The holidays are a wonderful time to stop and enjoy time with family and friends, sumptuous seasonal food, and, of course, exchanging gifts with our loved ones. As we rush to prepare for the festivities, it is all too easy to fall into the cycle of buying just to buy, for fear of not having a gift for Uncle Harry or not having enough presents for our kids. Sometimes we know just the right gift. But shopping fueled by a sense of panic only ends up creating waste and unnecessary spending. Shockingly, an extra million tons of waste is generated weekly nationwide during the holidays, and enough ribbon to tie a bow around the earth is thrown away each year.
Here are ten tips to help make holiday gift-giving more meaningful and less wasteful:
1) Donation to Charity/Nonprofits: Find a charity that addresses a cause the person is passionate about. For the eco-minded, consider a Sustainable Fairfax membership, which includes two passes to a Sustainable Fairfax community education event of their choice. Through the Nature Conservancy you can choose to protect jaguars, sea turtles, orangutans or rhinos in a child’s name and receive a stuffed animal to give them to symbolize the donation. Or adopt a polar bear from World Wildlife Fund, which includes adoption papers and a photo the child can be proud of. Maybe give your favorite commuter a carbon offset?
2) Services: A therapeutic massage, acupuncture, a session with a career counselor, a consultation with a nutritionist. These all support the local economy and can do wonders for mind and body.
3) Education: Cooking, music, dance, yoga and art classes – lots of possibilities here! Sustainable Fairfax offers workshops every year on topics related to sustainability.
4) Your Time: Many of us have such busy lives that a whole year can pass without spending the time we would like to with those we care about. Babysitting, a hike, a homemade meal, a massage, a foot rub may just create bigger smile than a set of coasters ever could.
5) Tickets & Passes: How about tickets to a concert, play, movies or sporting event? Or an annual pass to Marin County Parks to provide endless activities for families throughout the year.
6) Do-it-Yourself Crafts: Homemade gifts offer that personal touch that is so meaningful. Come to the Sustainable Fairfax Holiday Craft Fair this Saturday to shop for take and make crafts.
7) Buy Locally: Shopping at local businesses fuels our local economy, important to helping Fairfax thrive. Local shops are also more likely to carry products that are sourced nearby, avoiding the wasteful transportation of goods. Be sure to buy and use your Fairbucks when doing your holiday shopping, available for sale at the Craft Fair.
8) High-quality Safe Materials: Buying high-quality durable products will reduce waste in the long run. Antique stores are great places to look for products that stand the test of time. Avoid products made from petroleum (most plastics) or harmful chemicals. Steer clear of synthetics and conventional cotton (which requires a massive amount of insecticides and water to grow); opt instead for eco-friendly materials such as bamboo and hemp.
9) Consumable Gifts: Organic baked goods, fruits, nuts, fair-trade coffees and teas are always a hit (but maybe take a pass on the fruitcake?).
10) Packaging and Holiday Cards: Paper bags and magazines make perfect gift wrapping, or pick up some recycled wrapping paper at the Craft Fair this Saturday! Buy holiday cards printed on recycled paper, consider an e-card, or send out a YouTube video with a holiday message from your family. Use last year’s holiday cards for gift tags.
These are just some ideas we hope are helpful. All of us at Sustainable Fairfax wish you Happy Holidays, and we hope to see you at the Craft Fair this Saturday at the Fairfax Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.!