The holidays are already upon us, and with them, we'll see rampant overconsumption and increased demand for landfills. For generations, American consumerism has led us to believe our wants are more important than our needs. Big businesses are notorious for exploiting the holidays and our deeply rooted traditions for their own financial gain. According to NEEF, Americans dispose of an estimated 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. This increase is about one million extra tons of garbage each week! Let's explore how w can reduce excess consumption and waste while still participating in a festive holiday season.
Before shopping, make a list of recipients and carefully consider what you could gift each of them. Does the gift you're thinking about add any real value to their life? It may seem obvious, but think about it: does your significant other really need a 10th pair of fuzzy socks, or another neck tie? Dig deeper.
Prioritize their basic needs
KIDS: I know- Being practical is alot more difficult with small children who expect the shiny new toys. Your child may not like getting socks or PJ's as a gift, but this is a great time and opportunity to instill values in them and set expectations. Another basic need that converts well to gifts are learning tools. Contributing to healthy learning experiences outside of school can go a long way. Hardcopy books, e-readers or similar devices. A plant, an indoor garden, terrarium, etc.. Things like this double as being a fun challenge as well as fostering a responsibility without the large obligation of something like a pet.
ADULTS: Help with things like mortgage payments or utility bills is practical and meaningful. Healthy finances are the gift that keeps on giving, so, cash for an overdue bill could be what someone needs to get back on track. A warning, though: consider whether you're close enough or know the person well enough before you do this. Some people may take offense to cash if they perceive it as a handout, so really consider the giftee and their morals/values before you do this. Are you definitely searching for a tangible gift? It can be something small, like a replacement kitchen appliance. Or if it's a larger-scale item that's needed (say a dryer or major car repair,) take up a collection to help finance it. Engage friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to chip in.
Focus on longevity/sustainability/plastic-free choices
KIDS: Heirlooms are brilliant sustainable gifts because the longer they're kept the more meaningful they become. My sister had a quilt made from all her son's infant clothes and blankets, and my nephew cherishes that blanket even though he's a preteen now! Try thrifting the gifts that aren't as emotionally significant. Go antiquing, hit yard sales or thrift stores and see what you may find before purchasing new from the store.
ADULTS: How about a French press to replace their Keurig? (see my previous blog on coffee!) Treat this as an opportunity to not only gift something eco-friendly, but also an opportunity to share smart products with others who wouldn't ordinarily think about things like that. Present them with one of your favorite eco-friendly brands and, who knows - maybe you inspire someone else to think about their own consumerism. Pay it forward!
For those who already have it all
What do you get for the one who doesn't want for anything? The urge to gift can still be overwhelming but, if you know someone who truly doesn't need or want for anything, you may want to reconsider the nature of what you give that person. Material possessions may not mean as much to someone who's privileged enough to want for nothing. Try instead: Take up a collection amongst family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Then, donate the proceeds to a charity or cause that is important to the person. Sometimes you can even make the donation in their honor/name.
Gift Presentation & Miscellaneous
Wrapping paper - Ok, paper sounds like it'd be a safe, eco-friendly bet, right? But most of those glossy looking wrapping paper rolls you see in the store are not recyclable. And if they have metallic or glitter included, forget it- it goes straight to the landfill.
Reusable fabric gift bags - check Etsy! There are some extremely talented businesses that offer this product. So you get the sustainability of a wrap you can keep forever, plus you get to support a small business and who doesn't love that? If you're a crafty person, you may even want to try making some of your own! Do you have scrap cloth/material laying around? Get on YouTube or Pinterest and see if you can upcycle some of those clothes you never wear. If you'd rather go with single use products, here are more eco-friendly options:
Hallmark brand sustainable brown wrapping paper. They've got some with cute designs.
Biodegradable gift wrap that blooms into flowers!
Those assorted bags of bows with sticky backs are plastic. Yuck! Say goodbye to them forever. There are DIY bow instructions all over Pinterest, and lots of choices to buy on Etsy. Think in the same vein as the fabric gift bags. Invest in a reusable set, or try making some of your own from paper, felt or fleece, etc.
The material is key with ribbon. Stay away from the plastic and synthetic material ones. Opt for fabrics like cloth or silk.
Here are some links to a few great finds. Happy hunting!
Now that you've snagged or crafted sustainable gifts and eco-friendly wrapping products, pour yourself a well deserved glass of eggnog or cocoa, put on some holiday tunes, and happy wrapping! After gifts have been exchanged, pack your supplies away in an upcycled box or container and reuse them year after year. This'll save you money in the long run, and saves the excess plastic and waste from piling up. I hope you enjoyed this article and have a great holiday season!
Do you have any thoughts, opinions or suggestions about any of the above? I'd love feedback! Drop a comment.
Last but not least, a special shout out to my dear friend Sionnach Moon Arts for this blog post title, image and collaboration!!