For a few weeks already now I’ve found myself walking down the street doing a double take in front of store windows with festive displays of plaid-patterned candles, matching outerwear sets for children in bright, sparkly fabrics, similar sets for grown adults . . . you get the picture. (This was all the more disturbing because, until recently, it felt more like summer than fall temperature-wise in NYC.) Yes, the Christmas Industrial Complex has descended, and messaging couldn’t be more confusing as to what, or whether, we should buy for each other to show our true affections for each other.
It’s more apparent than ever that we have more stuff than we could ever need–or want. It may be the case that the streamlined future of digital-living isn’t quite the reality we thought, but more and more data is emerging about how wasteful we are, especially in America, and our waste’s harmful effects on our health and planet in the short- and long-term. And for all the marketing hoopla that makes us feel we need more more more, in actuality a 2016 survey showed that a majority of Americans are fed up with the reindeer race that has replaced this traditionally festive, nourishing, and reflective time of year.
All that said, breaking traditions as entrenched as gift-giving is an overwhelming thought, and may even be impossible among your friends and family. That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t ways to shake up your exchanges that don’t actively support excessive consumerism. For the creative DIY-er, non-matieral gifts can be the perfect way of showing love without an ugly footprint on the environment or one’s sense of self- worth. Here are some suggestions on where to start a new tradition of the #nongift.
Sustainable Gift Guide
Donate to a Charity: This tactic is a timeless one, pulled out by frugal couples at weddings and decades-anniversaries, or anyone who’s wanted to spread the love of others’ generosity. This year, there have been more than our fair share of worthy causes to contribute to, from natural disaster relief to political causes like women’s rights and environmental protection. Choosing a charity to donate to on someone else’s behalf can be meaningful if it’s a cause they actively support, and the same holds true for when you are asking for gifts yourself. Check out quality guides like GiveWell.org to make sure your chosen organization is legitimate in terms of practices.
Share Your Talents: It may be beyond cliche, even politically incorrect, to say we’re all special–but it’s true! You have lots of knowledge and gifts to share with others just in and of yourself. Obvious things this time of year might be baking or knitting, but maybe you have a green thumb that you could lend to your friend’s garden come spring, or maybe you are a computer wiz who can guide a relative through social media and email. Sharing time together as well as valuable information and skills encourages bonding on a deep level that also allows you to shine as an individual.
Food!: Grandmothers everywhere would agree that food is the language of love, and what’s great about it is that it can be eaten (fast or slow) without waste. Whether you’re a top home chef or more of an Instapot cook, you no doubt know what your friends’ and family’s favorite treats are. Homemade granola, spice blends, or baking mixes (in reusable packaging, of course) will please those with sweet or savory teeth, or you can gift a homemade meal (great for new parents). Food delivery services can also introduce people to new flavors and ideas from around the world without you having to turn on the oven or open a cookbook.
The Regift: Another taboo about to be broken is the classic regift. When I was in 4th grade, I was burned by this previously shunned practice when I received a heart-shaped potpourri scented candle in my class’s grab bag (clearly something my classmate’s mom had in the closet and thought a nine-year-old would love). However, the more I think about the things I currently own but don’t use, but that someone else I know would actually get more use out of, I question the logic that passing on already-owned things is somehow offensive. Why not give the objects not serving a purpose a chance to give someone else joy? Think of it as vintage shopping in your own house. As long as you keep it relevant and thoughtful, not just a random pawn-off of an undesirable, then you’re in the clear.
Share your most memorable and thoughtful #nongifts with us, and let’s make this holiday season a little greener!
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