It’s holiday gift shopping time again! And aside from excitement and holiday cheer, another thing that’s abundant during this time of year, unfortunately, is waste. Around the holidays, landfills see a spike in materials from wrapping materials to unwanted gifts. It’s as if “the spirit of giving” has been taken over by consumerism and the pressure to give presents regardless of what the presents are, thus, all the waste.
The fact that you’re here reading this means you’re interested in avoiding all the gift-related holiday rubbish, which is great! Here at Your Conscious Cart, we’re all about helping you live more sustainable lives by making little changes where you can. So, we’re gonna try to help you do just that, but with your holiday gifting. We think that with just a little bit of early planning and some research, you can gift more sustainably this year.
*This post has not been sponsored by any of the brands or companies mentioned below and has no affiliate links.
In 2018 Australians spent about $400 million dollars on 10 million unwanted presents that probably ended up in landfills. This alone tells you the importance of giving some thought to the presents you buy. This means the normal stocking fillers, which you only buy so people have something, anything to unwrap, are out.
Make your holiday gift list early. Decide what kinds of presents you want to give way before you go to stores or start hunting online so you can avoid buying just whatever you can because it’s too late to put it off. What are their hobbies? What’s something you think they’ll really use or have fun with? What’s something you know they like but would probably not buy for themselves? These questions will help you narrow down your search.
Another thing you can do, which is something we do in our family, is to do a family Secret Santa so we can focus on one person and buy a really good, fairly high-budget present for them. This takes the stress out of buying a (probably mediocre) present for every single person in your family or friend group, as well as allows you to focus on finding something really nice and/or useful for just one person. This also frees up space in your budget to get a more premium gift for one person instead of several blah gifts for everyone (which is the stuff that ends up in landfill).
DIY HOLIDAY PRESENTS
If you’ve got the time and the skills, making something to gift your family and friends is always a winner. Instead of buying cheap, novelty holiday presents, why not bake or make things for your loved ones? There are so many possibilities here depending on how much time you’ve got, your interests, and skill level, but the thought and effort that would go into these DIY presents would definitely not go unnoticed and would probably be really appreciated by the people on your holiday gift list.
If you like cooking and baking, cookies, brownies, chocolate candies, or jams might be the way to go. If you’re crafty and know how to make soaps and candles, those could also be winners, as would homemade body scrubs or bath bombs. If you knit, beanies and scarves are always useful. If you’re good with some tools, why not make small kitchen herb planters for your foodie friends? You have tons of options here, but they do require a lot of thought and quite a bit of effort and time.
If you’re not so crafty, little home spa kits that contain store bought personal care items in a nice reusable jar or box is a great idea. You can also put together jars of barbecue or curry spice blends (there are hundreds, if not thousands of recipes out there), holiday hot chocolate kits, or snack boxes filled with their favorite chips, candies, biscuits, or all three.
There are a hundred different directions you could take this idea, but the point is, if you plan ahead and take into consideration what the receiver would really enjoy, these things are totally doable. Also, doing things this way may cost you just as much or even less than that novelty holiday present you would have bought last minute anyway but have the added bonus of making the receiver feel like you really thought about what to give them.
CHOOSE SUSTAINABLE BRANDS
Once you’ve thought about what you want to give your loved ones and you’re positive your gift ideas are ones they’ll use and enjoy, it’s time to actually purchase the presents if you’ve chosen not to DIY or are unable to. At this point, you have to choose where to buy the presents from. Wherever and whenever possible, choose to buy from brands that have sound sustainability and ethical credentials.
Do some research before buying. Most companies that value sustainability and ethics would have whole pages dedicated to these topics on their websites, or at the very least, address them on their FAQ or About pages. Look for phrases such as “fair trade”, “sustainably/ethically sourced”, or “cruelty-free” and remember to check for certifications - don’t rely on marketing buzzwords.
We won’t lie to you, going this route can be a little more expensive than usual and you won’t have the same range of choice as you would otherwise. We think it’s worthwhile though. Aside from supporting a sustainable business by buying their stuff, you’re also introducing their brand to people you know may like their products.
Also, while there is a smaller selection when you’re exclusively buying sustainable, it may not be as limited as you think. There are so many new businesses across different industries that have sustainability and ethical business practices as core values. All you have to do is seek them out.
Remember to supplement your Google search for these brands with a quick trip to your local markets, shopping centers, Christmas bazaars, or wherever local small entrepreneurs set up to sell their products. There are many sustainable gems to be found in these places if you take the time to look.
If you really want to make sure nothing gift-related goes to landfill this year, you can choose to give digital gifts. Subscriptions to streaming services or online classes are great for your friends and family members who love film, TV, music, or sports, or are keen to learn something new.
Tons of options here - Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+, among others, are great for film and TV series buffs. You can also get Spotify or Apple Music subscriptions for the music lovers. For the sports enthusiasts, there's Kayo Sports, Optus Sport, and league specific platforms such as the NBA TV & League Pass, Watch AFL, Rugby Pass, and the UFC Fight Pass, among others.
Gift cards or vouchers for online classes or courses can be great gifts for lots of people on your list as a lot of these learning platforms have classes for a wide gamut of topics. You can find classes or courses in business, accounting, history, writing, acting, music, cooking, gardening, sports, design, fashion, photography, science, tech, languages, and a whole lot more. So if you have someone in your list that has expressed a keen interest in improving skills in certain areas, wanting to learn more in their field to advance their careers, or has a passion for certain hobbies that are covered in these platforms, this is a great gift. You can choose from tons of platforms as well - Masterclass, Udemy, Domestika, Duolingo and many, many more.
E-books and audiobooks are also great presents for the bibliophiles in your list. You can choose between subscriptions or single books depending on your budget. Check out platforms like Amazon Kindle, Audible, Kobo, or Apple Books for a wide range of books and different subscription options.
Giving digital presents also doesn’t have to mean that the receiver can’t open something on the day. You can print out the gift card or vouchers and put them in little cardboard boxes or inside a card so you have something to hand out and for them to physically open on the day. That way, the whole lot can go in the recycling bin afterwards - nothing gets sent to landfill.
GIFT EXPERIENCES INSTEAD OF THINGS
Sometimes, despite a lot of planning and thought, you just can’t think of what to get someone. This is usually who we end up buying novelty items or mediocre gifts for - gifts which eventually end up in landfill.
So, instead of risking the possibility of having your gift thrown out or kept it in a drawer to never see the light of day, why not gift an experience or activity? There are so many websites that allow you to buy gift cards or vouchers for things like massages and spa treatments, driving race cars, hot air balloon flights, dinner cruises, fancy high tea, and a lot more.
If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, Red Balloon and Adrenaline are great platforms for this. For our friends in other parts of the world, you can check out Gifting Owl or Tinggly.
Being smart with the way you present your holiday gifts is probably the easiest way to reduce waste during the holiday season. If you’re comfortable with it, you can choose not to wrap your presents at all, saving you money and reducing waste at the same time! But, if not, there are still a lot of ways you can reduce wrapping waste.
You can wrap with reusable bags or a scarf, which can also count as an extra gift. If you still get newspapers or magazines delivered to your home, you can use those to wrap presents as well. You can also use old wrapping paper, paper gift bags, and ribbons from presents you’ve received tp wrap the presents you’re giving out this year. For those of you with young children in the family, reusable holiday gift sacks are great because you can personalize them, they can fit a few different presents (depending on the size, of course), and you can use them year after year.
The holidays are great fun and it’s a great excuse to give our loved ones something to make them feel loved. We just have to remember that in doing that, we don’t have to contribute to the planet’s problem with waste. Sure, doing it this way will take more time, effort, and planning, but the gifts that you plan for and put effort into always turn out to be the best ones anyway. Doing it this way means that in the end everyone wins - Mother Earth included.