by Suzanne Wently
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Once you reach a certain age, and you’re lucky enough to have your mother still alive and well, at some point you’ll come to a sinking realization: She has everything she could ever need and anything that she wants she’ll buy for herself. So, what exactly is a loving daughter supposed to get a loving mom for Mother’s Day?
As the holiday approaches (mark your calendar for that phone call: May 14, 2023!!), I have to put on my thinking cap. My mother is especially challenging. She doesn’t like perfume. She doesn’t drink wine. She has an overflowing closet and jewelry box. She’s got everything for all her hobbies that keep her busy in retirement. Yet, despite this reality, I know a phone call isn’t enough.
The best gifts involve a lot of creative thinking and a long-term vision. What could I give my mother that let her know that I love her and want her to live her best life? I discovered the answer through a search for sustainable gifts. These aren’t the cheap crap you buy at a box store, the manufactured garbage that seems nice but is somewhat soulless. These are gifts that not only put a smile on Mom’s face but also remind her of how connected she is to the bigger mother: Mother Earth.
Here are 9+ eco-friendly gift ideas for the upcoming Mother’s Day or any of the sustainable holidays:
Plants For the Garden
When I read the book “Ikigai,” I learned that the people in Okinawa, Japan who lived for more than 100 years almost all had a garden. This usually requires a small plot of land and a little bit of sun, but even mothers living in small apartments can have a garden. She can grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables for smiles throughout the year. (If you're interested in learning more about Ikigai, check out this article.)
You can set your mom up with her new favorite hobby by getting her plants from a local nursery along with a gardening tool kit, a knee pad to make getting up and down easier, and a pair of gardening clogs.
Even a flowering plant is a more sustainable option than a bouquet in a throw-away vase.
Organic Co-op Membership
One year, I bought my mom a big box of tropical fruit, most of which she’d never seen before. Another year, I signed her up for a few months at her local organic co-op. Every month, she received an array of locally grown vegetables from nearby farms. These sustainable gifts supported her community while encouraging her to eat healthily.
You can find where to support nearby your mother by searching for co-ops online. Even metropolitan cities often have a service for people interested in farm-fresh veggies. Not all deliver to homes; you’ll want to check the process and see if your mother is willing to drive to a central location to pick it up instead.
I have an early memory of wobbling on my bicycle, its training wheels groaning in their efforts, while my mother balanced alongside me on her three-speed, baby blue bike. Whatever happened to that bike?
Maybe it’s time to get my mother a cute new beach cruiser. There are some really cute ones — basket included! — that can keep mom active with the sun shining on her face.
If your mother has reached a certain age and struggled with balance, it’s OK: You can get her a tricycle instead. These are especially perfect if she lives in an assisted living community or a neighborhood where she can peddle her way over to see friends for a bridge game or an afternoon cocktail.
Maybe it isn’t the most exciting gift, but a compost bin is an extremely useful tool. And trust me, it lands differently than getting your mother a vacuum cleaner. If she already has a garden or enjoys cooking, an outdoor compost bin will help her reduce her waste and grow hardier plants.
She’ll also need an indoor compost bin to temporarily store her scraps until she has enough to bring outside. Just as I prefer the tumbling outdoor version, I like the indoor crock that has a built-in filter in the design. This keeps the stink in and mom happy.
Homemade Bath Bombs and Soaps
Calgon! Take me away! What woman doesn’t love a nice bubble bath with luxurious soaps and bath bombs? I know I sure do. My mother happens to be one of those go-get-‘em types who’s always staying busy and worrying, so it’s extra-important to encourage her to slow down, relax, and take some time for herself. This bath bomb gift set is made with all-natural ingredients and goes nicely with this sampler pack of vegan-friendly soap.
Organic Coffee Subscriptions
I hit a grand slam when I bought my mother a year-long subscription to a local coffee roaster. In fact, I keep this gift rolling throughout the year for her birthday, my father’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Flag Day, you name it. I mean, they did help me graduate college so I figure I can surprise them with a bag of coffee every month.
While you can sign up for a national chain of organic coffee, I recommend instead finding a local coffee roaster close to your mom’s house. That will save carbon emissions on shipping and support small businesses in her community.
Zero Waste Kit
My mother cares about the Earth, but she doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to stop using so much plastic when she’s shopping and cooking. Enter her loving daughter! If your mother is the same, consider buying her a zero-waste kit that’s got everything she needs to do the right thing. It comes with mesh produce bags, beeswax wraps, metal straws, and reusable baggies — all things she’s likely not to have, yet.
Yoga Class Pass
As a yoga teacher, I get to see the benefits of yoga for students my mother’s age every day. Women who stretch, breathe, balance, and strengthen feel better in their bodies, look better, and are more relaxed. That’s exactly what I want for my mother, too.
Do some research with Google Maps about the yoga studios in her area, and look for reviews that highlight gentle, yin, or restorative classes. Buy her an unlimited pass, which costs around $100 depending on her location, and maybe get her a new pair of wide-legged bamboo yoga pants, too.
When I really hit a dead-end with finding something lovely to get my mother, I simply pick out a soy candle with a wonderful scent. Soy wax is a healthier option than regular candles because they’re naturally non-toxic and burn cleaner, without carcinogens or pollutants that may trigger allergies. We don’t want Mom to get the sniffles, do we?
I love that so many services are available digitally now, making many gifts sustainable simply because there is no manufacturing costs or delivery byproducts. You can pay for your mother’s newspaper subscription, a few new books for her Kindle, a streaming service if she likes to watch television, or a million other things. You may need to help her set it up, but that quality time can be part of the present.
Bonus Idea: Donate to Charity
What I really love about my mother is that she taught me the values that create the foundation of who I am. She taught me the importance of caring for people who are different than me, encouraged my vegetarianism, and supported my early years of organizing recycling services and litter pick-ups. She showed me that I can make a difference in the lives of others through my actions and my words.
You can show your mother how much she’s taught you by donating to a charity that she’d approve of. Most will let you donate in another person’s name — and it’s perhaps the most sustainable gift and one that’s sure to please.
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