By Paula Urtecho
The holidays are upon us and many of our holiday traditions include gift giving. In this modern age, when we have more awareness around the impact of synthetic materials and greenhouse gases on our environment, gift giving can be tricky. We want to do right by the environment, but so many items are constructed of plastic or packaged in plastic and to further complicate matters, if you order the item online it arrives along with a significant carbon footprint! Gift giving does not need to be so guilt-inducing – consider sustainable gift giving!
According to Adam Minter, author of the recently published Secondhand, “If you want to reduce the environmental impact of your consumption, the best way to do that is to not manufacture more stuff. In that sense, the best thing you can do is not buy more stuff.” If this is an option for you during the holidays, this is by far the most sustainable position that you can take and you are very lucky indeed! For most of us, especially those with children, this would be a very unpopular position to take, so gifting more sustainably may be the best option.
Think before you gift and if possible give gifts, that aren’t just more “stuff.” Give your time or give an experience, whether it’s a date night with your partner, a trip to a national park with the family or a sporting event with the guys. Experiences are what form lasting memories and these have so much more intrinsic value than the latest trendy plastic toy or trinket.
Donating to a favorite charity in someone’s name is also great gift option. Make sure it’s an organization that resonates with your giftee. And if you’re cash strapped, consider volunteering your time. The Watershed Project has many volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Non-profits such as The Watershed Project and the people you help will be very grateful for the gift of your time.
Gift things that are edible. Think a nice (paper) box of chocolates or a great bottle of organic wine. Better still, how about a homemade treat like a baked good? Once these items are enjoyed and their packaging recycled, they no longer take up space in the recipient’s life, but the memory and experience of the gift stays.
Books can transport the reader to another place, expand their imagination and best of all, books can be upcycled or recycled when the time comes.
Clothing is not out of the question as a sustainable gift, as long as it is made with 100% natural fibers. The addition of synthetic fibers to cotton or wool renders the fabric less recyclable, so if you’re gifting clothing, make sure it’s made from wool or plant fibers.
To drive home the concept of sustainability, gift reusable water bottles, straws, utensils, or all of the above!
And don’t forget about the gift wrap! Try plastic-free options to wrapping paper, bows and tape, like unbleached paper, newspaper and twine. Cloth like scarves and napkins also make great, festive wrapping!