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

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Cancer Care Unit at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, April 14, will benefit from a $100,000 donation from Prince Rupert Port Authority towards renovations. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Port Authority donates $100,000 to hospital renovations

Cancer Care Unit at PRRH to undergo upgradesat PRRH to undergo upgrades

Teresa Van sorts bottles at the April 10 Rainmakers Interact Club bottle drive to earn funds for six Seabin garbage collection units for harbours and waterfronts in the local region. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Bottle drive successful with more collected than can be sorted in one day

Rainmakers Interact Club supports local community with funds toward ocean garbage collection units

Flights are to resume to Prince Rupert and Sandspit airports under an Air Canada and federal government $5.9 billion agreement that was reached on April 12. A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
$5.879 billion agreement between Air Canada and Fed’s will assist YPR in re-opening

Prince Rupert Regional Airport to reopen flights by June 1st, if not earlier

BC Housing townhouses on Kootenay Ave. were demolished during March to make way for new affordable residential units by Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Despite a recent reduction in units project will still be able to house many

Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society says 60 units is still the plan

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read