The holidays are a time of giving, and a time where stores stock their shelves with the latest must-have products. Without being too much of a Scrooge, I think I can confidently say that Christmas is bad for the planet.
As a disclaimer, I’d like to note that we can’t halt the climate crisis in its tracks just by being conscious consumers — it’s also important to take action so that our leaders and systems can actually be held responsible. And whatever you do, don’t give coal — even to the bad kids.
Although Santa’s sleigh does run on renewable reindeer resources, the holiday season tends to lead to packed mall parking lots where cars idle and gift wrapping that only ends up being thrown out.
Here are 10 ideas for giving this Christmas that are kind to the earth:
1. Instead of a gift, give an experience
There’s nothing sweeter than opening what you thought was just a card, only to find concert tickets for your favourite band inside. With so much going on around Christmas time, there are so many experiences that could double as gifts — like a trip to Butchart Gardens or ice skating.
2. Give green, literally
Plants are the gift that keeps growing! Although it might be hard — and not to mention dangerous — to wrap up a cactus and put it in a stocking, plants really do make great gifts. Be sure to include a little card with the care instructions, and be mindful of where your giftee lives (basement suites and full sun plants often don’t mix).
3. Swap the mall for a local fair
Every year, Victoria has local craft fairs almost every weekend leading up to the holidays. Instead of heading to the mall to get your gifts, support a local artist and get a truly unique gift from one of these fairs. A quick search through Facebook’s events pages will show you all the ones coming up.
4. It’s the thought that counts
These days, we go through items so quickly that our globe can’t keep up with how much waste we produce. You can counter materialism and still give a gift by making or buying something thoughtful. For example, you could put some cute photos into a frame or buy a book you think they’d like and write a little message in the front.
5. Give edibles (not just the weed kind)
There are so many options for amazing holiday baking and food, not to mention holiday-themed alcohol. But before you head onto Pinterest to look up cute cupcakes, message your relatives and see if they have any holiday recipes. I’ve loved connecting with my family over food, and I think it’s really important to honour your traditions in the kitchen.
6. Thrift your gifts
Every second, a garbage truck worth of clothes is dumped into a landfill. The people behind your clothes are often treated badly, in awful working conditions. Instead of supporting the fast fashion industry, thrift your gifts.
7. Give back
For people that have everything, giving back to those with next to nothing makes an excellent gift. Ellen DeGeneres’s wife, Portia de Rossi, funded a gorilla sanctuary as Ellen’s birthday gift. DeGeneres said it was the best gift de Rossi ever gave her. For those of us that aren’t celebrities, organizations often have more affordable options that allow you to dedicate a donation or fund a specific item. With World Vision, for example, you can give a child textbooks for $30.
8. Set earth-friendly Secret Santa rules
Let’s be real: there’s always at least a couple people at a Secret Santa that get something they don’t love. If you’re going to do a Secret Santa gift exchange, get creative with the rules to make it more eco-friendly. You could say that all gifts must be homemade or bought second-hand, or say wrapping has to be reusable.
9. Give zero waste items they’ll actually use
Zero waste gifts are often super practical — your recipient will use them everyday and they’ll last a long time. There are a few zero waste stores in Victoria, like Zero Waste Emporium, West Coast Refill, and Good Planet. Going zero waste is also trendy right now, so there’s a lot of unique items with creative designs.
10. Wrap up your feelings
I would love to give my parents and grandparents the entire world, but I simply can’t afford it. However, I’ve found that more often than not, parents love a tear-jerking card more than any item. Add a card to someone’s stocking, and use this season of giving as a chance to remind your family members or friends how much they mean to you.
Ultimately, the holidays should not be about gifts — but instead about giving our love and time to family and friends. It’s corny, I know, but in the words of the Grinch, “maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store … maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”