Holiday shopping has long been one of the many appendages of the consumption economy. Even as households in the United States continue to sink further into debt, there seems to be no end to our holiday spending sprees.
Moreover, the process of consumers purchasing items—only to dispose of them quickly—is intensified by holiday marketing. Yes, only 1% of the stuff that flows through the consumer economy remains in use for more than six months after it has been purchased.
Last year, American shoppers spent more than $700 billion on holiday shopping. Furthermore, a staggering 38,000 miles of ribbon is laid to waste every holiday season. That’s more than enough to circle the Earth!
The holidays are supposed to be about sharing and giving rather than splurging on needless things. So, why not use this holiday season as an opportunity to give a little something back to our planet? So without further ado, here are some great ideas for sustainable gift-giving.
Say No To Gift Wrap
The simplest and easiest way to decrease the amount of holiday junk that ends up in landfills is to find ways to cut down on the amount of wrapping material used. A report from Sundale Research found that Americans spent a total of $12.7 billion on gift bags, tissue, and gift wrap in 2017. That’s an awfully high amount of money wasted on something that’s designed to be torn to shreds and thrown away in less than a minute.
So, what do you use instead? Well, for starters, you could consider not wrapping the gift at all, but if that feels like too radical a change, a good alternative is using a scarf or reusable bag to wrap the gift instead. Other gift wrapping ideas include using pages from a calendar or magazine, packaging the gift in a reusable decorative box, flower pot, or mason jar, or fabricating gift tags from old Christmas cards.
Get Creative and Crafty
The United States produces a much greater amount of waste than it recycles compared to other developed countries. Keeping this in mind, we think it’s high time that we started using upcycled materials to make crafts instead of just throwing them away. Moreover, gifts that are hand-crafted not only have a much smaller ecological footprint, but make for much more meaningful keepsakes.
Want some ideas? Write a poem, make some candles, create a memory book full of memorable photos, or bake some cookies. When you craft gifts out of repurposed and recycled materials, you think about tailoring it for the individual. For instance, if the person is a music lover, you can use old records to craft coasters for them, if they’re a spa-lover, you can make some natural bath salts for them—you get our drift.
If you’re struggling to get your creative juices flowing or are short on time, just create a personalized coupon book with offers to walk the dog, babysit, or free lunches.
Experiences Over Things
Another often-overlooked way of reducing the environmental impact of holiday gift-giving is giving people an experience instead of another tangible item. In addition to being much more sustainable than material gifts, experiences can lead to greater happiness as well. If you want to foster stronger relationships, giving experiences can be much more effective than material goods.
If you want some ideas: buy tickets to a local community play, hockey game, or concert, or sign up for a pottery, yoga, or cooking class.
Get Rid Of The Old Gifts To Make Way For New Ones
As we mentioned above, most of the material stuff that’s bought during the holiday season is only used for a few months before being stacked up in boxes and stored away in the musty corners of an attic or a garage where it sits rotting for years.
Clearing up the years and years of accumulated holiday junk will not only allow you to free up usable space in your home, but will also give you an idea of how excessive wastage has become normalized in modern society.
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