Likely many of us have had a sense of despair after Christmas about the amount of excessthe holidays have produced.
It can be in terms of dollars and time spent and also in terms of waste created. In fact, December household trash increases by more than 25 per cent.
Here are some ideas for reducing the pressure and stress of our sadly commercialized holidays while also adding a touch of personal creativity to the season’s gift-giving and lessening the amount we send to the landfill.
The first step in a conscious gifting process should be to ensure your gift is something that’s actually needed. If you’re uncertain, the simplest approach is to ask.
In North America, where we have more stuff than we can keep track of it’s easy to duplicate an item already owned or to pick the absolutely wrong style, colour, size and make of something. If that’s the case, your best-intentioned present could end up in a drawer or basement awaiting shipment to an already overflowing thrift shop or (gak!) the landfill.
For folks who don’t want or need anything, consider making a “no material goods to be exchanged” pact. Or limit gift spending to an absurdly meagre amount (thus inspiring creativity and often, humour).
Give something that can be consumed or used up, such as homemade jam, sauerkraut or cookies, some local brew or mead, a selection of handmade or locally made soaps or bath salts.
Put a meaningful photograph in a nice frame (from the thrift store), pass on a family heirloom or books, CDs and DVDs.
Make “upcycled” aprons, doll clothes or shopping bags from old clothing.
Lots of crafts or food gifts can be made by a group of friends or family members gathered at someone’s home, thereby enjoying the holiday spirit twice: while making and then when giving the gifts.
Gift certificates for services (babysitting, lawn mowing, dinner-making), tickets to an upcoming concert or event, or a gift certificate from a Sooke store or eatery are great ways of keeping your money circulating in the community.
Or consider something made by a local or fairly paid Majority World artisan. That way if your gift is tossed into a drawer, at least someone was handsomely paid for their work.
Speaking of income, if you bravely enter the big-box store melee to buy a gift, it’s all too easy to get caught up in flashy displays and shiny packaging. One way to calculate if something is truly worth buying is to ask yourself whether the item will be used or played with for more or less hours than you’ll have to work in order to pay for it. If it is less, reconsider your choice.
Of course, we imagine ourselves to be smart consumers not easily seduced by brands and advertising claims. Kids, on the other hand, can be sucked in by glitzy commercials and peer pressure. It’s all the more important, then, that adults model a sensible, sustainable approach to the holidays and periodically remind kids that today’s “must-haves” are often tomorrow’s trash.
In fact, the stats on how long the average Christmas gift is appreciated after Dec. 25 are measured in mere weeks, not even months or years.
After you have found the perfect gift, consider some waste-free ways to wrap it: i) newspaper (using seasonal images from advertising flyers); ii) used packing paper that’s been ironed and decorated (a great activity for kids); iii) gift bags and (carefully folded and stored) wrapping paper and ribbons from years previous; iv) old maps v) jars, tins, baskets and boxes from the thrift store; decorated and; vi) re-use a scarf, shawl, or other eye-catching piece of material to artfully wrap your gift using furoshiki, a simple Japanese method of wrapping things using cloth.
Instead of an office or group party, spend the time together helping to prepare food at a local soup kitchen or collecting and wrapping gifts for people who are living on the street or otherwise not able to meet the demands of the season on their own.
Consider bypassing plastic versions of trees, lawn ornaments, wreaths or other decorations for something more biodegradable. Strings of popcorn and cranberries that can later be fed to the birds, a large houseplant decorated with the usual baubles or look online for clever DIY trees, wreaths and lawn ornaments created by using natural and scrap materials that you can have fun making with kids (your own or borrowed).
Bill McGibben wrote a book in 2013 called The Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas. It is not in either the Vancouver Island Regional Library or Greater Victoria Library systems, but if your holiday shopping takes you to a used book store, maybe you’ll find it there – a gift for yourself.
Submitted by Zero Waste Sooke.