Look around your home. Is your first thought, “Wow, I could use more stuff in here?”
But that’s the promise of the holidays. More unwanted knick-knacks to cover too-full shelves, more clothes you wouldn’t have picked out and more gadgets you have no use for. Not only that, but the waste of ribbons, wrapping paper and cards is mind-boggling.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The holidays can be happy, guilt-free and decidedly-not wasteful. If you’re struggling with how to have a greener, more thoughtful season of giving, consider these ideas for gift-exchanges, wrappings and holiday cheer.
Talk About the Big Events and Gift Giving
Thankfully, society has moved passed slogans like “The one with the most toys wins.” The manufacturing of the majority of goods purchased in the U.S. has devastating consequences for our environment. Many of those industries engage in less-than humane business practices. Fortunately, you can be a real change for those around you.
Have a frank discussion with friends and family about all the stuff that is not only cluttering your lives, but your world as well. Explain that you’ll be giving in other ways and would like them to consider doing the same. Here are few ideas that people will likely appreciate more than what money can buy:
- Gift Someone You Love Music or Art
Write a song, learn a person’s favorite tune on the piano or incorporate music into their day in some other way. Not musically inclined? Purchasing a digital copy of someone’s favorite album is a great green gift. Art is another personal way to show you care about someone — draw, paint or sculpt — any medium you chose is great, as long as you’re considering the receiver.
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- Purchase Experiences
Fun times spent enjoying each other’s company is one of the best gifts you can give — and you’ll enjoy it, too. For people out of town, buy movie passes, concert tickets or museum admittance. Gifts for kids in your life could be YMCA memberships, skiing passes or a golf membership. You can be sure when you give this way, your presents won’t be opened and forgotten the next day. They’ll enjoy your present all year round.
- Give of Yourself
Wouldn’t you rather have a trusted friend babysit for an evening out than an end-cap scarf or a bread maker? Consider how nice it would be for someone else to pick up the groceries. Think about what you can offer, and create a card for it. If it’s simply an evening spent together and alone, know that you’re more precious than what you can buy. Offering your time to a loved one is a wonderful present.
Opening Gifts Can Be Fun Without the Fuss
Fact is, Americans spend over $2.5 billion a year on wrapping paper. It’s an astronomical waste. In the future, when it becomes evident that precious resources like trees were killed for holiday décor, it will seem even more careless.
But it’s a hard habit to break — many of our cultural norms for the season are wrapped up in a package as tight as any gift under a tree. There are some ways you can make opening gifts fun, without all the useless waste.
- Use Paper Grocery Bags
They are a little harder to work with, but most of us have forgotten our reusable grocery bags at some point and came home with arms full of paper bags. Wrinkle them up to make the paper soft before wrapping, or use them as is. If there are kids in the house, hand them over for coloring with crayons to make them festive. Writing on the packages means no wasteful gift tags, either.
- Buy or Make Furoshiki Squares
Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping things in cloth. It’s not only artful, it’s much greener than paper wrappings. The time and care you put into cloth wrapping is an extension of the care you have for the person you’re purchasing for — show your affection for your loved ones by taking time to learn this ancient practice.
- Wrap With Gifts
Use the apron you got for your mom to wrap another gift. Hand towels or bath towels are infinitely useful as small gifts, and they can cover just about anything. Consider hitting the thrift stores for cloths that can double as re-useable wrapping.
Find Better Ways to Spread Joy This Season
Everyone loves opening their mailbox for holiday cards, but like wrapping paper, it’s a drain on our environment — valuable resources are wasted and disposal is an issue. Even if you recycle them, it’s still another process. Take a few minutes and create an email card. Your recipients will be just as happy to see your sweet family on a screen as on paper. Make sure to personalize it — you’ll have some extra time since you won’t have to hit the post office for stamps.
However you decide to celebrate this season, keep nature at the forefront. There are a lot of us roaming the Earth, and our small actions have big consequences. Be kind to yourself by not overindulging in shopping, food or other excesses. The closer to simple joys you find yourself, the better able you’re to appreciate the beauty that’s before you.