Gift-giving comes with its own set of difficulties on the best of days, especially if you’re someone who likes to put an incredible amount of thought and work into creating and giving the most meaningful gift you can possibly think of. Add to that the desire to remain eco-friendly and ethical in your gift-giving, and you’ve got yourself a whole new dilemma. But fret not.
Shopping locally is becoming more and more popular, with farmers’ markets and artisan fairs popping up all over the place. Not only does shopping locally help support your community, it also helps to reduce environmental impact. Our support of locally-owned businesses provides them with more opportunities to source the elements of their products locally cutting back on fuel consumption, pollution, sprawl and habitat loss, according to Sustainable Connections, a non-profit organization that focuses on sustaining local businesses. Check in with your city or town’s website for the events calendar, or follow local businesses and market organizations to learn when markets and fairs are on in your area.
Have an idea in mind for the perfect gift but aren’t sure if the item or company is in alignment with your ethics? Before you head out to the shops, do some research about the product and the company online. A good number of company websites include an About section and a mission statement, which is usually a good tell if they are supportive of the environment or not. Companies who do put an effort in to reduce their carbon footprint want people to know that they are making a difference, so they will make that clear on their websites and social media. It’s also worth giving reviews a read, as they are written by people just like you. Comment sections and reviews are meant to inform other consumers, whether the reviews are good or bad, so take a look and read everything, not just want you want to hear.
Every once in awhile we spot an item on the shelf that would be the perfect gift for a loved one. But how do we know if that company supports our values? Packaging can tell us a lot about a product and the company that produces it, we just have to look closely. For example, products that are USDA approved and/or cruelty free will have little symbols on either the front or back on the package saying just that. There are also apps you can download to your phone, such as Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide and Buycott, that give you background on companies, you can learn on the spot whether or not it’s worth it to you to support that company by purchasing their product.
The options are endless when it comes to making your own gifts, especially when using upcycled or recycled materials, and the trusty internet. There are tons of blogs and social media accounts that offer free tutorials and step-by-step instructions on how to turn a dud into something beautiful and vibrant. When you decide to make something yourself, you also gain creative licence to make that gift exactly what you want it be, using local, recycled and/or eco-friendly materials. Plus you get the added bonus of feeling super proud that you just made something with your own two hands that is filled with love.
When giving gifts, it’s just as important to consider who you’re giving a gift to as it is to think about whether your presents are ethical. There’s a chance that if you give a coffee drinker a set of seasonal teas that those teas will still be in their original packaging the same time next year. Before purchasing, making and giving a gift, think about who it’s going to and whether or not they will get use of it. Ask yourself if it something they will love and find use for, or will it end up in a donation bin? You want your gift to be meaningful to the receiver, and while it may seem a little harsh to think of them tossing your gift in a donation pile, it’s also worth considering waste produced from production and consumption of a gift, as it is whether or not a product is made with eco-friendly materials.
Remember to keep your head high going into a holiday season or birthday extravaganza. You have everything you need - a good heart, smart head, and a couple tricks up your sleeve - to not only give a thoughtful gift, but one that has been made with love from ground to giftbag.
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