Oh, the holidays! I’m going to confess right up front: I’m a Christmas grinch. Quite literally, the only thing I enjoy about the holiday season is the glow of a Christmas tree in my quiet living room. I probably wouldn’t even have that tree if it wasn’t for my son, our home’s Christmas spirit, who cajoles my daughter and I into getting said tree every year.
I bristle in crowds and hate line-ups, so the shopping part is a nightmare. I even hate the idea of holiday shopping – the mass consumerism, all of us plumping up the coffers of the big corporations, spending money we don’t want to spend, stressing out about what to buy then, in turn, receiving gifts bought in haste and under stress — gifts that we don’t really even want.
Who wins in all of this? I’ll tell you, it’s not the cockles of my heart getting warm, but the big corporations – they win, while we all sit amongst our scented candles, black socks, shirts we’ll never wear, and jars of jellies that are too pretty to actually eat. It all just feels so askew, even gross.
See, I tried to warn you about this! This season makes me as cranky as that angel must feel with the Christmas tree up her behind.
So, this year, I’m doing my very best to keep my crankiness in check. A big part of that will be denying big business my modest pile of coins.
Instead, I’m going to try to give gifts that that I can really get behind, from businesses that I can believe in, to see if that helps with my surliness. Here are my strategies for holiday giving that I can feel good about, that don’t hurt my conscience and — bonus points — keep me out of the malls.
1. Buy secondhand, vintage, and up-cycled.
Buying vintage and secondhand items is more environmentally sustainable because you’re keeping those items out of landfills, and reducing the demand for new goods. Consider kids’ clothing: children grow so quickly that clothes hardly get worn at all before they’re outgrown. So, buying secondhand not only gets you like-new clothing but you can get some awesome stuff at a fraction of the cost.
Rebecca Saha is the co-owner and curator of iSpy Clothing, an online resale shop that sells gently used brand name clothing.
“After the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh, our 9-year-old daughter started talking with us about the human cost of ‘fast fashion,’” says Saha. “To support her growing social consciousness, we challenged ourselves as a family to go a year without buying anything new. We were so amazed to see how easy it was to simply do without, borrow or buy secondhand! When our year was up, we were hooked. We loved shopping secondhand, and organizing community swaps so much that we started iSpy Clothing.”
2. Buy ethically produced items.
Do you know where the goods you buy come from? Much of today’s mass manufactured items and ‘fast fashion’ come from factories with less-than-stellar, dangerous, and downright unethical working conditions for their employees.
“We work with brands that pay adults a living wage – so no fast fashion, sweat shop stuff,” says Jana Reid, owner of Modern Rascals, an online children’s clothing shop that sells colorful organic clothes from ethical companies who follow sustainable fashion practices. “They make clothes that are well made, and are meant to last through kids’ rough and tumble play, yet still be in great condition to be passed on so someone else can enjoy them.”
3. Support small, local businesses.
Instead of shopping at the big box stores, shop at smaller, local shops run by real people who are doing what they love. You’ll be helping them feed their family and fueling your local economy. You’ll also be able to find treasures that you won’t find in bigger stores, items that are made in smaller batches, sometimes handmade and, because they’re made locally, by people earning a decent wage.
4. Don’t buy things people don’t want.
This sounds like an obvious one, but I’d wager that most of us have panicked last-minute and run out to quickly to pick up something for the administrative assistant at work, or for Aunt Eleanor who, surprise, is coming over on Christmas eve even though she had said she wasn’t.
If you can, plan ahead for the ‘oops, I forgot’ moments and have a few things on hand so you don’t end up buying cheap, overly perfumed hand lotion that no one will use. If you bake, perfect. Keep a few empty tins/boxes and some pretty ribbon on hand to pack those cookies up as a homemade gift that will be gobbled up with appreciation.
Other options include online gift certificates – just write a sweet note in a card with the info about the gift card to their favorite shop/iTunes/book store, and done!
5. Give experiences.
It seems more and more people are itching for a minimalist lifestyle. Unfortunately, it’s at complete odds with our holiday culture of giving and receiving ‘stuff.’
The truth is, most of us who are in a position to buy into holiday giving have all the ‘stuff’ we need because we buy it ourselves. Consider giving a gift card for a fun experience: dinner and a show, a rock climbing or pottery class, a massage, a float tank session, or maybe a craft beer subscription.
For a family, maybe a day pass to an amusement park, museum membership, or tickets to a fun theater outing.
6. Give the gift of giving.
I mentioned that my son is the Christmas spirit in my house. This goes beyond just playing the jolly music and decorating the tree. He embodies the spirit of giving. For the second year in a row, he has spearheaded a project to create and deliver care packages to people living on the streets.
He has developed a taste for the warm feeling he gets when he gives to others. Some gift options that allow you to give those warm fuzzies to someone include ‘adopting’ an animal through World Wildlife Fund, help young girls get an education through Plan International, or choose from World Vision’s catalog of gift ideas, including giving a family a goat and chickens to give a family milk, eggs, and protein, or life saving medicines.