Text by: Agata Ryszkowska
We’re getting closer and closer to most people’s favorite time of the year. With everything sparkling, decorated with fairy lights and burning cinnamon scented candles we try to rush to get all the gifts for our beloved ones. But how to do it in a way that’s doesn’t interfere with the environment? Or maybe this way of thinking is a bit too extreme? Without further ado, let’s try to analyze these controversial topics.
The first thing it’s good to be aware of – we don’t prove our love by spending money. We’re convinced we do, but it’s only because of the pressure that the market puts on us. Not giving each other presents sounds slightly excessive, for me as well, but it’s worth a discussion. Have you ever been given a thing that wasn’t quite useful? Or maybe you didn’t like it at all? Or yet it was another pair of Christmas socks with 40% polyester in them? And it works the other way – being insecure whether the other person will like the gift, getting it in a hurry and not giving it enough thought… You most probably nodded along reading the last few sentences.
Alright, so let’s think you’ve already got your presents before reading this text and there’s no way you want to be bothered with returning them and getting new, more sustainable ones and so on. The shops are flooded with wrapping papers, gift bags, ribbons, plastic decorations to stick to the wrapping… These may be easy to get, easy to use and you’ve never thought of how bad they can be. And that is absolutely okay. But try to think of it in this way: you pack a present, it goes under the tree, then your beloved one unwraps it, gets supper excited about the gift and the wrapping paper goes straight to the trash bin. Quite a short period of time it does its job, right? Especially for the fact that most of them cannot be recycled since they’re glossy and covered in prints, paint and glitter. There are a few ways to be a bit more green, though:
Wrapping gifts in a cloth has its own name in Japan and it’s considered as art – it’s called furoshiki. They could be old towels, scarves, washcloths. Just any sort of material that can be reused. It’s worth mentioning that once the person receives a present wrapped up like this, it can be reused many more times!
- Brown bags
These could be bags that you get at store while doing groceries, or just simply get it at a paper store. If you’re feeling brave, you can also cut them in a proper way to use them as a wrapping paper.
- Brown paper
The most basic roll of brown paper that is SO versatile. It’s a thing to put a cute white&red twine around it and add a little piece of branch found nearby your house. Just make sure the paper isn’t covered in a glossy substance.
An old-fashioned, sustainable way. Most of us have old newspapers hidden from everyday sight at home, so why can’t we use it to wrap presents up?
- Plain white paper
You can draw on it, put ornaments, decorate it with a textile ribbon or a sprig of a christmassy-looking tree. It’s very versatile in its use and you can get creative as much as you’d like. There’s also a something nice about putting your heart into making a present look neat, it’s nice to see that someone put some effort to make us feel good.
- Any sort of boxes, jars that can be reused
Any sort of boxes you could think of, like for example shoes boxes. It’s also quite clever to actually buy a box that later on can be given a second life – it could be literally a part of the gift.
THE GIFT GUIDE
In the UK alone people have received 70 millions of unwanted gifts during Christmas 2018. There’s literally so much to choose from the eco-friendly options it’s hard to put it into a list. For a start: it’s wise to choose items that do not contain any sort of batteries. It’s often mentioned to gift an experience rather that an actual thing, for example a cooking course, yoga class access or a massage session. It’s deeply connected to the wellness side, which is often much more thoughtful. It’s wonderful to be aware that someone actually wants us to FEEL good, and they’re not just giving us another thing we don’t need in our lives.
But if you’re still into giving an actual thing (which is totally okay), it’s smart to think it through and sleep on it. It’s also important to shop locally, it not only supports the local smart businesses and the whole country market, but also prevents from unnecessary gas emissions, like shipping it overseas. It’s worth thinking of what the other person really NEEDS in their life, it often prevents from the risk of giving an unwanted item. The packaging of a product needs to be given under consideration as well – is it plastic? Is it the kind of plastic that can be recycled? Or maybe the packaging can be reused after all? As much as it can be overwhelming, here are some ideas that can help you decide:
- Gift card to a loved (sustainable;) store
- Reusable water bottle, coffee cup, lunch boxes etc.
- Ethical cosmetics like vegan-friendly high quality soaps, solid shampoos, cream deodorants packed in jars, metal razors, oil-based perfumes
- Paraffin free candles
- Ethical jewelry
- Swimwear or sportswear made out of recycled plastic
- Biodegradable yoga mat
- Cookbook with vegan or vegetarian recipes
- Kindle – even though it contains a battery, it gives an opportunity to save lots of paper by not buying physical books
- Any sort of items that can be found in your local ethical stores (for example Vistvera in Iceland) instead of shoppign malls.
- Wooden toys instead of plastic ones for your children
- Things that you made yourself – a painting, a sugar scrub packed in a reused jar, sweet treats, a pair of gloves that you knitted. Just anything you’re good at!
It has started to be a thing. Even amongst beauty related YouTubers who are known for their high level of consumerism. There’s only one rule though – it has to be approved by every single member of the family, it has to be a mature decision so no one feels offended, miserable or not loved enough.
So why going for gift-free Christmas might be an idea worth thinking about? The first and the most important reason is consumerism. We are absolutely bombarded with ads, sales, Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays… The cities and the malls get to be decorated in Christmas ornaments way before December even starts, making us think that it’s about time to collecting gifts. It’s not good for our environment. Try to think about all those impossible to recycle wrapping papers, plastic toys or low quality clothes that are made in the poor countries of Asia. And it’s not good for our bank accounts either, as we get to spend money on things we absolutely do not need. It’s up to us, consumers, who make the market work in a certain way. It’s up to us whether we want to keep things this way or whether we’d like to show the companies that there’s another way around.
There’s also another side of not giving or receiving any presents during Christmas. It makes you focused on the experience itself and on spending your time with your family. It doesn’t mean that giving gifts is bad and it’s not a good way to show affection, absolutely not. You can spoil your family for example during their birthdays. Christmas is about family and friends quality time. It’s wonderful to be sat on your sofa playing board games while you don’t normally have time for that. You can catch up, have fun, eat super tasty food together, and just BE together. Attention, love and care are the most valuable things you could ever give someone.
Lastly, finding gifts makes us stressed. We all have at least that one family member who’s so fussy about presents and we may never satisfy them. We spend hours in shopping malls trying to find the right thing, trying to squeeze between the wild crowds, while ironically there’s a song playing ‚it’s the most wonderful time of the year’. Well, it’s only up to you. You can make it wonderful, just the way you feel the most comfortable with.
May you find love, peace and calmness during this year’s Christmas time!