Presents. Gifts. Cadeaux. No matter the word you use, they’re everywhere! It seems that no matter the occasion, we have an unwritten social obligation of bringing a gift. I understand that this concept genuinely makes people happy. For myself, I was always that kid who was more excited to see other people open my gifts, instead of opening my own. I still today feel a bit like this. It makes me happy to see others open a gift that I spent time on and put effort into.
However, a few things have changed. I’ve become aware of the effects of constantly giving needless ‘stuff’. It may be my minimalist side or perhaps my Zero Waste beliefs, but taking a step back and really examining all the things we give is intense. Holidays and most life events are no longer just about the occasion. Think about it, each holiday now has a huge marketing plan behind it from companies who can profit from us.
Check, the next list is only of a few holidays and what we’re told we need to buy for them (and can be confirmed with a quick Google search):
- Valentine’s Day: chocolates, flowers and diamonds
- Easter: so much chocolate and candy
- Mother’s Day: cards, flowers, and jewelry
- Father’s Day: cards, shaving kits, and electronic gadgets
- Christmas: There’s no such thing as the perfect holiday gift, pretty much everything works, toys, clothing, gadgets, tools. ANYTHING!
By the way, this list does not include other events such as birthdays, religious events, weddings and achievement related gifts (graduation, new jobs, housewarming, new babies).
If you take the idea that we’re supposed to buy 1 gift (minimum) for each event, multiply it by the number of holidays and then by the number of people in your life, that’s a whole lot of ‘stuff’ that will most likely end up in a landfill. Then think of how you’re presenting the gift. It’s usually wrapped up in super cute paper, or perhaps a gift bag with a whole bunch of tissue paper? Oh, and don’t forget that you attach a card to the gift, so the receiver knows who the gift is from.
Now, all this being said, you are not evil because you want to give gifts. Not in the slightest! There are ways around the norm that you can practice. You can absolutely continue to be generous and live a Zero Waste life. We just need to readjust the things we think we need and what we’re actually giving.
Take into consideration the following ideas for your next event that you’re planning on bringing a gift to!
Make your own. Home made gifts have always been my favorite to give as well as receive. For about 5 Christmases in a row, I made everyone close to me a basket of goodies. Cakes, huge cookies and banana breads! My family got so addicted to the treats that when I decided to stop and switch up my gift ideas, they fought back hard! I still make them treats from time to time; I just now do it at random times of the year, and definitely don’t use the plastic cling wrap!
Buy items that have been previously loved. Buying things online, from thrift stores or even garage sales has a major impact. Buying things brand new encourages more packaging and more products to be produced in its place. When you buy second hand, you keep things that you want and that other people don’t anymore, out of recycling bins and landfills.
Skip the cards. Now this is a rant I’ve been using for awhile. Why do we need them? So few people actually write profound things in them that actually make it worthwhile to keep. Most just sign their names, a generic phrase and the date. Personally, I don’t think those are worth keeping stacked in a box in my closet. So just avoid buying them all together.
Give EXPERIENCES not stuff. I love this idea; memories of a fun time out outlive any gift I’ve ever received! For kids in the family, I’ll often get a movie night out or a day at the museum. I was even given the idea to pay for their swim lessons, which I think is incredible! They’re literally learning a skill. At a recent bridal shower, I gave the beautiful bride-to-be a Groupon for an hour-long massage. It took me awhile to figure out the perfect gift for her, but once it hit me, it hit me HARD! And guess what? She loved it! It didn’t matter that I gave it in a blank envelope and just printed it from my computer that day, she loved the gesture and I’m sure she’s going to enjoy the hour of relaxation! Besides, what person who’s planning a huge event like their wedding wouldn’t love alone time in a spa!
Change the way you see gift-wrapping. I used to be the biggest gift-wrapping nerd! I think I still have a bin of different wrapping paper and another bin full of plastic bows to make any gift gorgeous! True Story! But becoming ZW, I’ve discovered reusable bags that are not only functional, but super cute! They’re just regular tie up bags made of fabric that you can either give along with the gift, so the next person can use it, or ask for it back. This weekend I brought my niece and nephew their birthday gifts (which were a bunch of puzzles we found at a garage sale) in a reusable bag and their parents were so happy! No more stuff going into the recycling or garbage!
So there you have it, 5 super easy ways you can lower your impact for those important times in people’s lives. Take these different perspectives into consideration the next time you’re heading to an event and want to bring along a special something for that special someone!