Though I'm on board with giving experience gifts over objects when I can, I'll admit that sometimes doing so just isn't practical as a replacement for the gift of an object. Tangible gifts are still important; generosity is a way to share love, gratitude, and appreciation, and experience gifts don't always work in a given situation. For example, when giving hostess gifts! If you're heading to dinner at a friend's house, you can't just plan an adventure and whisk them away.
So, I've made a list of a few ideas for hostess gifts that are simple, thoughtful, sustainable, and don't necessarily scream "zero waste" or "eco-friendly." Though I want my gifts to be all of those things, really they also need to be reflective of the people I'm giving to, not just my own values and preferences. It's tempting to give everyone I know reusable, sustainable homewares (like cloth napkins, stainless steel straws, or cotton produce bags), because I think these things help create a better world, and I love that they replace disposable goods. But, with a little thought I've been able to think of gifts that suit my own values and sensibilities without pushing them off onto others - the gifts below inhabit the middle ground between those two, largely by virtue of being very useful in nature. I love the rule of thumb that a hostess gift should go away - be simple, unobtrusive, and use-up-able, instead of adding a new vase or knicknack to the fight against clutter, and useful gifts like these follow that guideline well. All that said, here are a few of my favorite ideas:
-Herbs from your garden, fresh or dried, maybe packaged in a small glass jar. I'm not the only one who would love this as a gift, right?
-Chocolate in a reusable jar - best gift ever! For my birthday a friend gave me this jar filled with homemade chocolate pomegrante seed bark. It was such a stunning, thoughtful, kind gift, and of course though the contents disappeared right quick the jar still comes in handy daily - currently, as storage for dried bulk chickpeas!
-Beeswax food wrap, which beautifully takes the place of plastic wrap. This is a sustainability-themed gift that doesn't scream "I'm trying to change your lifestyle!" to the recipient, and I think almost anyone would appreciate it.
-A small plant, or, hey, in season local flowers! Though flowers at the grocery are usually shipped from afar and wrapped in plastic, during the months when your farmers' market is open you'll be able to find local blooms that you can buy without plastic (just bring along your own vase and put them straight in!). Or, of course, if you have a garden, pick flowers from there - in spring, a jar filled with flowering branches would be such a sweet gift, right? And, just a note, I like using ball jars as vases when giving flowers, because they'll be easy for the recipient to use again and again in many different ways.
-Their favorite produce, local and in season: who wouldn't flip for berries from your garden, or be so happy about a basket of heirloom tomatoes from the farmers' market? Just be sure to adhere to your hosts' tastes, and don't bring anything too complicated to prepare unless you know they'd be up for it: save the fava beans and kabocha squashes for your foodie friends, and for others stick to classic favorites like seasonal fruit and crowd-pleasing vegetables.
-A homemade pantry staple, like cake mix in a ball jar, a bottle of homemade vanilla extract, a jar of jam, or homemade almond butter. Yummmm.
-Food! Bring the salad, a side dish, loaf of your signature banana bread, a jar of homemade cold brew coffee, or a swingtop bottle filled with lemon infused water - something you can all share while you're there, or that your host can keep on his or her counter and savor in the days after you leave.
-And, a few other ideas: loose leaf tea from the bulk aisle, beeswax candles, a little treat for their pet (you can often find them package-free at local pet stores), a glass jar of bulk coffee beans, or a growler of local beer!
These ideas aside, what really matters is that you show up, with love and your kind, helpful self. So, go on, get out there! And, I'd love to hear what your go-to gifts are these days - what have you been bringing to friends' houses lately?