To state the obvious: I care about the planet and overconsumption. But, I also think that giving small and simple gifts is a really sweet part of this season. I don't think these two tenets are incompatible; to reconcile them we just need to step back and re-think what gifts are intended to do. I love the idea that gifts don't have to make someone's whole year - they just have to make them smile. It's a good rule of thumb that lets us reign in the standard holiday madness without losing the tradition of exchanging thoughtful things.
I don't need to give or receive anything huge, just smaller bursts of cheer to share with family and friends. The gifts I give tend toward the handmade and homemade, the edible, and the useful.
(Or, for friends upon whom this won't be an imposition - maybe a few pieces of zero-waste-inspired gear to help get them going, like the Kleen Kanteen that I gave my boyfriend last year to fuel his coffee habit in a sustainable way).
There are many more wonderful ideas for giving sustainably around the web, and I wanted to point you toward a few of my favorite posts elsewhere, in case browsing gift guides is for you, like me, a major guilty pleasure this time of year.
Edible gifts, always a favorite.
Zero waste gifts for faraway friends.
Ideas for charities that could really use your help (Or, let your friend pick the charity you'll donate to as a gift! A close friend of mine recently did that for me and it meant so much).
A list of experiences you can give in lieu of objects.
And, experience gift cards - a beautiful way to give non-object gifts.
Ideas on giving less, but giving more.
Trash-free gifts for hostesses, travelers, and pet owners. And everyone in between.
And, a few more tangible gift ideas for the zero wasters in your life: jars of bulk foods they love, homemade lotion or lip balm, some tea or chocolates bought in bulk, unpackaged bars of soap, beautiful cloth napkins for the table, homemade jam, a homecooked meal, hand-sewn (or storebought) handkerchiefs - I find you can never have too many, a few extra cotton bulk bags, a furoshiki cloth for endless use, DIY dryer balls, a batch of your signature granola packaged in a glass jar, a spork or straws to tuck in their bag (PS - you can currently find stainless steel straws without packaging at West Elm stores), or something bought just once a lifetime.
My mom knit me the scarf above for my birthday this year - I love it so much.