest with you, that she’ll say ‘not stuff’ but my family still needs to open packages. [inaudible] But what it said to me was let’s start changing the way we do it. And I feel like even this year is going to be even more different. Is that good grammar?

Marla Cloos:                       Well, and we’re talking … I don’t know but I get what you’re saying. But I also think this generation and our daughters are close in age, in their 20s, and this group which they’re kind of the tail end of the millennials, sorry folks to stereotype, but this quote unquote millennial generation, so 20s through mid-30s, late 30s, one of the things I’ve read so much about is that they prize experiences. And this, and they’re also not attached to stuff that some of the previous generations have been. They’re into the sharing economy. This is why Uber and Lyft and the bike sharing and scooter sharing and all of this has been so popular with this group is they’re not near as attached to stuff.

Kathy Curran:                    No.

Marla Cloos:                       And they are in the home industry. They are more likely to rent than to own. And we’re all kind of watching to see if that changes drastically as their kids move into school age. Because a lot of times, better schools are associated with suburbs. But, you can still rent in the suburbs you don’t have to own.

Kathy Curran:                    Well, I was going to say, we are doing the most green thing we’ve every done as a family.

Marla Cloos:                       Which is?

Kathy Curran:                    This is it. Now this is like deep dark green. This is like forest green.

Marla Cloos:                       Go for it.

Kathy Curran:                    My daughter and my son-in-law and my three grandchildren, we all live together in the same house.

Marla Cloos:                       Whew, doggy. Multi-generational living!

Kathy Curran:                    Multi-generational living. We are going all the way back to the 1600’s.

Marla Cloos:                       This is such a hot topic of conversation right now and while it’s kind of related to gift-giving and what we’re going to talk about. Because you know each other better when you live in the same home. But this is very highly practiced in a lot of other cultures, and America truly is a melting pot of cultures and times and demographics and so you know, it’s kinda like what’s old is new again, right? Kinda the retro thing is back in.

Kathy Curran:                    Very much, like gardening, you know, and things like that.

Marla Cloos:                       Back to basics.

Kathy Curran:                    But, I realized how independent I am. And she’s fine with it, I felt like they were going to be like, “Ugh!” It’s my husband and I that love the … That are struggling with the giving up the independence. But I will say that the shared resources of our home, they want to travel. And so, they’re going to use our home for home-base.

Marla Cloos:                       Nice.

Kathy Curran:                    Instead of sustaining two households. We’re into one household and that frees them up to travel because she home schools and he works remotely. So, it’s a definitely a different … Our family’s culture is changing.

Marla Cloos:                       Interesting. So, one of the things that I heard in this, and I don’t know if y’all listening heard this, but they’ve combined resources to be more efficient in how they’ve used them in this family. Right?

Kathy Curran:                    That’s right! Because we don’t keep food separate.

Marla Cloos:                       Or house!

Kathy Curran:                    Or our house or our heating and our air. We’ve made decisions about are we gonna keep the … Because we have little ones to consider. So we consider how to conserve energy, like at night. So, that’s a sit down. And we’re having to kinda do this as we go. But, yeah, we are combining resources. And you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to jump in the same car.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh, I totally can get that.

Kathy Curran:                    Like we would go to my daughter’s house and there would be for a family of seven there might be six cars at her house. So even that eventually is going to lessen the impact on the environment.

Marla Cloos:                       So I love, love, love this story. I never get tired of hearing of it. So we are actually going to take a quick breather here. And when we come back, I wanna talk about our mutual joy story and how that’s let us into the whole idea of the joy of giving. And how this ties in with a greener way of thinking. And I say greener in the better way not like the color and the … As Kermit the Frog said green is hard or “It’s not easy being green!” And I have a bag that says that and I marked out the “not”. Because it’s really easy to be green.

Kathy Curran:                    It is. It’s easier than you think.

Marla Cloos:                       And it’s a good thing, so anyway, we’re going to talk more about that when we come back. Y’all hang on.

So, pardon the brief commercial there. We wanted to talk next about, if you really do want to give a physical gift, which sometimes you do, right?

Kathy Curran:                    My family needs to open a few gifts at Christmas. We just do.

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah. Well I even wrap up gift certificates so people have things to open.

Kathy Curran:                    Right. Because you just do want something to sit down and open.

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah, that’s part of what makes a holiday or a celebration really fun. And of course all of these can apply for birthdays, anniversaries, any kind of celebration. Doesn’t have to just be Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever other type of holiday you’re celebrating in your faith or your family or your community. With December coming upon us and that being a big time of gift giving, we just though this might be a good time.


Kathy Curran:                    Oh, I just thought about giving my daughter-in-love and my son-

Marla Cloos:                       I love that ‘daughter-in-love’.

Kathy Curran:                    Because she’s not an outlaw.

Marla Cloos:                       No she’s not.

Kathy Curran:                    We love her.

Marla Cloos:                       You hear that Mike? You’re going to become my son-in-love.

Kathy Curran:                    Your son-in-love. I have a son in love too and I love him. But LED Christmas lights.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh, those are awesome. I have those on my house.

Kathy Curran:                    They don’t have Christmas decorations.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh.

Kathy Curran:                    And so maybe, at Thanksgiving, we’ll you know …

Marla Cloos:                       Go find some. And oh, by the way, folks, if you do want LED holiday lights, shop early. They tend to go quickly and there’s also some great options online.

Kathy Curran:                    And they’re brighter than they used to be.

Marla Cloos:                       You know what? We need to put some of those on Everyday Green Home.

Kathy Curran:                    Yes we do.

Marla Cloos:                       Ah, note to self. Okay. So we’ll get some up on Everyday Green Home so by the time this publishes, you guys can link there as well. Because Everyday Green Home is your shopping source for greener choices.

So, anyhow, good idea, Kathy. Thanks.

Kathy Curran:                    It’s easy to shop on.

Marla Cloos:                       Thanks.

Kathy Curran:                    It’s just easy. Yeah.

Marla Cloos:                       Hey, we had a great designer working with us, didn’t we?

Kathy Curran:                    [inaudible]

Marla Cloos:                       So, one of the things, obviously, buying anything local is a great place to start. Or handmade.

Kathy Curran:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marla Cloos:                       And I love the local artisans that we have in the art district here.

Kathy Curran:                    Yes.

Marla Cloos:                       And I find, like we love pottery. So I love finding a piece of handmade pottery. That’s hopefully-

Kathy Curran:                    One of a kind.

Marla Cloos:                       Right, exactly. And a lot of times I find that artisans are more particular about what goes into their pieces and creations. So they tend to be a lot, I feel, more free of some of the stuff that gets in the commercial side.

Kathy Curran:                    Right.

Marla Cloos:                       We talked about things that could be made from recyclable materials.

Kathy Curran:                    Right. Repurposing items.

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah.

Kathy Curran:                    In your home. And then the biggest repurpose you can do, and there’s no shame in it, is re gifting.

Marla Cloos:                       You’re a woman after my own heart.

Kathy Curran:                    Everybody’s embarrassed to re gift.

Marla Cloos:                       I have a re gifting bag.

Kathy Curran:                    I have a re gifting … It just might not be … What is that saying? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Marla Cloos:                       Absolutely.

Kathy Curran:                    And so I-

Marla Cloos:                       Perfect for those white elephant parties or dirty santa parties.

Kathy Curran:                    So perfect, so perfect. I love those. But yeah, re gifting and repurposing, shopping local, consignment shops, thrift stores.

Marla Cloos:                       Gardening supplies was another one that we had talked about.

Kathy Curran:                    Right.

Marla Cloos:                       So if someone’s into gardening, finding supplies or heirloom seeds.

Kathy Curran:                    Heirloom seeds.

Marla Cloos:                       Or-

Kathy Curran:                    Here’s a subscription, but it fits with gardening, there’s subscriptions into seed banks.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh.

Kathy Curran:                    That you could give someone.

Marla Cloos:                       That’s a cool idea.

Kathy Curran:                    So then heirloom seeds are seeds that produce fruits and vegetables that produce seeds.

Marla Cloos:                       Yep. And we actually had a podcast on some time ago, we’ll link to it, with a company named Seed Geeks out of Missouri. My old home in St. Louis, or my former home. And they do a really cool job with heirloom seeds. And my understanding is you’re better off staying regional with heirloom seeds in particular. But for people that are in mid-America, the mid west area, Seed Geeks could be a great resource for you. Or look for one on your own. A lot of times, anybody that does native plants will also know of heirloom seed providers for your area.

Kathy Curran:                    Giving native plants.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh, there you go.

Kathy Curran:                    At Christmas would be great.

Marla Cloos:                       Right.

Kathy Curran:                    Because not everything grows in the winter in Oklahoma.

Marla Cloos:                       True. Or a lot of places.

Kathy Curran:                    In California, you could think about a seed and something would grow, but not so much in Oklahoma.

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah, I hear you there. We also had talked you know if somebody has a hobby, and finding something that would support their hobby.

Kathy Curran:                    Right.

Marla Cloos:                       Especially if it was something local, again. I’m really high on the local stuff.

Kathy Curran:                    Right. Local. And then if are we ready to transition into if you have to give stuff, what’s the good stuff to give?

Marla Cloos:                       Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kathy Curran:                    My daughter, of course, was the first one to start bringing into focus about where articles that we were purchasing were made.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh, fair trade.

Kathy Curran:                    Fair trade, and she’s, having children, she’s especially tenderhearted towards child labor. And so she did a lot of research and there are wonderful sites now where you can find … One is Ecofashionista.

Marla Cloos:                       Yep. I saw that one.

Kathy Curran:                    And there’s actually a list of 35 fair trade and ethical clothing brands. Now, she did not bring that to me. That was in our research through Green Home Coach. But she really researches where she gets things. And I notice that things that I give her that do not fit in with her values, end up in the garage sale.

Marla Cloos:                       Or the re gifting bag.

Kathy Curran:                    I don’t think she even will re gift. I’m telling you, that girl. She lives her values in the green area. She really does. And I wouldn’t say that she even calls herself green. It’s just her way of life now. But, so being aware of fair trade, sustainable companies, the shipping costs, fair labor laws and then child labor. You know.

Marla Cloos:                       So there’s another, this is not by any means a prerequisite, but it will help you find companies that put their values out. And they’re B certified corporations. I need to look up the exact wording. But it’s basically a business that has said they are out there for the greater good. That’s another thing to look for. And eco-bags. When they were on the Green Gab. They are a certified B-

Kathy Curran:                    B Corps!

Marla Cloos:                       B Corps! Thank you. My words are escaping me today. For instance they are. And it’s just a way of putting out there that your values are really important in how you operate your business. So that might be another marker for folks to look at. Is looking for a certified B Corps. Looking for fair trade companies or companies that help you to pursue another value that’s really near and dear to your heart.

Here’s another thing that I love about all of this. This makes it really personal. And rather than just buying a gift to buy a gift. And I know sometimes it’s a little challenging to put that much thought into it.

Kathy Curran:                    It takes a little more time.

Marla Cloos:                       And I don’t buy as many gifts as I used to since our kids are grown and we do number drawings for the bigger family. And that really helps. But that gives me more time to really think about it and to do something personal. And I love that aspect of more is less.

Kathy Curran:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative). That is something that I will say I have been learning. And I’m really coming along the holidays, I’ve been asking myself, “Do I really need more stuff?”

Marla Cloos:                       I don’t.

Kathy Curran:                    I don’t need more stuff. I don’t want more stuff to dust. And I think one of the biggest gifts I can give my kids is not leaving them a lot of stuff.

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah, I agree.

Kathy Curran:                    Simplify as I get older. Simplify, downsize. Follow their lead. If they don’t want their stuff right now, they’re not going to want my stuff. So I think I’m going to purpose in my heart to give them the gift of less stuff.

Marla Cloos:                       Or if there is something that’s really important to them then you know that needs to be passed along. I know we’ve done that with my mom. Is there’s some things she’s earmarked for each of us. So that we each have a special piece of our family history.

Kathy Curran:                    Right.

Marla Cloos:                       And those can be great gifts, by the way. If you’re ready to part with those, then go ahead and give them so people can enjoy them.

Kathy Curran:                    And they need to know the stories behind those gifts.

Marla Cloos:                       Absolutely.

Kathy Curran:                    Not just, you know, here’s a china set. They’re not going to want a china set.

Marla Cloos:                       I know.

Kathy Curran:                    If you sit down and you give them one tea cup from the china set along with the story, then I’m noticing that’s kind of what …

Marla Cloos:                       The showcase piece.

Kathy Curran:                    Yeah. She’ll keep one china cup with a story behind with her great grandmother. She’ll do that.

Marla Cloos:                       Nice. Well, I feel that we’ve pretty well gone-

Kathy Curran:                    I have one more thing.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh my gosh!

Kathy Curran:                    I’ve got one more thing.

Marla Cloos:                       Okay. We’ve got time for one more thing.

Kathy Curran:                    It’s eco-friendly gift wrapping.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh, such a great idea. Thank you for bringing that up.

Kathy Curran:                    Okay. I’ve just got to throw this in. And I’m really bragging on my daughter here. Because she’s who taught me as well as working for Green Home Coach. But I live this. So seeing her wrap things in fabrics, is a big thing. She’ll try to find something that correlates with the gift. Like, if you’re going to give gardening things, she’ll put it in a clay pot.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh cute.

Kathy Curran:                    Old maps. I will say. She loves to wrap gifts in those.

Marla Cloos:                       Oh, and you can find those at flea markets and stuff for like nothing.

Kathy Curran:                    Big atlases. Oh yeah, big huge old maps for nothing. Of course, brown paper. Recycled brown paper.

Marla Cloos:                       And I save my gift wrap and bags and reuse them.

Kathy Curran:                    And we do too. And so that’s green. But also, remember how we used to cover our books with brown paper bags?

Marla Cloos:                       Yes.

Kathy Curran:                    You can do that with gifts. You just turn them inside out. Reusable fabric gift bags.

Marla Cloos:                       Yep.

Kathy Curran:                    You can make them. You can buy them.

Marla Cloos:                       And you can get them on Ecobags.

Kathy Curran:                    Well, I was going to say, what a great gift is the Ecobag with something kind of fun in it too.

Marla Cloos:                       Yeah. You know we’re getting them printed for Everyday Green?

Kathy Curran:                    Oh, I’m so excited!

Marla Cloos:                       Everyday Green Home. So yeah. If y’all want one you’re going to have to message me and we’ll figure out how to get one to you.

Kathy Curran:                    And then, everybody probably needs a little bit of Christmas paper and they do make recycled gift wrap.

Marla Cloos:                       And you want to buy the kind that can be recycled.

Kathy Curran:                    Yes.

Marla Cloos:                       Because a lot of times if it’s got the foil on it or the shiny stuff, some of them can. So look for a label that says it can be recycled if you are going to buy gift wrap. And I love using raffia and twine and cloth ribbons. But I also save my bows.

Kathy Curran:                    Wrapping things in big mason jars because that makes sense because you can use mason jars forever. Sorry I’m just having all of these things going bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. I’m looking at our garage.

Marla Cloos:                       Y’all know where I’m going to be getting my gift ideas this year. My gift wrap.

Kathy Curran:                    I’m in my garage looking around, “What do we use?” So yeah.

Marla Cloos:                       Okay. So we want to hear from you guys out there, and gals. And we want to hear your ideas. Your favorite gift for giving. It’s an experience or a greener gift and how you dress it up for the big presentation. And we just hope you have an amazing greener holiday and that you found one tip, maybe two, that you can take and put into your life. And …

Kathy Curran:                    Metal straws would be great gifts.

Marla Cloos:                       Gifts.

Kathy Curran:                    Great stocking stuffers.

Marla Cloos:                       Actually I need to order some for Scott, so we’ll have to do that today.

Kathy Curran:                    Metal straws.

Marla Cloos:                       We’ll put that on too.

Kathy Curran:                    Oh, LED light bulbs. I never …

Marla Cloos:                       Okay, she’s going to keep going.

Kathy Curran:                    I’m just gone!

Marla Cloos:                       Okay, folks, I hate to tell you this, but it is time to wrap it up on the Green Gab and we have had a ball today. Kathy, I think you’re coming back, dear.

Kathy Curran:                    Love to.

Marla Cloos:                       I told her that. She said, “Mm-hmm (affirmative). We’ll see.” And I said, “We’ll see for sure.” So, thank you all for welcoming Kathy to the Green Gab and we just hope you have an amazing green day and we look forward to your feedback. Signing out, have an awesome day.