Many of us celebrate a winter holiday that has become clouded with overconsumption and consumerism. But giving doesn't have to be based on capitalist ideas or rooted in its unsustainable practices. These are some of my favourite ways to give, support your community, and do as little environmental harm as possible.
Donations are a great way to honour friends and family over the holidays. Instead of giving material gifts you can help a cause near and dear to them and their heart. It's a wonderful way to give while avoiding the pitfalls of consumerism—and give to those who really need it.
I like to keep donations local (and I have some that this site supports listed on my Values page), so look into ones in your area and support people in your community <3
I love to buy gifts, and truly believe that buying gifts shouldn't be something we're shamed for or something we ought to feel bad about. But giving doesn't have to look like those Costco gift baskets of lotion nobody wants..and honesty, it shouldn't.
These are some things I keep in mind when it comes to sustainable shopping, not just now, but all year long.
- Buy Used—Think outside the box a little. Head to your local vintage store, flea market, used bookstore, or online trading site to see what you can find. Capitalism brainwashes us to believe only new items count as presents, but some of the best ones I have gotten include used books, used furniture, and vintage jewellery.
- Less Things, Longer Lives—Like all sustainable choices, it is better to get fewer things that last longer. Avoiding "fast" anything can be more costly, but it will save you in the long run as items will last forever.
- Ask for Lists—Nobody wants more junk, so ask your friends and family for lists. We always get each other a gift we've asked for and a small surprise. This way everyone is happy and they get an item they'll love.
- Make Gifts—Making gifts is a great way to give in a sustainable way. I love to make latte mixes, lotions, face toner, family photos, keepsakes, and salves.
- Shop Small, Shop Local—Now more than ever, it is important to support your small, local, BIPOC, community based stores. Skip the big box stores, the Amazons, the Wayfairs, and help make some families holidays better.
- Focus on Experiences—It is proven that millennials like experiences more than stuff–do we need more stuff? Check out the list below for some experience ideas.
- Wrap Sustainable—Instead of buying paper, ribbon, and tissue that will all end up in the landfill, look to use sustainable options. These include reusing paper (brown paper bags, newspapers), cloth bags like these, or reusable Japanese wrapping. Also note most wrapping paper contains plastic, foil, and other things that can't be recycled.
- Don't Get Everybody—Everyone is suffering financially right now, so skip the people outside of your immediate family. You don't have to shower everyone with gifts. A phone call, an email, or a box of homemade cookies will suffice for most.
Experiences are common gifts in our generation, and they make so much sense for those of us who don't feel that we need anything. Covid has drastically changed what options are available, but there are still a ton of safe and socially distanced options.
Lessons or Classes—Some gifts I've loved in the past have been pottery lessons at the community centre, dance lessons, horse back ridding lessons, and attending fermentation classes. Think music classes, art lessons, or cooking classes. Due to Covid, many of these will now be digital and online.
Self Care / Beauty—In the past I have gotten hair cuts as gifts, massages, and manicures. It is nice to give someone a gift they won't get themselves. Other ideas include float tanks, facials, consultations, piercings, tattoos, or any beauty treatment. Even a nice homemade meal, or night in.
Outdoor Activity—Travel isn't on the agenda right now, but other, more local, trips can be given. How about a picnic, rock climbing adventure, a ski trip to your local mountain, snow-shoeing, hiking, or a little get away within your own community.
Tickets—Just because there isn't concerts, theatre, or museums right now, that doesn't mean that you still can't see a show. Look for online lectures, symposiums, and concerts.
Virtual Gifts—This will be very depended on the person, but look for things that exist digitally. This year we gave Adam's 74 year old dad a Spotify account and he's honestly thought it was the best gift he has ever gotten. Other examples include the time I got my teenage nephew digital credit to use on whatever video game he was into.