Whether or not you believe Christmas has lost all meaning beyond capitalism and consumerism, you have to admit the holiday season is one of excessive waste. From the abundance of food and gifts to decorations, this season has a huge impact on our planet. Now I may be a cynic, but that doesn’t mean I plan on giving up on the whole thing any time soon. I still love giving and (of course) receiving presents. In fact, I like to use it as a time to educate my friends and family (yes I am that annoying) on the costs of consumerism on our one and only planet. Because there is no greater gift than knowledge 😉
Here are a couple of the methods I use for more eco-friendly gift giving:
This is obviously my go-to. Because I stick to buying things for myself second hand, there’s no reason not to do so for my loved ones. Unless you’re a wizard, it’s hard to buy clothes for other people. On rare occasions I will find tops I think my mum or sister will like and can pretty well judge if they will fit by trying it on myself, but this skill has only developed from knowing these ladies my entire life. So clothes might not be the best way to go, but there are so many other options! You can thrift books, games, jewelry, bags, scarves, art, memorabilia, random shit your friend collects, the list is endless! Before you buy something new, think to yourself “can I buy this secondhand?”. The answer is probably yes.
I’ve made some pretty cute gifts over the years if I don’t say so myself. Making things takes a bit more forethought (I have to admit I’ve probably stayed up late the past few Christmas Eve’s finishing up projects), but can usually be relatively cheap and easy. In the past I have sewn little bags, made bracelets, upcycled denim purses, and doodled on mugs. And of course, almost all of the needed supplies can be thrifted.
This might be a bit more time-consuming (especially if you don’t already know how to knit), but once you’ve got the swing of it, is something you can do on the go or make you feel productive during your latest binge watching sesh (I don’t recommend watching anything with subtitles. This has screwed me on more than one occasion). Despite the fact that I have been known to dress up as a ninety year old, and a friend at work refers to me as a “sexy grandma”, I am not the most proficient knitter. I know how to cast on, knit and purl, and cast off. That’s about it. I’m not great with patterns, and generally struggle with anything that’s not square. But that’s OK! Because that means I can knit a scarf. Or the much smaller and less laborious headband. I also know people that can fairly easily knit a toque or pair of socks. I am not one of those people. Also, before you go out and buy new needles and wool, remember that thrift stores are the perfect place to look first. If they don’t have exactly what you want/need (which would surprise me because thrift stores were practically invented for people to get rid of half finished knitting projects and knitting supplies hoarded by grandmothers everywhere), remember to go for sustainable options. Think natural fibres/dyes, organic, bamboo, local, etc.
If you’ve got a bunch of people to get gifts for (well congrats, you have more friends than me), an easy solution is to bake a ginormous batch of your favourite cookies. For me that’s Tacofino’s Diablo Cookies. They’re chocolatey, spicy, salty, and oh so yummy. My best friend can’t handle the spicy, so I make a special cayenne-free batch for her. But no one else. They have to suck it up. If the thought of making dozens of batches of cookies is a daunting task (I get it, you’re really popular. Stop rubbing it in.), or you’re not a supreme baker, there are some easier options. My friends make flavoured popcorn, granola, and even seasoned salt. Put them in a (recycled) mason jar, slap a bow on it, and call it a day.
So maybe you’re not that great with your hands or you’re super busy; fear not. As the best anti-consumerist will tell you, the best thing to get someone for Christmas is nothing at all! That is, give experiences instead of physical things. Concert or theatre tickets, a cooking class, kayak rental, manicures, paint night, museum passes. What do you/they like to do? Do it. The best part of these kind of gifts is you get to participate as well. You’re basically buying yourself a gift. And don’t forget to check out Groupon, or your region’s equivalent. It’s a great way to try something new for a bit cheaper.
ASK FOR IT!
If you’ve been more nice than naughty, chances are you’re planning on receiving at least a couple gifts this year. Don’t be afraid to get specific on your wish list to Santa. If you are doing a not made in China challenge, are vegan, don’t buy anything new, or are boycotting certain companies, tell your friends and family you want them to follow the same rules you do when buying gifts. Even though most people know I quit fast fashion years ago, I have still received new and unsustainable clothes as gifts because my very loving and well-meaning friends/family assumed it “didn’t count” if I wasn’t the one buying them. My whole family now exchanges a large percentage of secondhand gifts. Remember what I said about knowledge being the greatest gift of all? You’re welcome.