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  • Writer's pictureAshleen Chappuis

Tips for Sustainable Giving

It's that time of year again! Lights and wreathes are decorating homes, Hallmark Christmas movies are on the TV, and the urge to snuggle up with some hot coco is strong.

While this year's holiday season is definitely going to be different due to COVID, there will still be gift-giving and holiday cheer. If you're trying to live waste-free or bit more eco-friendly, the holidays might seem a bit stressful. How do you give presents to your loved ones that they'll actually want while being sustainable? Well, here are some tips to help:

#1 Don't Buy Wrapping Paper

Let's start with the basics. Wrapping paper is something we buy just to throw away. It's a waste of money and generally can't be recycled. 0/10 stars, so let's just skip it this year. Instead, wrap your gifts with newspaper or the million holiday catalogues arriving in your mailbox this time of year. By repurposing these wrapping paper alternatives, you're giving your loved ones the joy of unwrapping a gift and the newspaper a new life before it ends up in the recycling bin. It's completely waste free!

#2 When You Buy, Buy Ethically

Still easing into things, let's talk about where you buy your gifts. If you know you want to get your sister a new pair of black boots, but you want to be sustainable about it, do some research on the company before you buy. Some companies have a reputation for treating their employees and the environment terribly, while others are known to be sustainable. I like to let the experts do the research for me, which is why I look up the company rating on Good on You. They have an easy to understand ranking system that rate hundreds of companies on their impact to the planet, people, and animals.

#3 Give Unique Gifts, Thrift Them

Going one step farther, instead of buying new, consider buying used. With everyone spending so much extra time in their homes, cleaning out closets and trying to make space for a little home office, thrift stores are being flooded with new items. While long lines for donations are tough if you're trying to get rid of things, it is great for buyers! The items for sale are higher quality since most people hadn't had a reason to get rid of them before, and since there are so many new things coming to the store every day, they are priced to sell. This means that you can some great deals and find gifts for everyone on your list!

#4 Make it Yourself

Want to be 100% sure your gift was made under humane working conditions, make it yourself!

Handcrafted gifts are personal and always made with love. More importantly, they have a smaller impact on the environment than most things you'd find at big box stores. Download a knitting pattern, follow a paining tutorial, to look up a DIY guide to help you make a gift you're proud of and your loved ones will be happy to receive.

#5 A Christmas Classic, Books!

Who doesn't love a good book? Stories let us dive into unknown worlds, and we could all use some escapism right now. Used books offer a chance to give the magic storytelling without generating any waste. Plus, if you buy your used book from a local bookstore, you're helping a small business while helping the planet.

#6 Give an Experience

Give something that can't be put into a box! Tickets to an event, a gift card to a nice restaurant, or paying for a class or museum trip are all great experiences sure to be remembered forever. These gifts are heartfelt, personal, and pretty much waste free! All you need to do is send the details over email or add it to the card so your loved one has something to open, then watch the joy follow!

#7 Don't Buy a Gift

Hear me out for a second, we've all received gifts in the past that we'll never use. Maybe it is a sweater that is a little too small or a knickknack that just wasn't your style. If you have something that would be a great fit for your loved one even though it wasn't great for you, this year is the year for re-gifting. It lets you spread the holiday cheer without generating any waste or spending any money. What's not to love about that?

#8 Give Something They Will Use

Practical gifts have gotten a bad rep over the years. While as a kid, no one was too thrilled to unwrap socks or underwear Christmas morning, us adults have matured to appreciating some of the finer practical gifts. I'm talking about handmade soaps, luxurious bath bombs, fresh face masks from Lush, gifts that turn a bathroom into a spa!

Don't want it to be that practical, that's ok! You can give a gift you know won't go to waste like a bottle of wine, a cheese plate, or a decadent dessert. These things will make eating at home feel a bit dreamier.

#9 Give a Service

Another gift that can't be wrapped is a service. Is there something on your gift recipients to-do list that has been hanging over their heads for a while now? Offer to help with that! Other ideas could be to shovel their driveway this winter, go grocery shopping for them, or help organize around the house. These seemingly simple things are a huge help to older folks and people who are nervous going out with the number of COVID cases spiking right now.

#10 Give a Donation

If all else fails and you're still having a hard time finding the perfect gift for your super earth-conscious friend, you can always give a donation. Donations are waste free so there is nothing to get upset about. Pick a charity you know they support, like a grassroots environmental group or a social justice organization, and make it in their name. Who wouldn't like that?

Regardless of what you end up getting to check off every name on your list this year, please remember to wear a mask and be safe. Wishing you all a very happy and safe holiday season!

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