Each month we delve into a new story inspired by our scent of the month. This month, in honor of Northlands and the entire 2021 Ignite Series, we’re bringing you 12 unconventional gift ideas to help you reconnect joyfully with the people in your life this holiday season.
Every year, our Ignite Series is guided by an overarching theme. It’s our way of linking our seasonal scents to a broader idea and connecting a wide variety of monthly articles into a cohesive whole — a multipart manifesto of sorts.
This year, it was all about the power, beauty, and joy of connection. In keeping with that theme, we’ve compiled a list of 12 unconventional gifts, inspired by our 2021 Ignite Series, to help you strengthen the joyful connections in your life.
Shop at an Independent or Employee-Owned Bookstore
Combine the joy of reading with support for companies that invest in their communities by buying gifts from independent and employee-owned bookstores. You might even include a note with each gift about why you chose to buy from this particular bookstore. To cultivate even more connection, you could start a small book club with a few of your friends or family members.
Where to shop:
- Trident Booksellers (Boulder, CO)
- Rough Draft Books (Kingston, NY)
- Three Lives and Company (New York City, NY)
- Books Are Magic (Brooklyn, NY)
- Try Bookshop.org’s store locator to find an independent bookseller near you. If there aren’t any nearby, you can order from Bookshop’s website, which distributes some of its earnings evenly among independent booksellers.
Get Involved With a Local Land Trust
Do you know someone who is passionate about public space? Ask them to volunteer with you at a nearby community land trust (CLT). Land trusts have a variety of missions, from providing affordable housing to maintaining green space and historic preservation. Look for a CLT with a goal that’s close to both of your hearts.
Where to find a land trust:
- Use the Land Trust Alliance’s land trust locator to find a CLT in your area.
- If you can’t find a local CLT, or if the ones near you don’t offer volunteer opportunities, you could always donate to a CLT in your loved one’s name.
Buy a CSA From a Local Farm
Join the regenerative agriculture movement by making jams from locally grown produce or buying your loved one a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share from a local, sustainable farm. Buy one for yourself as well, and the two of you can bond over your recurring bounty.
Where to shop:
- Local Harvest maintains a directory of over 40,000 small farms and farmers’ markets.
- Regeneration International also has a map of specifically regenerative farms.
No CSAs near you? Many regenerative farms — like Hawthorne Valley in Ghent, NY — offer classes, tours, accommodations, and other fun activities. Ask your friend or family member if they’d like to visit one with you. You can use Regeneration International’s map to find some options within a reasonable distance.
A foraging excursion with a friend or family member is a fantastic way to bask in the abundance of the natural world, the ultimate source of all our nourishment. And after you’ve gone foraging, you can spend a day turning your harvest into delicious dishes you can share, spreading the joy even further.
How to get started:
If you’re a foraging expert, feel free to dive in. But for beginners, it’s best to get some guidance to make sure you’re being safe and respectful to the environment.
- Check out Eat the Planet for a list of foraging classes and walks in your area.
- The Outside Institute produces great guidebooks on the flora and fauna of New York’s Hudson Valley.
- The books of Samuel Thayer, one of the most well-regarded authorities on foraging, are another great place to start.
Take Care of Yourself (and Someone Else)
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your community is your whole, rested, healthy self. Set aside a day for self-care. Put aside your work and your responsibilities, and get some proper, deep, reenergizing rest. How exactly you spend the day is up to you, but here’s a bit of advice: Don’t do anything that feels like ticking an item off a to-do list. Try some of these activities instead.
Once you’re rested, extend the gift of self-care outward by helping someone you love find some time for themselves. Offer a night of babysitting. Cook them dinner. Take over some of their chores for the day. Give them a break from shouldering all their burdens on their own.
Make Regenerative Gift Baskets
In the regenerative economy, companies actively choose to produce goods in a way that leaves a positive impact on people and the planet. You can make a difference, too, by shopping with those regenerative companies. Make gift baskets of sustainable goods — there are many to choose from! You might even slip some reading material into the baskets so your friends and family members can learn more about the regenerative economy movement.
Where to shop
- Alter Eco makes delicious chocolate with regeneratively grown cocoa.
- Dr. Bronner’s is always a go-to for sustainable soaps, body care products, and more.
- The American Sustainable Business Council maintains a searchable directory of sustainable businesses.
- Search for B Corporations — like us! — in the B Corp directory.
Exploring the world with a loved one can bring you closer together — and closer to this beautiful planet we share. You can start small by planning a walk through your city. Identify a few places you’d like to go, and then construct a route to connect them all. Keep a camera and a notepad handy so you can both make a record of the things you find. For the more adventurous types, you can plan an excursion to a wildlife preserve or even a camping trip. Consider going somewhere neither of you has gone before so that you can experience it for the first time together.
Ways to explore:
- Robert Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter is an excellent source of tips for engaging with the world.
- Check out the National Parks Service for a list of national campgrounds.
- Most state parks department websites — like New York’s — are also good places to look for destinations.
Help Rewild the Planet
Honor the planet — and the bonds you share — by doing some rewilding in your neighborhood. Start by taking the Wild Seed Project’s “Pledge to Rewild” together. You and your loved one will both receive tools, support, and action steps once you’ve made the pledge.
How to get involved:
- Volunteer with existing rewilding projects, like New York City’s Billion Oyster Project. You can also connect with a broad array of conservation efforts by volunteering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Does your friend or family member love to throw parties? You could host a fundraiser together. The Ocean Conservation Trust has plenty of ideas to get you started.
- If volunteering isn’t feasible, make a donation in your loved one’s name to a rewilding project like The Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Grow.
Give the Gift of Ritual
Help a loved one find their center by bringing some ritual into their life. It can be some activity they do on their own or something you do together, a one-off occurrence or a standing date. The key is to find some creative act that will help your loved one feel more fulfilled and focused.
How to make a ritual:
- Gardening, of course, is a great ritual. The David Suzuki Foundation has tips to help you start a sustainable garden. You can buy seeds that are native to your area from Prairie Moon Nursery and Prairie Nursery.
- Tea is another great candidate for rituals, as the New York Times explains. Plus, you can buy sustainably grown and harvested tea from a B Corp like Tease.
- Want to design your own custom ritual? The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University can show you how.
Throw a Sustainable Dinner Party
Food is one of the most potent ways to encourage social connection and positive change, so invite your loved ones to a dinner party with dishes lovingly made from locally sourced ingredients. If your crowd loves to cook, make it a potluck. Then, everyone can share the stories behind their sustainable dishes.
Where to find ingredients:
- A CSA is a great place to start. Try Local Harvest or Regeneration International for a list of nearby farms.
- You can also check the B Corp Directory for fresh and prepared foods made by socially conscious businesses.
- Need some help with the logistics of a sustainable dinner party? This article is a good place to start.
Be Pen Pals
How about asking one of your friends or family members to be your pen pal for the next year? Even if you see each other every day, setting aside time to write letters to one another can help you connect on an even deeper level.
How to get started:
- We recommend writing with pen and paper rather than digital methods. Writing letters by hand is a far more gratifying experience.
- Buy your pen pal a nice set of stationary. You might pick up some notebooks from Public Supply, a B Corporation that donates 25 percent of its net profits to high-need classrooms. Botanical Paperworks is another good choice: It sells biodegradable seed paper that can be planted when you’re done with it.
- If you’ve enjoyed the art and poetry of the 2021 Ignite Series, our new set of Loving Postcards is a great way to send small notes.
Share a Scent Memory
We make candles because we believe they give us a way to reconnect with ourselves and restore our balance in a world that’s always on. Help the people in your life slow down and recenter with the gift of scent.
After the year we’ve all had, who wouldn’t love to sit back, light a candle, and take some time for themselves? Check out the Keap Gift Guide for inspiration. Share a scent journey with a gift subscription, or give out your favorites with a festive Four-Pack of candles.
Giving the perfect gift isn’t easy — and for some of us, searching for the right presents for the people we love can be a source of anxiety. But the truth is that the most powerful gift of all is your care and kindness, in whatever shape they might take.
We see this gift guide as a source of inspiration rather than an instruction manual. Perhaps you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for among these 12 suggestions — which is great! But if not, we hope it’ll help you think about the small and specific ways you can nurture your connections this holiday season — and throughout the year ahead.