Since it is the holiday season, I am writing this week about the joy of gift – giving. This can be really tough when you want to live a low waste lifestyle, and gift according to that belief.
I personally struggle with receiving gifts because I don’t ever want to make anyone feel badly about gifting me something, but I also do not want to end up with a pile of items I will never use. My immediate family has a group text, and around the end of November, we all text each other lists of things we would like for Christmas. It sounds silly to do this at 30 years old, but it works. My mom loves to give gifts, and is very particular about being fair and buying the same number and type of items for all of her kids unless we ask for something specific. She will buy gifts no matter what, so I have to ask for things, or I will end up getting the same gifts that she buys for my sister, who has a very different lifestyle than I do. One year, after I had gone vegetarian, my mom got my sister and brother both microwave bacon trays for Christmas, so I ended up with one too. I lived with her for 25 years and never liked bacon, and was also then not eating meat anymore, but still ended up with this very specific item that I could not use. Being newly vegan also makes it a little tricky because we can end up with wool sweaters or socks, or something leather, or a treat that is made from animal products. So, if you want to be minimalist in your home, I suggest coming up with things that you need, would like, or would make your life easier, and ask your family for them. I love knowing what people need or want because it makes my decisions a lot easier, so I am sure that whoever you are giving a list to will appreciate the help and suggestions.
As far as giving gifts, I have come up with a few good ideas the past few years. Gift cards are always a nice option, but I have narrowed my gift card giving down to only certain businesses. For instance, I am trying to shop smart and sustainably, so I am not going to buy someone a gift card from a store that I would not shop at. I have gotten gift cards for my sister for Plato’s Closet a few times, because she likes to shop there, and I don’t have any guilt giving her money towards thrift shopping for used clothes. I have also given gift cards for grocery stores or stores that sell essentials that people need, rather than stores that sell just clothes or shoes. Gifting someone an essential, like a few months of a streaming service or a week or two’s worth of groceries is really appreciated, and a really nice gift. You can also give gift cards via text and email now from a lot of places, which means no trash whatsoever. However, if you have kids or know a teacher or someone with kids, used gift cards make fun play credit cards to go along with toy cash registers. My mom teaches preschool, and I give her my used gift cards for the kids to play with.
If you want to buy an actual item, you can buy gifts from small businesses, buy local, or buy from eco-friendly companies. Last year I bought my husband a sweatshirt from Tentree, who plants ten trees for every purchase, and I bought my mom a sweater from Pact. I also got everyone in my family socks from Conscious Step. Etsy is a great place to support a small business, rather than buying all your gifts from Amazon. You can even shop by location, and only search through Etsy shops that are in your area to minimize shipping emissions. You can also make homemade gifts, like sweets or a craft that someone may appreciate. One year I made Santa heads out of champagne bottles from our wedding and gave them as gifts. They came out pretty cute and were literally made of trash. You can also buy pre-owned gifts, like books from a used bookstore, or something from an online yard sale. I collect books and always have a list of titles that I am interested in owning and reading, and I always ask that they be used books because I would rather them be from a small business that is selling a book that was saved from being thrown away.
Another great gift idea is gifting an experience. People don’t need more stuff, and a great way to show that you are thinking of them is to send them on a date night, on an adventure, or treat them to a nice day out or night in. You could give a gift card to Grubhub and a Redbox gift card, with snacks and a bottle of wine as a “movie night in” gift, which is low-waste and a nice treat. You could gift a Groupon experience for an escape room, a restaurant, a winery, etc. You could give a subscription to a streaming service, or to Audible so someone that likes to read can rent audiobooks for the year. You could also gift classes, from Masterclass, or even Uncommon Goods has zoom courses that you can do at home.
Last but not least: gift wrapping! So, you don’t have to stop wrapping gifts to be zero waste. I personally have a collection of gift boxes, bags, and tissue paper that I reuse over and over. My family knows that I do this, so when we exchange gifts during the holidays, they give the gift bags back to me to reuse the following year. As long as they don’t get too damaged, you can use them countless times, and no one is going to mind a used gift bag. They care about the gift, not the way it was wrapped. You can also use newspaper or ad papers you get in the mail to wrap gifts, which can be recycled or composted when you are done with it. I personally don’t believe in spending money on wrapping paper because I see it as a waste- I can get a lot more use out of gift bags.
I don’t want to give away anything that I have gotten for anyone this year, but I will say that I have done all of these things listed above for various family members this year. I also made a list of items that would be helpful to have now that I own a home. Even though we don’t need anything, it is still nice to exchange gifts and get into the holiday spirit. You don’t have to forgo gifting altogether; just being smart about what you are purchasing really helps keep the planet, and your loved ones, happy.
On behalf of the Gunnett family and this blog, I would like to wish you and your families a happy and wonderful holiday season! Stay safe, stay warm, and stay environmentalish!