It is that time of year again. Time for wanton commercialism, energy wasting strings of lights, and ceiling high piles of used boxes and wrapping paper. Let's face it. The holidays are typically not a very environmentally friendly time of year. But this year can be different. Here is a simple guide to green gifting that can help you turn your holiday habits around.
1. Participate in a single gift exchange.
Instead of giving gifts to every family member, choose to draw names so each member of the family gives only one gift. There are many gift games that can be played as well. In order to do so, each participant must bring one general, unisex gift that anyone would be happy to take home.
Both ideas for gifting cut down on the rampant commercialism present during the holiday season, packaging waste that comes with gifts, and the amount of wrapping paper used. A solution like this also keeps more money in everyones wallets, something I know we can all be happy about this year.
2. Give environmentally friendly gifts this year.
Gifts from local artisans and shops are not only thoughtful, but keep more money in your local economy than buying something from a chain store or mall would. Fair trade, cruelty-free, and green gifts are available from many online retailers and usually from your local health food store.
You can also give healthy services rather than products. A membership to a local yoga studio is a great gift for that health conscious person on your list. A gift card for a massage with a local massage therapist is wonderful for that stressed to the max friend of yours. There are also many charitable organizations worldwide which will allow you to make a donation in someones name.
3. Think green when wrapping gifts.
Instead of using rolls and rolls of wrapping paper this year, use pretty gift bags. You can find recycled gift bags to place gifts in, and when the gift is opened, fold the bag up and put it away for next year.
I like to use patterned cloth and ribbons to wrap gifts in. You can purchase seasonal cloth and matching ribbon at your local fabric store for pretty cheap. You can either reuse the cloth yourself, or encourage the receiver of the gift to wrap the next gift he or she gives in it. Another great green wrapping idea is to purchase a pretty fair-trade scarf or hemp shaw to go with the gift and wrap the gift in the scarf. The scarf substitutes beautifully for wrapping paper, and whoever you give the gift to will be thrilled to get two great gifts in one.
4. Hand make a gift.
I have friends who swear they are not creative enough to do this, but I promise you, we all are. A handmade gift can be anything from a painting, to a craft item, to a card or collage, to a poem or story. A handmade gift shows that you put real thought into your gift giving, rather than just grabbing something generic off of a store shelf and swiping your credit card.
A handmade gift means infinitely more than something store-bought. This brings us back to the holiday spirit of truly giving of yourself to another. I have to admit, one of my cousins is an amazing artist, and I secretly always hope that he pulls my name for the gift exchange. He always gifts beautiful, handmade gifts that really mean so much. Everyone in my extended family knows now that if I get their name, that they will probably get a hand knit scarf or a crocheted hat or a painting of some sort, but I have never gotten a single complaint. In fact, every year, my cousins say things like, "I love the scarf you gave me insert # of years ago. I still wear it all the time."
5. Decide not to participate in gift exchanges.
I have unsuccessfully attempted this one myself, multiple times. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and participate in gift giving so that feelings are not hurt. How can I tell my sweet little old Mammaw that she can't give me gifts this year? She saves up all year and it gives her such great joy.
However, you are in a situation where this is acceptable and you don't mind not coming home with more stuff to clutter your already cluttered existence, then I suggest opting out of gift giving all together. It is a radical step toward stopping the out of control commercialization of what is supposed to be a time of love, peace, togetherness, and unity with nature (remember the solstice, the changing of seasons?)
I hope that this easy to follow Green Gifting Guide has given you some good ideas and inspired you to go green this holiday season. Staying green during the holidays is not difficult, but it does require some thoughtfulness. Remain mindful of where your gifts are coming from and what they are being wrapped in. Ask yourself if you could give a thoughtful used or handmade gift in place of a new store-bought one. Best of all, give the gift of love.
Erin Brennan is a Raw Foods Chef and the owner of Living Bliss, a company based out of Louisville, KY which provides fresh and delicious raw and living whole foods. Erin is passionate about teaching and practicing yoga, holistic health, herbs, healing arts, spending time in nature, and creating beautiful art.
http://www.livingblissfoods.com/ http://www.howtolivenaturally.com/ http://erinbrennan.blogspot.com/