‘Tis the season for gift exchanges! There are stocking stuffers, chocolate gold coins, white elephants and so many other traditions that center around giving and receiving presents for the holidays. Memories of eating cookies while marveling over new books, clothes and equipment surrounded by piles of wrapping paper while snow falls outside float in my head and never fail to ramp up my anticipation for the holidays.
I love coming up with gift ideas for my friends and family. The joy on someone’s face when you give them a thoughtful item is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. Growing up, my presents were always handmade, given my lack of an individual income and presence more free time. I would spend months crafting, sewing, woodworking, you name it, to create items for the people I cared about.
Now I don’t really have the time to sit down and knit an entire potholder set for a heartfelt gesture to an aunt. Instead, I’ve had to dive into the world of purchased gifts and online shopping to fulfill my gift-giving duties. A world, filled with glitter wrapping and shiny new objects, that we should all approach thoughtfully, as it has many negative impacts on the natural world we rely on.
Buying the perfect gift
Your gift-giving may be hurting the Earth, but don’t worry, it’s easy to fix. Consumerism surrounding the holiday season, beginning with Black Friday and lasting through New Years, has huge environmental impacts, as more waste is created from packaging and emissions increase from shipping purchases. But there are many ways to make your shopping and gift-giving more sustainable, and even more well liked by their recipients.
Try shopping locally for your presents instead of getting items shipped. This cuts out unnecessary transportation emissions and the ridiculous amounts of plastic that things are wrapped in these days. Supporting small businesses is always a bonus, as their products are usually made more sustainably and you’re supporting local handiwork instead of giant corporations. I love holiday craft fairs and small bookstores for cute presents, and I’m sure you have a relative that will absolutely fawn over a gift that was made out of some weird quirk from Berkeley or your hometown.
If you can cook or bake, a food item is a great present, especially if you don’t want to drop a ton of money on a cousin that always ends up disliking the gifts they receive. It may be a short-lived present, but if you can make something tasty, it’ll get devoured and you’ll have a happy friend with a full belly, and a full heart from knowing that you made them something instead of buying a gift.
Fa la lots of trash
Go back to the image from the beginning, of sitting with your new presents in a sea of torn up wrapping paper. The packaging used for hiding gifts from prying eyes and unwanted peeks generates piles of trash that usually go straight to the landfill without a second thought. And think about the numerous ugly sweaters and unwanted trinkets you’ve received, held onto for a little bit and then thrown out.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, an extra 1,000 pounds of household waste are generated between Thanksgiving and New Years, which is a 25% increase from the rest of the year. And a big chunk of this trash is due to all of this gift waste.
Luckily, there are ways that gift wrapping can be made much less wasteful. If you have any newspaper lying around the house, maybe even an old copy of The Daily Californian, use it as a recycled covering for a present. Instead of tying up a package with a single use plastic ribbon, take a piece of fabric ribbon or an old shoelace to decorate the present. And save gift bags! My extended family has passed around a cute paper shopping bag someone got during a trip to New Mexico for at least ten years during our Christmas gift exchanges, to the point where it’s become a joke to see who ends up with the bag each year.
If all the talk of gift exchanges stresses you out, remember that the best gift you can give is a happy and healthy Earth for the future. No pressure. The Daily Clog wishes you a happy holiday season and the best of luck in finding the perfect presents!