Gift giving. Gift getting. It has been a part of the Christmas tradition since Frankincense and Myrrh. Not all winter holidays have a history of gift giving, but some have adopted the custom due to the pressures of commercial consumerism that have become associated with the Christian celebration.
For the most part, it is a nice tradition. Picking out something really special for someone you care about, being excited to give it to them because you know they are going to love it. We love that feeling too! When gift giving starts to take a turn though, is when gifts are given without the careful consideration of the receiver, or the planet. That is where the trouble lies.
There is a lot of pressure to make a big list at Christmas and give everyone at least something. That pressure leads to the production of a tonne of unsustainable, often tacky, plastic junk. The gag gifts that are only good for a few laughs, then forgotten; the obligation gifts that you put no thought into and grabbed at random; the gadgets and widgets that have little to no purpose, and will likely be discarded.
Between the decorations, the wrapping, the "enjoy-it-for-a-moment" gifts, and everything else, Christmas alone creates literally millions of tonnes of waste that end up in landfills, or worse, our oceans. We not only encourage, but plead with everyone to help us turn the tides, and strive for more mindful consuming during the holidays (and always!).
Be Conscious - The easiest place to start here is by being picky about where you shop. It is pretty easy to discern if a store doesn't have the planet's best interests in mind. Do a little research before you hand over your dollars. Next, be cautious about what you're picking up off shelves. Check labels and tags, only choose items on the basis of sustainability and mindful production. It might take you slightly longer to find the perfect thing, but in the end, it's really worth it. And on your way out the door, politely decline the offer of any unnecessary wrapping and packaging.
Item Longevity - Buy for a long time, not just a good time. Don't buy anything that isn't going to last for years, unless it's a food product of course. And we don't mean just physically on this Earth (we all know plastic is here to stay, unfortunately); when we say 'last' we mean it actually sustains a purpose for an extended time so as to reduce the need to replace it, therefore reducing overall production and waste. This concept seems to get lost this time of year (and in general). So many items on the shelves only last for 6 months, whether it is because of quality or design. Just say no!
No single-use items either. This goes for immediate use, as well as long term use. An item with only one purpose is an item you could probably do without. Tried and true example is a mason jar; so many uses! This principle doesn't have to apply to everything, especially if the item brings you consistent joy, but it is a good filter to keep in mind when shopping.
Shop Locally Made - This strategy could backfire if you live somewhere that specializes in making plastic do-dads and whatsits. However, we know you savvy readers know that we mean look for small batch or handmade items that were created at or close to home. These items are bound to be more unique and usually more sustainable. Plus you might get the opportunity to actually meet the person who designed and/or made them, and feel good about supporting someone in your town. In our communities, there are no shortage of holiday markets to attend that are ripe with creative output. There are also smaller, locally owned shops who focus on sustainable goods (hint, hint) that really appreciate the support, and sincerely want all your gifts to be something thoughtful and consciously produced.
Give From Yourself - Lists can get long and the expectation to get around to everyone can be tough, especially with a budget in mind. Think about what skills you have. Can you make something? Source from materials you already have? Maybe you're handy with wood, metal, paint, clay, or another workable substance. Homemade cooking, baking, and preserves make excellent gifts for anyone, and are things you can make multiples of to have on hand for anything unexpected. Not every gift has to be a physical item. What strengths do you have? You could give someone a few hours of inside or outside chores, help them re-organize their home or garage, offer them some technical consultation, fix up their car, whatever you have the ability to do. For some people, that kind of thing means so much more than a physical gift.
Sometimes, the most valuable thing we can give is our time. That person who you always miss out on seeing because you're both so busy? The relative that wishes you could see each other more? Make a plan with them to set aside some quality time together. They will appreciate the effort and it will give you both something to look forward to.
Give the Gift of Giving Back - At it's roots, the holiday season is all about giving. Giving back, giving to others, giving kindness. There are so many easy ways to do it, so many great causes. This season we wanted to give back a little more to one of the most important things in our lives: the ocean. $5 from the sale of each of our Polar Sea Gift Boxes (details) will be donated to The Ocean Foundation and will go towards their many efforts to protect our seas. We figure that even better than giving a gift is giving one you know is making a difference. We think those receiving them will feel the same!
Having the best of intentions can be easier than executing them. Don't panic! Set aside a little time to do a bit of the leg work ahead of your shopping, so you don't feel the need to stray from your plan and shop impulsively for the sake of getting it done. Keep the joyful spirit of giving alive and make a difference while you do it!