Shiny, new items are nice at first, but putting more thought into the gifts we give can reduce our environmental impact while providing just as meaningful things to our friends and family. To be honest, I don’t love the holiday season.
There are parts of it I enjoy — like getting together with family and how the whole world seems to take a break just for a day to appreciate all the good things — but what I don’t particularly enjoy is the overexaggerated consumerism and emphasis on gift-giving.
Personally, I give people gifts when it makes sense to like when they mention that they need or want something and I happen to find or have it. I can fulfill a need and make them happy while doing it. I never understood the artificially created reasons to give people presents.
In my family, I usually get a few things I actually wanted and then a whole pile of filler that is so wasteful and serves no purpose to me. I can’t tell you how many toothbrushes I have. I get so many every Christmas that I don’t have enough time to use them up during the year.
However, if you wish to indulge in senseless gift-giving once a year, I’d like to offer some insight into giving gifts that reduce environmental impact while maintaining sentimental value, gifts that won’t just end up in piles at the back of your great-aunt’s closet for the foreseeable future.
Start by giving experiences, like vacations, tickets to concerts or shows or planned outings. Not only do these require very little in physical resources, but they also leave people with good memories which they will inevitably associate with whoever gave them the opportunity.
I know upcycling or regifting things you already own can be frowned upon. Instead, try making something new from things you already own. A personal favorite of mine is cross stitch. It is super easy to do and you end up with really good looking, personalized works of art people can keep.
Shopping second hand is a great choice. You may have to widen the time frame of your search, but I suggest keeping a list on your phone of things to keep an eye out for. You may find them when casually browsing and can manage to save them until Christmas.
If you need to purchase new, try focusing on ethical brands. These brands focus on local supply and distribution, sustainable practices, and supporting workers through fair wages and safe practices. They may be more costly upfront but do tend to be higher quality. The intention behind purchasing fewer, nicer things for people also usually comes across as more genuine.
Of course, you can also consider how you give the gifts. Buying fancy bags, tissue paper and ribbons may not seem like much, but it does add up when the whole family gets together. Consider making the bag part of the gift itself, or buying paper or otherwise easy to recycle bags.
When it comes to people giving gifts to you, I’ve resorted to making an “anti-wishlist” — things I’ve noticed I keep getting but never really want or use. The main gift, which has true thought and effort put into it, is enough for me.
Whatever you choose to wrap up this holiday season, consider giving intentional gifts with thought put into what goes into their creation and what comes out of them.
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor