Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Eco-Friendly Christmas

I went to the mall today and of course the Christmas shoppers were in full force. Stores are stocked with sweaters, shirts, pants, dresses, coats, toys, electronics, lotions, perfumes etc etc etc etc in every size, scent and color. Consumerism is at it's peak. There are a million deals to be found and hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to be spent getting holidays gifts for friends, colleagues, and family.

I know it's that time of year when we all make an extra effort to tell and show our loved ones that we care. Giving gifts is a big part of the holiday season and even an ex-consumer does not want to miss out on this tradition. So how do you focus on sustainability and still get great gifts for everyone on your list?

It's turning out to be much simpler than I thought and actually much more meaningful! Once you stop getting sucked in by the colorful advertisements and packaging and start thinking about each person, you realize that people don't actually need a lot of the stuff being advertised. If you focus on 1.what does the person really need, 2.can I get them something local, hand-made or edible, 3.can I get them something that will encourage a green sustainable lifestyle and 4.what gifts are out there for someone who already has everything or doesn't want anything, you realize that you have a world of options.

Take my office for example. Last night we had our holiday party and we exchanged secret Santa gifts and I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful gifts everyone got each other. I personally got a bread pan (so I can make my own bread), reusable napkins(one of my top gift choices as it decreases the use of paper napkins), an I Think Green reusable water bottle (buh-bye plastic) and a gift card (so I can buy my compost pail). People also got plants, restaurant gifts cards and the best gift of the night was Erin's home-made recipe book with all her favorite holiday recipes with some home-cooked/baked goods. Simple, creative and from the heart!

I was also pleasantly surprised when I got my gift card. I used to think gift cards were boring, but they are actually a great idea. Experience gift cards are the best (and have actually been proven to make the recipient happier), but store gift cards can be useful too, especially if you know the person needs something but you aren't sure what to pick for them (like me and my compost pail).

So experience gift cards (restaurants, massages, local shows), local or hand-made items and edible goods are some of the best. But what do you get the person who doesn't want anything or already has everything? I doubt that person wouldn't appreciate edible goods, but you can also consider donations to the person's favorite charity or you can get them some carbon offsets. And if you have kids...well, yes, kids preferably want lots of gifts under the tree, but that doesn't mean you have to go buy all new things...consider yard sales, toy swaps with a friend or neighbor, thrift stores and local hand-made toys.

And of course, remember to minimize your gift wrapping. Use newspapers, reuse gift bags or give your gift in a reusable shopping bag, which the person will be able to continue using! Check out Planet Green for some more ideas!

Happy Holidays! And here's to a greener, more sustainable 2010!

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