Its festive season!
This means excited cookie baking and decorating and gleefully embracing the music you would never listen to for the other 11 months of the year.
And it means stressed gift shopping. Each year we buy gifts for the people we care about. However, it is often hard to find the perfect gift. Consequently, we end up just buying something so we don’t end up empty handed.
And then the person you love has to try not to hurt your feelings while they figure out what to do with this random object they received from you, that cost energy and resources to produce.
This month, I challenge you to get all your loved ones conscious, useful or waste-free-consumable, thoughtful gifts.
Here are my ideas on how to achieve that:
- Ask them what they wish for – Yes, its not romantic, because they are basically ordering a gift from you. But on the flip side, you will get them something, you KNOW they will LOVE and, most importantly, USE. And you can always add a sweet surprise to it, like a message on the card that makes them cry, or really creative gift wrap.
- Think outside of the materialistic box – Give away experiences! That’s the new hip thing to do anyway. And don’t worry, you do not have to put down big bucks for an all inclusive weekend away or a hot air balloon ride. You could also create a personalized scavenger hunt, teach them a skill you know they envy you of, repair a special heirloom they cherish, take a class together you are both too scared to do on your own and laugh at both of your wobbly first attempts….
These experiences will definitely deepen your friendship more than any materialistic gift could.
My father’s Christmas gift to me last year, was to rebuild my kitchen after a whole wall of glass jars containing flour, pasta and pulses had collapsed on top of me. I now get compliments for the new shelves by everyone who visits. And one of my most memorable birthday gifts came from a friend who taught me her grandmother’s special technique for making spätzle, a traditional Swabian (region in South-Germany) type of noodle.
- Don’t fall into the trap of sustainability gadgets – Sustainably sourced items are only sustainable if they are used. A lot of sustainability influencers and bloggers are now promoting all the online shops where you can buy sustainable gifts. They have bamboo toothbrushes, steel razors with exchangeable blades, travel bags made from recycled plastic bottles, glass straws, long-term-reusable lunch- and drink containers, yoga mats … These items are really cool (just not paper straws & Co, because they are still single use and the production of paper is more energy consuming than plastic production) IF they are wanted.
I once found glass straws at a very affordable price and bought a bunch of them to give away as gifts. I just found the set I gave to my favorite alcoholic unopened in her kitchen junk drawer almost a year later.
If your friend already has a perfectly working plastic yoga mat, made by children in a chemically polluted factory somewhere in Asia, buying them a sustainably sourced one on top of the one they already have, is just additional resources that go unused.
- The world-saver alternative to gift cards – They say, if you don’t know what to get them, give them a gift card. If you don’t know which store they like, either get one from a shop with strictly sustainable products and thereby force them into the rabbit hole of the zero-waste lifestyle, OR instead of a gift card, donate money to a cause you know they care about, in their name.
It can be a little disappointing to be told “your gift is: I gave money away to someone else, you get nothing”. But what if the benefited organization didn’t just give you a certificate, but also let you visit behind the scenes, or let you name one of the benefiting animals, or put a plaque on your tree or named a part of the protected area after the donor.
I personally really like the idea of “buying an acre” of land through the World Land Trust, who use your donation to buy land where protection has the highest impact for conservation, and hand stewardship over to the indigenous peoples there. Then you basically gifted someone a small peace of paradise that will now not be allowed to be destroyed. (I’m not being paid for this advertisement, I did an internship at their head office once and really believe in what they do.)
- Consumable gifts won’t collect dust – Make your famous batch of super brownies, create one of those DIY layered cake mixes in a mason jar, buy or make zero-waste body products, like my tooth paste or body scrub, bake vegan-super-health dog biscuits. The internet is full of good project ideas. All you need to do to make it special, is to add a personal touch that is meaningful to you and the gift recipient.
- Remove the stigma of re-gifting – Do you own something that you don’t use as much as you thought you would or have lost interest in? Is it something you know your friend really loves? Why not pass it on? Do you have to prove your love to your friend by money or will they appreciate the gesture of you passing on a valued possession of yours? A note explaining the possible emotional value and why you think this specific person should be the new owner, rounds the gift off nicely.
PS: While you’re at it, feel free to let the person know, you are not offended if they re-gift as well. Receiving things with emotional value can be stressful if you don’t know what to do with it, as the whole hurt feelings thing becomes augmented.