Throughout fall and winter, many are preparing for celebrations and gift-giving. Food, utensils, cards, boxes, wrapping paper, and decorations are often sent to landfills after the celebrations.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. produces 268 million tons of trash. During the holidays, waste increases 25 to 43 percent. The best gift we can give is the habit of sustainable practices. As adults, it is a great responsibility to model good habits for young people that highlight everyone’s roles as stewards of sustainability.

Teaching young people about reducing food waste, nourishment, and the importance of eating seasonal produce helps them build a connection to agriculture in a variety of ways. Food often serves as a role of connection and celebration. In preparation for holiday meals, consider a headcount for guests you’re sharing meals with, sending guests home with leftovers in reusable containers, and cooking recipes that utilize leftovers.

Finding the “perfect” gift can be a challenge. Giving experiences as gifts can help decrease the use of wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, and ribbons. Some may consider an experience that teaches a new skill, gives back to their community, and contributes to our planet’s health.

Supporting local schools and youth is a gift that continually keeps giving and has significant benefits for communities and the local environment. Gardening programs in schools provide students with valuable hands-on learning outdoors and lessons in science. Items such as seeds, gardening tools, soil, and more are always needed. Please consult with your local school district and school if their programs are in need of supplies.

Time is often said to be a precious gift. In Santa Clara County there are many opportunities to volunteer to support people, animals, initiatives, and the environment. Connecting with youth through volunteer organizations helps build connections to resources and positive role models.

For those who gift books, I hope you will consider the selected works for Silicon Valley Reads 2024 which focus on sustainability and climate action. For more information, please visit

The best gift one can give and receive is a healthy planet for future generations. The sustainable habits adopted today can result in a greener tomorrow.