Christmas, Hanukah and the other December holidays are a time for giving and generosity. But when we give physical gifts, they come with a price beyond what we pay for them. The amount Americans put in the trash goes up by about 25 million tons in November and December. That’s a 25 percent increase over the rest of the year.
This season, instead of giving everyone the gift of a brand new item, are there people on your list who would like something else? Maybe a special hand-made gift, an experience, or a donation to a cause they care about? Here are some ways you can lower the waste associated with gift giving this holiday season.
Make a gift using upcycled materials
You handy and crafty types have this one covered. Buy some building materials from us, or some second-hand fabric or yarn from MECCA or St. Vincent de Paul, and churn out creative projects your friends and family will love. Not crafty? There are lots of things anyone can make with a little time and some good instructions. Bake treats, make cookie or soup in a jar mixes, stir up a spice mix, or create homemade body scrubs or soaps.
Share an experience
Many of us have enough stuff. Instead of buying dad another tie or your child another stuffed animal, plan a family vacation, purchase a membership at a favorite museum, sign up for a class, or buy tickets for a concert or theater performance.
Donate in someone’s honor
If your loved ones are as concerned about charitable causes as you are, honor them by making donations to their favorite nonprofits. Bonus for you – contributions to many charities are tax deductible, so it’s a gift for you too.
Not all gifts have to be new. Many of the folks on your list may be just as happy to receive a high-quality second-hand sweater, bicycle or scooter, or elegant serving dish. One of the benefits of buying used is that you can afford to buy more. If your recipient finds a stack of books rather than one or two tomes under the tree, it’s doubtful you’ll get any complaints.
Look for items made with local products
Instead of ordering steak from the Midwest, pick up some fresh meat from a Lane County rancher. Instead of mail ordering fruit in a fancy box, buy local apples and pears at the farmers market and wrap them yourself. If you have a real foodie on your list, think about purchasing them a subscription to a local CSA.
Foods that are grown or raised locally don’t have to travel as far, and you support a community member instead of a company in another state. In addition, by wrapping these items and skipping the shipping box yourself you cut down on the amount of packaging material your gift generates.
Support businesses with low or zero waste
Buying from low or zero waste-certified companies takes your waste reduction to the next level. Find out which Lane County businesses are working to reduce their carbon footprint with our list of companies that are RE:think Business certified.
Instead of purchasing wrapping paper this year, buy reusable gift or shopping bags. If it wouldn’t be Christmas without watching the kids tear into loads of paper, rethink your wrapping. Can you reuse wrapping paper or tissue paper you already have? Can you buy wrapping paper at a thrift store? Can you make your own wrapping paper with the Sunday funnies, newsprint roll ends, or brown paper grocery bags? Decorating your own wrapping paper can be a great activity for kids.
Other alternatives are to cut down on the amount of bows and ribbon you buy, and make your own gift tags using old holiday cards or unneeded office supplies.
Go electronic (or homemade) with your greeting cards
Americans purchase about 2.6 billion holiday cards every year. That’s enough to fill a 10-story football stadium. E-cards let you spread the spirit of every holiday without sending mountains of paper that may or may not be recyclable (cards with lots of foil, glitter or embellishments often shouldn’t be placed in the comingled recycling bin).
If you’re committed to sending paper cards, consider making them yourself using last year’s Christmas cards or other materials you already have around the house.