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A Holiday Gift Guide

Some of the best gifts I’ve ever received aren’t things. They’re cherished memories.

Watching the sun go down after a rock climbing lesson. Hang gliding over a beach. Feeling incredibly fancy as I sipped sparkling wine at a performance of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

On this Black Friday, the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, we at Team Climate wanted to remind you that you don’t necessarily need to buy objects to show appreciation for your friends and family. Overconsumption, as we know, is a major driver of the climate crisis.

You’ll have to think local for some of these ideas, but here is something to get you started:

Knock down the paywall

Movie lovers might appreciate a subscription. We all know the big streaming services. But there are also lesser-known ones that specialize in independent films. The Met Opera also has a streaming service.

Subscriptions and memberships to nonprofit news websites are gifts that help strengthen democracy. There are nonprofit sites covering the climate and environmental issues we often discuss here, such as Grist, Inside Climate News and High Country News. But I also encourage you to look for local news organizations for this one.

Memberships to museums and gyms might be a good fit, too. I have a friend in London who says his membership to Kew Gardens is one of the best things about living in the city. There are plenty of botanical garden options in the United States, too. ClassPass gives people access to fitness activities in several countries. A pass to a national park may be the best gift for people who love being in the wilderness.

You can also make donations to charities in a friend’s name. Last year, Wirecutter, the New York Times product review website, made a list of charities their reporters had thoroughly checked and could recommend.

For that friend who loves food, you could consider a subscription to a cooking magazine or to New York Times Cooking.

Go out for the evening …

There are so many concerts, plays, lectures, book festivals and other events to attend. Check out the schedule for 2023 at your favorite venue. The New York Times has a Broadway guide with the best shows. We also have an international theater section with reviews of plays around the world. Maybe there is a great one where you are. If you’re looking for multimedia performances, Pop-Up Magazine tracks shows across the United States.

… or for the day

Sign up for a kayaking trip, a cooking lesson or a dance class together. Be a tourist in your city and go do some sightseeing. Have a picnic in the loveliest park around, or join a food tour to learn about your city’s hidden gems.

I went on a food tour in Queens with Joe DiStefano, the writer of “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss,” that was one of the best things I’d ever experienced in New York City. (I also encourage you to create your own food tour, which is often even more fun!)

What about pampering people a bit? Contact a photographer to find out about a photo shoot of your loved one’s family. Or get them massages in a lovely spa or hotel.

It’s the thought that counts. Really.

One of my fondest Christmas memories was of one year when my mother and her sister were both utterly broke. They decided to give us, their children, homemade gift certificates instead of actual things. They said things like “worth one bicycle” or “worth a new sound system.”

I remember laughing until my stomach hurt as each of us tried to guess what the little notes would say before they were unwrapped. The certificates were never exchanged for anything; they didn’t need to be. We all learned that night that being together and sharing the intention of making someone you love happy were the best parts of the gifting ritual.

Related: If you do opt to buy things, Wirecutter has some suggestions on how to shop more sustainably.


After Thanksgiving: Even if you don’t have a yard, you can minimize the climate impact of your food scraps by composting them.



Retailers frequently toss out returned, damaged or otherwise unwanted items instead of repurposing them. But dumpster divers are picking up a lot of these products and making videos of their hauls on TikTok. The videos collectively have billions of views. Some retailers have felt compelled to respond.


Thanks for being a subscriber. We’ll be back on Tuesday.

Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward. Read past editions of the newsletter here.

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