I feel like two of my worlds are colliding right now: Christmas and consuming less. I love Christmas – the family time, the food, and yes, the presents. I love giving and I love receiving. At the same time, I’ve spent the last year trying to buy less. Part of why we buy so much is because of the ads that tell us we need more – and the ads at Christmas are particularly compelling, and pushy. So how do you rise above the temptation to buy, buy, buy, without coming across as this year’s Grinch? Here are some green gift ideas for anyone on your list.
First, take a breath. Remember what it is you like about the season. Forget about the ads that make you think you should feel stressed, anxious about family time, and guilty about not spending enough. Our holidays should be defined by our personal beliefs and traditions, not marketing departments. My number one rule is to never step foot in a mall – once inside, it’s almost impossible not to get swept up in the madness.
Speaking of madness, end the insanity! If year-after-year your spending increases and boxes overflow around the tree, take a look at why. Talk to extended family about setting spending limits. If children are older, consider drawing names from a hat so everyone exchanges with one other person. Instead of buying lots of made-in-China toys, clothes, and gadgets that aren’t going to last, spend a little more on fewer quality items or experiential gifts. Or think outside the box and gift something you already own but don’t use (or that you know someone would really love). Plan what you’re going to give in advance to avoid impulse buys – there are lots of ridiculously cute but useless trinkets on shelves right now.
Even if others aren’t on the same page, you can still give green gifts without going against your family’s wishes. Choose ethically-made, local, and hand-made versions of items on their wishlist. You could also surprise them with the gift of your time – doing a cooking or art class together, babysitting (this is all I want!), home spa day, regular coffee dates, etc.
Finally, make your green gift wishes known to your family without being overpowering. People usually ignore it when you say you don’t need anything. So give them ideas that you will appreciate. If your kids need clothes, ask for second hand. If there are toys you don’t need or want, say so. Suggest ways you can spend time together as a gift you would love. Explain where you’re coming from and why your unconventional wish list is important to you. Not everyone will understand, but it might help them listen.
What are your favourite green gifts, to give and receive?