Creative Gifts and Packaging

Get Artsy! Be Crafty! Buy Used!

Creative Gifts

Try these gift ideas that are different, enjoyable, and prevent waste:

  • Electronic books (available on CDs, cassette tapes, or digital formats)
  • Recycled-content products
  • Gift certificates (restaurants, retail stores, etc.) - no wrapping required
  • Tickets to sports events, theatrical or musical performances, or movies
  • Museum or park memberships
  • Cloth napkins
  • Mechanical pencils/refillable pens
  • Homemade coupon (for dinner, a car wash, handyman service, or babysitting)
  • For children: prepare a dress-up box filled with wacky old clothes and jewelry.
  • Homemade baked goods in a reusable tin.
  • Battery charger (buy rechargeable batteries when giving an electronic gift)
  • Transportation passes (bus, CalTrain, BART. etc.)
  • Gifts made-in-California from recycled-content

Make a Gift

Everyone loves a homemade gift and they are so fun to make. You can find all kinds of great reasonably-priced used supplies to make holiday decorations and other neat things at Scrounger's Center for Reusable Art Parts (SCRAP). All items at SCRAP were donated and most likely would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. Get Artsy! Be Crafty! Buy Used! RecycleWorks Creative Re-Use Projects for kids


Have fun discovering new ways to make your gift look good without needless waste. Gift decorating is a great way to be creative.

  • Creative substitutes for wrapping paper include decorated paper bags, scarves, tins, baskets, bags, old maps and calendars, used blueprint paper, or just a nice bow. Specifically selected sections of the newspaper also make fun wrapping paper.
  • Keep gift boxes and bags that you receive and use them to present a gift to someone else. Wrapping paper and bows can be treated the same way.
  • Decorate boxes with magazine cutouts or design your own wrapping paper using paper bags.
  • Instead of using plastic ribbon, trim your gifts with dried flowers, pinecones, yarn, twine, shoelaces, paper or fabric ribbons.
  • If you do choose to use wrapping paper, look for paper containing recycled content. You can also purchase solid colored paper that can be used for occasions throughout the year and decorated with different bows, stickers, and artwork. Conservatree provides a list of organizations carrying greeting cards and wrapping paper made out of recycled content.
  • Did you know packing peanuts are reusable? They can be taken to many of The UPS Stores and other stores that provide packaging and mailing services. When you choose packing materials, if you don't have packing peanuts to reuse, you might try cornstarch biodegradable packing material or consider "air cushioning," (filling sealable bags with air to provide support).

Community and Charity Gifts

InnVision Shelter Network
IVSN's programs succeed in helping homeless families and adults get back on their feet and return to permanent housing and self-sufficiency. They offer a variety of avenues to help local residents, and bring pleasure to friends and family at the same time.

San Mateo County Office of Education Outdoor Ed
This program provides an unparalleled week of outdoor education to students. Donations help make it possible for all children to be able to attend with their classmates.

Second Harvest Food Bank
Nearly half of seniors living in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are at risk of hunger. A gift will help Second Harvest provide weekly groceries for more than 20,000 local seniors.

San Mateo County Public Library
You may choose to support one of the library programs, support library collections, or meet the library's most critical needs. You may donate in honor of someone or send a gift to someone in memory of someone else.

San Mateo County Parks
Donations are an important revenue source to help restore and maintain our many park habitats, trails, facilities and underwrite community programs.

Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA
PHS/SPCA depends on the support of community members and concerned animal lovers to help them provide for these animals in need with warm beds, nutritious food, veterinary care and loving attention for the thousands of lost, stray, unwanted and/or injured domestic and wild animals that come through their doors each year.

Additional Resources for Finding Charities in the County:

Charity Navigator
Provides information on America's largest charities. It is an independent charity evaluator, working to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial data of charities.

Changing the Present
A website that lists charitable gift ideas. The listing features a selection of many charitable organizations from helping a Community to helping the Environment.

Give a Gift of Local Food

Resources on where to buy or pick your own local fruits and veggies

Personal Gifts

A personal gift does not need to be an item. It could be a gift of time spent with loved ones at a local park or museum.

Assist a friend or family member to help clean out unwanted items and donate them. See the ReUse Guide for social service organizations that will pick up usable items.

Examples of places to spend time with friend or family members:

The museum has science and wildlife exhibits that allow visitors both young and old an up-close view of native California animals and habitats.

San Mateo Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden was designed by landscape architect, Nagao Sakurai of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo. It features a granite pagoda, tea house, koi pond and bamboo grove. The Japanese Tea Garden offers a beautiful change of scenery.

Historical Folger Stable in Wunderlich Park
The original Carriage Room in the stable has been transformed into a fascinating museum that highlights the rich history of the estate property and surrounding area and emphasizes the importance of the horse to American culture and the west.

Sanchez Adobe Historic Site
Along with a restored adobe residence from the mid 1800's furnished with furniture from that time period, the area also contains archaeological evidence of the Mission Dolores Outpost. The site now stands as an example of the more spacious and leisurely life of the past.

San Mateo County Parks
Picnic, hike, bike, camp or volunteer in one of our beautiful County parks!

What to do When New Gifts You Receive Replace Current Items

When unwanted items are replaced with new gifts, don't put the unwanted item in the trash. Donate the item to your local thrift shop, local charity, or if you can, recycle it. Visit our Recycling Search at the bottom left of the homepage, to find locations to recycle the item or, to donate it, visit our ReUse Center for a list of locations in our County who can use it.