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

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

Maureen Thom holds a can of Suck it Cancer Pale Ale and a heart created by her son Michael ‘Chili’ Thom when he was in kindergarten. (Submitted photo)
Backcountry Brewing creates limited edition beer to fundraise for BC Cancer Foundation

Squamish based beer company Backcountry Brewing has released a limited edition batch… Continue reading

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ staff and trustees held their annual general board meeting Dec. 2 via Microsoft Teams. (SD68 image)
Nanaimo Ladysmith school district chairperson retains role, new vice-chair chosen

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools held annual general meeting Wednesday

The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary is taking a pro-active approach and closing the thrift shop as a precautionary measure as of Saturday. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop closing again as a precautionary measure

Second closure this year will last at least six weeks due to the COVID situation

Jon Lefebure went back to construction after losing the 2018 mayor’s post in North Cowichan to work on the Cottages On Willow. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Former North Cowichan mayor retools priorities with construction project

Fresh air a benefit and satisfaction results from building eight-unit housing complex

Protesters stand in front of a truck carrying logs to the WFP Ladysmith log sort. (Cole Schisler photo)
Protesters block entrance to Western Forest Products in Ladysmith

Blockade cleared by Ladysmith RCMP around noon, December 2

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

Most Read