I am the middle of three sons. A majority of my childhood was dedicated to the three F’s: fighting, fleeing and flicking boogers. However, once a year my brothers and I took a break from terrorizing each other to focus our energy on ruining Mother’s Day.

Why did we do it? I have no idea. They say hindsight is 20/20, but I respectfully disagree.

But after 10+ years of ruining Mother’s Day, we spent the last 10 years making up for it. Now in our late twenties and early thirties, the Wigness boys are uniquely qualified Mother’s Day gurus, in the same way former addicts make the best substance abuse counselors.

With that said, I’d like to crack an egg of knowledge: the best Mother’s Day gifts are also Earth-friendly. Here are eight examples to prove it:

1 – Just work in the garden

All my mom ever asked for for Mother’s Day was to have her four boys (three sons + their dad) spend the day in the garden with her. It makes no sense why we couldn’t oblige her. The garden was free, warm and sunny (usually), and full of worms, toads and weird smells — things we enjoyed the other 364 days of the year — yet we found ways to ruin it.

Don’t do that.

Just pull some weeds, plant some flowers, and enjoy each other’s company. It may seem like a small gesture, but gardens grow in both size and meaning. Those petunias you plant with her in May will remind her of you all summer long.

In this case, gardening is also a stand-in for whatever she wants to do. Go for a walk, go to church, play board games. Just do the thing she wants to do. More often than not, it’s local and low-carbon.

2 – Take her to the nursery

Given my past, it’s only poetic justice that I spent two Mother’s Days working at a nursery. It’s always the busiest day of the year, but not necessarily the best sales day. What does that mean? It means mothers aren’t necessarily looking for gifts or free plants — they just want to spend some time in a quiet, beautiful setting. (No, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Big Box Store garden centers don’t count!)

Wander through some trees, smell some flowers and pay attention while she points out her favorite plants (and write them down for next year!). After all, she paid attention to your favorite toys, foods, athletes, bands and other nonsense throughout the years, didn’t she?

I realize this might not be an option given COVID-19. Use this nursery guide see if/how your mother’s favorite Seattle-area nursery is operating right now. And check with your local nurseries to find the same info.

3 – Homemade >>> everything else

The first time my brothers and I elicited tears of joy on Mother’s Day was when we teamed up to make a Toad House. What’s a Toad House? It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a little clay house made for toads, and it’s exponentially times more pointless than it sounds like.

The infamous Toad House that broke the spell of horrible Mother’s Days.

But we actually thought ahead, organized and made it together. My little brother made the house out of clay, my older brother painted it, and I wrote a Dr. Suess-type story to explain its existence. Turns out that there’s nothing our mom enjoys more than knowing her three sons had worked together on her behalf.

Despite it’s fragility and the fact that it’s never actually housed a toad, the Toad House has survived two moves and many Minnesota winters.

4 – Less is more

As shown by the Toad House, one thoughtful gift is better than a plethora of last-minute junk. Trust me, we’ve tried it both ways. Apparently, receiving candles from all three kids isn’t much of a thrill, and they end up smelling more like desperation than “Beach Cottage.”

The gift is the time and effort spent on mom’s behalf. When given the choice, always combine forces for Mother’s Day gifts. Not necessarily because you can get something nicer or more expensive, but because it requires thinking, planning and working together.

In terms of eco-friendliness, one nice thing has less of an impact (consider shipping, packaging, resources, labor, etc) than three cheap things.

5 – Put something on the calendar

What has less of an environmental impact than one nice thing? Zero things. Sign up for a wine and painting class, get tickets to a musical, or go for a hike instead of giving gifts. I realize these things might be difficult to do right now, but believe me, a handmade voucher for a TBD day of activities makes a great gift — as long as you follow through.

Whereas flowers have a residual factor, scheduled activities allow for weeks or months of anticipation. If you’ve ever sat at your desk day dreaming about a vacation or upcoming event then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

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6 – Put something on a plate

With Mother’s Day brunch buffets out of the question for 2020, it might be time to surprise mom with those culinary skills you’ve been working on. Mother Nature will for sure thank you, as buffets are incredibly wasteful, and your mom will certainly appreciate the effort regardless of how the food turns out.

Remember, you’re not just cooking; you’re cooking for mom. Take a minute to think about what she likes! If the recipe is something like “My World Famous ____” then just stop and reconsider.

7 – Skip the card

According to Hallmark, over 113 million Mother’s Day cards are exchanged in the U.S. each year. Cards represent the very least you can do… it’s literally just hiring someone else to decide what to say to your mom and scribbling your worthless signature at the bottom. Believe me, I’ve tried every kind of card — glittery, pop up, musical, sentimental, funny, puppies, googly eyes, funny-googly-eye-puppies — it makes no difference. With the exception of homemade cards (which are absolutely fair game) they all have two things in common: they elicit a flat response from mom and put unnecessary stress on the environment.

And no, throwing in a $25 gift card doesn’t help.

If you can’t be with your mom, at least call or video chat with her and tell her what the card was supposed to say. And if you can be with her, what do you need the card for?

8 – Personalize it!

If you decide to go with tangible gift, personalize it with a message. That doesn’t mean buying a coffee mug that says “No. 1 Mom.” A good Mother’s Day gift can be as simple as rock, as long as you attach meaning to it. Maybe it’s a rock you found on a trip together. Great! Write “Hood Canal 2019” on it and let her know that you enjoyed that time with her.

Bottom line: The gift is never the gift. The best Mother’s Day gift is evidence that she did not raise an emotionless robot incapable of gratitude and reflection. And when you zoom out, that’s all Mother Nature wants too!

What a successful Mother’s Day might look like.

Feature photo by CDC on Unsplash.