The holidays are a wonderful time of joy, food, family, and friends. However, alongside all that joy is an abundance of waste and extreme stress. Since the late 19th century, we’ve been pressured to make the season a spectacular affair, and with the cultural takeover of advertising those pressures have only increased throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Consumerism has brainwashed us into believing that without shiny new things, this time of year means nothing. So how does one opt out of gift giving when the pressure to buy is so high?
According to Vox’s Climate Lab, online shopping has made it that much harder to resist the pulls of consumerism with an average of 79% of Americans shopping online annually. This number holds even more weight during the holidays; Climate Lab found that “UPS deliveries have increased by 260 million packages since 2010.” All of these deliveries rely on fossil fuels for transportation and countless hours of manual labor from shipping center employees, rail workers, delivery truck drivers, and more. The cost of consumption goes far beyond the price the consumer pays, especially during the holidays.
“I often feel the need to ask for something from friends and family despite the fact that I’m not confident I actually want any of these items.”
Now, think of all of those deliveries, all those holiday gifts, clogging up the mail system and consider how many of those gifts will actually be used. Bleak, isn’t it? Ethical fashion expert Aja Barber recently shared a Twitter post revealing the truth about unwanted gifts. “Over 33 million Brits receive a gift they do not want, totaling over £1.2 billion,” Finder reports. That’s almost $1.5 billion dollars wasted, and countless CO2 emissions released, all for items that people don’t even want.
Sure, maybe you understand all of this on a conceptual level, but are you also partaking in it? I can’t say that I always innocent. It’s a constant struggle to shut out the noise of consumerism, even more so around the holidays. Every year it feels as though I scramble to come up with ideas for my own wishlist. I often feel the need to ask for something from friends and family despite the fact that I’m not confident I actually want any of these items. There are countless useless products available at our fingertips as gift giving has become more overwhelming than meaningful. Luckily, there are ways to infuse giving with meaning without playing into these consumption game. Here are six ways you can give a gift without buying another product that is going to end up in the landfill next year.
Spend quality time
There’s a reason that quality time is one of the top love languages for most individuals. At the end of the day, we really do just want to be together, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, we need that time. Sign your loved one and yourself up for a sip and paint night, take a cooking class together or grab tickets to a museum nearby. Don’t want to spend money? No problem. Consider hosting a movie or game night at home. Whether it’s curling up on the couch with popcorn or a rowdy game of trivia, there’s so much love that can be shared by simply spending time together.
Donate to a cause
Nowadays there’s a lot we have to fight for and there are so many different organizations worth supporting in those fights. Donating to a non-profit which upholds your loved ones’ values can be just as thoughtful as a physical gift. Have someone who’s passionate about fashion, fair wages, and the environment? Perhaps make a donation to Remake in your loved one’s name! Whatever the cause, make sure to do your research to ensure that your gift will have quality impact.
DIY is not dead! We’ve come a long way since the no-sew shirts of the late 2000s, and there are so many ways to create something handmade. You can try your hand at soap and candle making, mix together a body scrub, make a drink kit, or bake some delicious treats and homemade chocolates for your friends and family. Are words of affirmation more your loved one’s thing? Design a handmade card filled with thoughtful words.
Volunteering your time can make a difference all year round but there are endless opportunities around the holidays. Go with your loved ones to volunteer at a food bank, animal shelter, soup kitchen, community center or garden (if you live somewhere warmer). Local charities and non-profits often need extra volunteers on a regular basis. Focus on smaller organizations if you can, as they are often the most in need of the extra help around the holidays.
Get Outdoors together
Sometimes all it takes to celebrate the season is to join with others in festive activities. Grab your loved ones and take an evening walk to see Christmas lights in your area, stop by a local holiday market, take a winter hike or find a rink to skate on together. It can even be as easy as enjoying the quiet of winter with a family stroll around your neighborhood. Little moments such as these can help us gain perspective and gratitude for all we have. I know that can be corny, but it’s the holiday season — sue me!
Lend a hand
Another great love language to substitute for gift giving is acts of service. Do your loved ones have clothes that need mending? Spaces that need cleaning? Books they need organizing? Chores they need doing? This year all I asked of my boyfriend was to repot the snake plant in my bedroom, a task I’ve been somehow avoiding for over six months. Taking the load off for someone is as good as that shiny new item everyone’s been talking about.
This time of year may never be completely stress-free but a significant amount of that weight can be lifted when we let go of the holidays’ association to consumerism. We don’t have to buy in order to show our love for each other. Instead, make this holiday season the start of a giving revolution where thoughtfulness reigns supreme — not products.
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