It’s that time of year!
No matter what holiday you celebrate (or don’t), the end of each year can turn into a flurry of endless activity. Shop, cook, engage in merriment, repeat.
It is also a time of mega-consuming. In fact, household waste is estimated to increase by 25% between the end of November and the end of December. That adds up to millions of tons of waste to landfills every single week.
And the earth says: ouch.
You can wrap your presents with recyclable paper, string lights around a potted tree, and compost your kitchen scraps. However, there are other areas to consider, like those presents under the tree.
As we get busier, we also get more and more disconnected from nature and the impact our buying has on the earth. It may be convenient to click on the cheapest item during your online search, but convenience isn’t free. You may not directly absorb the cost, but it could come in the form of cheap labor or environmental degradation.
We are all becoming more and more aware of our connectivity. There is no bubble. What happens to someone else affects us in ways big and small. What happens to the earth is not a separate thing from humanity. It's as if there is invisible connective tissue between nature and our bodies.
To keep your values in check with your festivity, consider gifting one of these eco-friendly options. Giving consciously allows your compassion to grow even beyond your loved ones, until you are one big, beating heart!
1. Upcycled items.
I remember the first time I learned that you could make yoga pants out of water bottles. It made me think of the future, when I could wear my waste, without having to be as dramatic as Lady Gaga’s meat dress. You can buy a robe made of recycled saris for your friend whose major relationship is with Netflix in the colder months. You can gift an eco-friendly mat to the yogi in your life, such as this one made from 100% recycled wetsuits. For the journalist, consider a recyclable journal.
2. DIY craft projects.
This goes in two directions. Either you are the crafty one and you can hand-make some gifts, or you can give an uncompleted project to your crafty friend. You may want to make gingerbread crunch cookie mix and put it in mason jars, leaving out the liquids and writing the instructions on the side. Perhaps you thought ahead and have some canned fruit for a taste of summer. If you have a lot of old wine corks, you can make them into an amazing bath mat with a hot glue gun (although it will be hard to give away). You can also gift seed bombs for your loving and rebellious friend. Wildflowers can grow by the handful in a vacant lot or abandoned area to spread beauty and nature everywhere.
This is the route my family and I have gone, especially considering we all live in different cities. Rather than carting gifts one way and then filling our suitcases in the opposite direction, we have committed to giving one another experiences. We have gifted theatre tickets, cooking classes, vegan dinners and museum passes. This has made the holidays not only less stressful, but also gives us built-in ways to spend time together.
4. Charitable love.
My partner and I gifted his altruistic grandmother with a goat one year. The goat was not for her, but rather a charitable donation for a poor family for whom livestock could make a marked difference. For your tree-hugging friend, consider giving the gift of carbon offset, which starts at just $20 to offset 4,410 pounds of carbon dioxide. You can also give out charitable gift cards through Tisbest, allowing the recipient to support the cause they are most passionate about.
It's exciting to realize that there are just as many eco-friendly gift ideas as there are eco-unfriendly gift ideas. This is great news, because, as David Orr has been quoted as saying, “When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.”