Stuffing Stuff: Christmas Gift Ideas That Actually Reduce Waste, Not Contribute To It

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Still checking Christmas gifts off your list or even worse, still simply searching for Christmas gift ideas?  This holiday season, let’s do something different. Let’s stop buying stuff.

Have you ever noticed that as Christmas creeps nearer and nearer, good intentions begin to morph into abject terror as the cost, stress, and logistics of finding the perfect git pile up? A gift isn’t ever just a gift anymore, especially when it is intended for a spouse or romantic partner. These days an inanimate object must perfectly convey every nuance of your feelings toward the intended recipient, and of course very few inanimate objects are up to this mammoth task. Typically we end up going for quantity instead, taking a scatter-shot approach to gifting and crossing our fingers that something from the shopping bag will hit the mark.

The 21st Century Concert Experience

The 21st Century Concert Experience – Image courtesy of Al Case

The malls, the crowds, and the price tags; the plastic bags, the packaging, the remembering to ask for gift receipts, the gift cards…ugh. Over it.

Do something different. Stop buying stuff, and start giving experiences instead. Let’s start creating memories instead of more landfill waste. Let’s fill photo albums instead of shelves already groaning under the weight of useless junk.

Are you pumped? I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit pumped. Let’s DO this!

But wait- how?

Well, first you have to begin thinking outside the box – literally. Perhaps we start with the simple things like a massage, pedicure, set of lessons, single class, or small trip. Whatever fits into your budget, suits the interests of your recipient, and will provide a delicious escape, opportunity for learning, or cherished memory.

Choosing doing over buying means far less waste from manufactured goods, a gentler environmental impact, less stress for shoppers, and a real focus on giving something that will truly enrich a persons life. Furthermore, it shifts the tone of the holiday from consuming to creating. Creating experiences – a shared adventure, a retreat, or a valuable chance to learn a new skill.

For the children in your life it can be a chance for you to spend time with them, which, lets be honest, is a gift for the parent too. Take your favorite tykes mini-golfing, go-carting, on a hike through the forest or to a special meal at a fancy restaurant. Contribute to the cost of their extracurricular activities, purchase a uniform, or take them to the science center and watch them discover the mysteries of the universe.

Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project – Seattle, WA – Image courtesy of Nicola

And when it comes to your partner, choosing to think beyond stuff means giving a gift to your relationship, too. Couples thrive on shared interests and experiences, and what better way to break out of a rut than to take a dance or cooking class, learn a second language, attend a drop-in art class, or get dodgeballs whipped at your head? I mean for the cost of a nice piece of jewelry you could probably fly in their best friend who lives across the country, and rack up some major brownie points, too.

Cooking school students

Cooking school students – Image courtesy of kattebelletje

When we talk about having less stuff the knee-jerk reaction is to think that it will be an exercise in deprivation, done for a good cause. What it ends up being, in fact, is simply a reallocation of resources. Choose to live out, spend out, and stop buying stuff.

You’ll be happier for it, and Mother Nature will too.

Feature image courtesy of Nicola 

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Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.