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

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

Ottawa serial killer Camille Joseph Cleroux died of natural causes at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution on Sunday.
Serial killer housed at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution dies of natural causes

Camille Joseph Cleroux announced dead on Sunday, known as notorious Ottawa serial killer

Garry Blanchard of Hope won $77,000 correctly guessing the outcomes of all 13 games of NFL week 17. (Photo/BCLC)
Hope resident rakes in $77,000 in NFL Week 17 bet

Garry Blanchard won the record-breaking prize correctly guessing every outcome that week

This urn was found Jan. 4 at a Yale Road bus stop and has now been returned to its owner. (RCMP photo)
RCMP find custodian of urn that was left at Chilliwack bus stop

Police say the urn contained the remains of a family’s cat

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Snow is forecasted to appear in parts of Metro Vancouver this weekend. (Black Press Media files)
Snow forecasted for parts of Lower Mainland this weekend

Environment Canada is predicting flurries and snow from Saturday to Monday evening

Most Read