Last December, for the first time in years, I had enough time and rest to take care of my Christmas shopping with a more critical eye. Christmas is where I draw a personal line with regard to sustainability. If I were 100% sustainable I wouldn't buy anything, but at Christmas I make a concession and I like to give a present to the people I love.
So now, for the first time I paid even more attention to it, by taking the time to find out what the perfect gift could be and how I could make it as sustainable as possible. I looked at the impact on the environment, economic sustainability (how long does the product last and where do you buy it) and social sustainability (how great is the social added value and can I make the receiver really happy with this). By using these criteria to select my gifts, I've been more sustainable and it feels good! Does this sound like something you would like to apply as well? I have listed 5 tips that will hopefully inspire you.
What is the impact of your gift
Every year there are many gift-giving moments in our culture, from Valentine's Day and Christmas to birthdays and maternity visits. Within companies, these moments sometimes extend even further to Secretary Day or "Dag van de Zorg" (a Dutch initiative which celebrates our healthcare workers). A moment of giving is often a token of appreciation towards someone else and that gives us a good feeling, socially. I believe that's the whole reason we create so many of these moments.
Although it is nice to make someone happy with a gift, in recent years I have started to think more and more about its impact. In addition to whether it is sustainably made, I also look at another aspect; what do you teach your child or other people's children by giving this gift? In short, what is the impact of the gift you give?
A difficult debate, which can certainly lead to quarrels within families or groups of friends; after all, everyone thinks differently. Still, I couldn't resist writing about it, because there are many options that allow you to deal with gift giving in a more sustainable way without having to make all the concessions right away. So it doesn't mean that you can't give anything anymore (although it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a little less 'help' from all Santa's helpers), but these tips give you more ideas that might help you come up with more creative, more sustainable solutions. And that's more fun in the end! So here are my 5 tips on how you be more sustainable with your gift giving.
1. Give an experience
Scores high on: Social sustainability
This is one of my favorites; giving an experience. I often go for massages, because everyone can use a moment for themselves, right? But also consider other experiences such as a high tea at a cozy tea house or a visit to a museum. You can choose to give the person an experience for themselves, or you can tag along!
2. Start cooking or baking
Scores high on: Environmental impact, social sustainability
I have to be honest with you, my cookingskills are not top notch. But even I can make a delicious, vegan & gluten-free Rocky Road or raw Brownie. And isn't it nice to get a homemade cake or meal? It gives me a warm feeling when someone makes something special for you. Do you also use organic seasonal vegetables or do you make it vegan? Then you have a completely sustainable gift! Cooking or baking something yourself is probably not suitable for every moment of giving, but just think of those new parents you go to on a maternity visit. I bet you they will welcome your homemade meal with open arms!
3. Take the birthday boy or girl shopping (provided there is no corona lockdown)
Scores high on: Economic sustainability, social sustainability
Every year my parents give me a day of shopping with my mother, where I can pick out something I need at that moment. Think of new jeans, facial care or new shoes. After all these years it sometimes still feels uncomfortable to accept a gift in this way, but at the same time it also makes me very happy. I enjoy a day out with my mother and at the same time I get something very useful to me. In addition to shopping, we always go out for lunch and dinner together. My parents know that they are giving me a useful gift and it also makes me very happy socially, because it is not so often that I can spend time alone with my mother.
Now we do this for a whole day, but is your budget not sufficient or do you not have enough time? Then think of a morning that you end with a nice lunch. Another tip: when you go shopping, you often think of visiting another city. But why don't you try your local area? This also gives you chance to support a local store.
4. Give a voucher
Scores high on: The impact on the environment, social sustainability
Vouchers. Actually the most impersonal gift there is, unless you know where to find the right one. Last Christmas I couldn't think of the right gift idea for my mother until we talked about meditation and she told me how much she wanted to learn it too. Online I came across a Dutch meditation app (I use Headspace myself, but that is only in English) where you could take a trial subscription for a fee. It's a great and low barrier-way of getting acquainted with meditation!
Now not everyone will appreciate a meditation voucher, but also consider a dinner voucher from a local eatery or a gift voucher from the local florist. That way you make the impersonal a bit personal and you at least know that your gift is useful! And that makes it a little bit more sustainable.
5. Give a sustainable product
Scores high on: The impact on the environment, economic and social sustainability
My last advice is one you probably guessed already: give a sustainable product. Only this is easier said than done. The market is now saturated with sustainable products and sometimes you don't know where to look. But not every product that sells itself as sustainable is actually sustainable. What do I mean? If a bag from recycled plastic has to come all the way from China, I don't think you can call that sustainable anymore. I also look critically at the usefulness of the product. For example, I am not a fan of bamboo toothbrushes. Why? Because my electric toothbrush keeps my teeth cleaner than brushing by hand and I won't be replacing it anytime soon.
I also use this approach with the gift boxes that I put together for Earth Friendly Gift Box. Within the range you will find sustainable products that I think will be used and that I know come from Europe. Good examples are this gift box from the What’s Cooking collection or this one from the Earth Friendly Start collection. It's a very nice gesture if you would like to give a sustainable product as a gift, but please asses it well before you make your purchase!
Do you have any advice for me?
These 5 tips are only a short summary of the possibilities. If you're a little creative, there are probably many more ways to make your gift buying behavior more sustainable. Have I inspired you with my tips? Or do you have other ideas that I could apply? Share it with me on social media! I look forward to hearing from you.