The holidays are a time of abundance. More joy, more parties, more gifts and inevitably more waste. In fact, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day we start generating 25 percent more household waste. According to the EPA, every week that we deck the halls and jingle bell rock, we’re collectively sending an additional 1 million tons of waste to our landfills.
Gifts are a major source of holiday consumption. No matter how hard we try our gifts to come from a place of thoughtfulness, we often find ourselves pressed for time at a crazy holiday sale to find anything that works. Giving with a green heart is a refreshing way to share your appreciation with your loved ones and ultimately, a way to share your generosity with the entire earth.
Give Green: The average person spends $800 on gifts over the holiday season. Yet, 70 percent of Americans say they would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending. In fact, some economists argue that holiday spending rarely produces an equivalent value in satisfaction for the giver.
With that in mind, who says that the season has to be about giving physical gifts? Moving away from a materialistic model may benefit your personal finances while being less damaging to the environment and it can refocus your holiday attention on the things that really matter. When making your holiday list, consider these ways to give lighter but with more meaning:
- Give experiences. Theatre tickets, cooking classes, wine tastings, memberships and subscriptions are examples of green gifts people can enjoy long after the holidays.
- Give gifts of time. Opt for presence over presents. Offer your creativity (perhaps you can design websites, or you’re a photographer) or simply offer your time and let them decide how they will use it with you.
- Give local. While it still requires material production, giving local is the greenest option when it comes to products. The EPA reports that industrial pollution creates 50 percent of the pollution present in the United States. Buying local cuts down on processing, packaging and transportation, which means less pollution.
- Give gifts that give back. Find out what causes your friends believe in and offer to help in some capacity. If you have a skill, donate your talent or volunteer on behalf of your friend.
Rethink Your Wrap: Annually, gift-wrapping and shopping bags total 4 million tons in the U.S. and could easily be avoidable. Unfortunately, many people try to recycle wrapping paper but the shiny laminated paper used by most gift givers is not recyclable. Including it in a recycling bin can even make an entire load unrecyclable. So, avoid it and get creative with your present presentation instead.
- Start with gifts that don’t have to be wrapped like the gift of time, experience or travel.
- Use old maps, newspapers, or even kids’ artwork in place of traditional store-bought wrapping paper.
- Scarves and cloth can make for cool reusable, recycled wrapping, too.
It’s easier than ever to give gifts that make a minimal impact on the environment. Don’t forget to ask for the same. Inevitably, you’ll likely receive some new things. From gifts to electronics, make sure you find a way to put your old stuff back into the market before tossing them to the curb. Recycle or consider selling your old electronics. You can also deposit your clothing (think: ugly holiday sweaters, fuzzy socks, holiday tablecloths) for upcycling. Make sure you look for a USAgain clothing bin where your unwanted clothing, shoes, and other household fabrics will be given a new life, often giving people an affordable access to gently used clothing, and otherwise, being recycled into industrial rags and home insulation material. In the frenzy of holiday shopping, be a master of the gifts that keep on giving and commit to giving more meaning with less stuff.