The back seat of a car with four bags of Christmas gifts and decor. (123rf.com)

How to make holiday gift-giving eco-friendly — and more meaningful

Holiday marketing only intensifies the process of consumers purchasing things and then disposing of them

There’s always one on the list — the person who has everything and is notoriously hard to please. That person has likely also received some terrible gimmicky gift, just so that they have something to unwrap.

It’s time to put an end to it. Don’t buy the novelty baby Yoda. Don’t buy that game of toilet golf. Don’t buy the wine flask bra. Just. Don’t.

Holiday shopping has become an extension of the consumption economy. Spending is on the rise and household debt burden continues to rise in Canada, the United States, Australia, China and elsewhere.

REAL OR FAKE: The best Christmas tree option for the planet

Holiday marketing only intensifies the process of consumers purchasing things and then disposing of them as quickly as possible. Of all the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only one per cent remain in use six months after purchase.

Of course, this makes way for the opportunity to buy more stuff. Consumerism reaches a frenzied peak as the holidays approach, spurred on by Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other last chance shopping deals that evoke a sense of urgency and scarcity before Christmas.

This year, U.S. shoppers have already spent US$729 billion on holiday shopping. In Canada, we spend more on holiday festivities and gifts than we do on rent, which added up to $19 billion last year.

How much stuff?

Landfills see a spike in materials around the holidays, from wrapping paper to ribbon and unwanted gifts:

Canadians will send a whopping 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper to the landfill this Christmas season.

Americans will use 61,000 kilometres of ribbon — enough to circle the Earth, and then some.

Australians spent $400 million Australian dollars on 10 million unwanted gifts in 2018.

So, what can an environmentally conscious gift-giver do to decrease the amount of waste associated with a well-meaning gift? The good news is, there are a number of hacks around this giving conundrum and, it turns out, your socially responsible gift doesn’t have to fall flat. It can even lead to more positive emotions on the part of the recipient than traditional gifts.

Skip the wrapping

Perhaps the easiest way to reduce the amount of holiday materials going to landfill is to find ways to reduce wrapping. If every Canadian wrapped just three gifts in upcycled materials rather than wrapping paper, enough paper would be saved to cover the surface of 45,000 hockey rinks.

For starters, you might not wrap the gift at all or you could use a reusable bag or a scarf to wrap the gift. If you had wrapping remorse last year and saved the gift bags, wrapping and bows — just use them again.

Wrap gifts in an old map or a page from a magazine or calendar. Package the gift in a mason jar, a flower pot or a decorative box that can be reused. Cut images from old Christmas cards to use as gift tags.

Get crafty

Canada leads the world when in comes to per capita waste and only nine per cent of our plastic actually ends up being recycled. Think about making crafts out of upcycled materials rather than tossing them. Making gifts can lead to meaningful keepsakes that come with a lighter ecological footprint.

Bake cookies, write a poem, make some candles or construct a memory book with photos to cherish. Make gifts out of recycled and repurposed materials. My daughters are making necklaces out of driftwood and sea glass, and plant holders from repurposed materials.

Think about tailoring the gift for the individual. You can make coasters out of old records for the music enthusiast, natural bath salts for the spa-lover or gingerbread for the friend with a sweet tooth.

If you are short on time, or craftiness doesn’t come naturally, build a personalized coupon book with offers to babysit or walk the dog, or take a friend to lunch.

Experiences, not things

An often-overlooked way to decrease the ecological impact of holiday giving is to consider giving an experience instead of a tangible good. Experiences may be more sustainable than material gifts, and research shows they can lead to greater happiness. Giving experiences over material goods can foster stronger relationships.

Give a gift card for a massage or a day of house cleaning. Buy tickets to a local hockey game, a concert or a community play. Sign up for a cooking, yoga or pottery class.

Donate to a cause that you know is meaningful to your recipient. Canadians donated $8.9 billion in 2016, according to Statistics Canada, with a median donation of $300.

You can symbolically adopt a tiger, river otter or moose from the World Wildlife Fund, get a gift card from an organization like Kiva, which crowdfunds loans to help people in developing nations start their own businesses, or name a star through the official Star Registry or your local observatory.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that eco-friendly gifts make memories without adding more bulk to the landfill.

___

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Disclosure information is available on the original site. Read the original article:

Katherine White, Professor and Academic Director of the Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics, University of British Columbia , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

There have been 23 cases of reported cases of COVID-19 in the Nechako Lakes Health Area

’Herbert’ Shane Hartman with his daughter Isla. (Shane Hartman Facebook photo)
Love for daughter and drumming leads to author’s first book

Shane Hartman spent very spare moment writing and illustrating Isla’s New Drum

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Most Read