I love the Christmas season and I love giving gifts. But this year, more than most, I am thinking so much more about the environmental impact of the season.
Pre-Christmas sales abound, and people are scrambling for sales and gift ideas. I used to be a shopaholic and looooooved shopping sales too. That rush you get from getting a good deal. The pride in finding the highest discount. But now I stop myself because it’s not going to help us fight this climate emergency. We won’t get closer to climate justice by supporting fast fashion and big corporations who don’t pay their workers a living wage, who import products from the Global South – where people are already suffering from dire consequences of climate change.
So this year, instead of highlighting my favourite products, I want to highlight some of my favourite green practices when it comes to gift-giving. Believe it or not, you can still give amazing and thoughtful gifts WITHOUT engaging in needless consumerism.
I love seeing gifts under the Christmas tree, and I’ve always loved giving gifts. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started giving fewer tangible gifts, because I don’t want to give people “things” that will end up creating more waste. For my parents and my sister, who don’t live in the same city as me, I don’t often buy them stuff anymore. Instead, I’ll send an e-card, a photo or video, or call them. Sometimes the best gifts are expressions of love, time, and attention. So when you’re making your list of who to buy for – really think about whether that person NEEDS you to buy them something! Maybe spending an afternoon with them would actually be more meaningful.
Shop Small and Local
I’m not going to list all my favourite Edmonton area businesses here – but if you need ideas, please do look at my past Favourite Green Things posts, and check out my Instagram! I can’t emphasize enough that supporting small businesses is the best way to shop! Big corporations don’t need our dollars – small businesses do. When we support small businesses, we’re supporting people and families whose livelihood depends on our dollars. And when we shop local, we’re stimulating our local economies, not to mention shrinking our carbon footprint by reducing shipping from faraway places. There are so many amazing and talented makers out there – who are providing sustainable and zero waste options for pretty much everything you can think of!
Thrift or Make
I’m a member of a few local swap and buy/sell pages, and it’s always interesting to me when people post things for sale in “giftable condition”. Why does something have to look brand new to be “giftable”? When did we decide that we can’t accept something from someone else as a gift if they’ve used it before? I would argue that any “thing” of value to you is giftable! The saying “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is so true! Try shopping secondhand for the things on your list – it’s sending a message that used is okay, keeping things in rotation that would otherwise end up in landfills, and it will save you money! And it will prevent you from getting something with new packaging that creates more waste as well.
You don’t have to be super crafty to make gifts! Simple things like coupon books for activities or time spent with someone, holiday baking, or DIY bath salts really don’t require much skill! I have some ideas for other super easy DIY gifts here.
Before you buy something, take a minute to think about it. Ask yourself if you really need to buy it – there are many times when I see something that I think “oh that’s so cool, I’d love to have that” and then the next second I realize I don’t actually have a use for it, or I already have something that serves the same purpose. When you’re buying for someone else, think about how they’re going to use it long-term – beyond the few minutes of excitement when they first open the gift.
And then – if you’re giving gifts, be conscious of how you wrap them. The holiday season generates sooooo much waste with wrapping paper and decorations and gift tags and cards… much that can’t be recycled. Be conscious of what you use to wrap your gifts and consider reusable bags, fabrics, scarves, socks – the possibilities are endless! You can purchase gift wrapping cloths that can be part of the gift because your recipient can reuse that again.