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As classes are winding down and students are firing up for exams and final papers, the holiday season is also creeping closer.
For many, this means obligatory participation in secret Santa gift exchanges with friends, roommates, family members and coworkers. This can be stressful and expensive, not to mention very wasteful, which is where sustainable gift giving comes into play. There are several ways to go about finding the perfect gift that is sustainable and special.
The internet holds a vast, overwhelming amount of things for sale. Otter tape dispenser? Yep, you can find one of those. Donald Trump toilet paper? It’s out there too. But all of these items require production, packaging — which is often excessive — and transportation, which all come with the strong possibility of material waste and pollution. A good solution to these problems is to simply not order online, no matter how easy or tempting it may be, and instead shop local.
Support local businesses rather than large corporations. Visit thrift stores. These options are likely much cheaper than other alternatives, and the items they offer are often not found elsewhere. Furthermore, buying secondhand will save you from paying for shipping and transportation costs, and won’t come with wasteful packaging.
If you do go the route of buying an item for someone, you should consider purchasing something that will not only be practical for the recipient but also for the environment. There is a slew of eco-friendly items that everyone needs in their daily lives, like biodegradable, nontoxic soaps and beauty products, reusable straws and coffee cups and reusable shopping bags. Be sure to look for eco-friendly companies while shopping.
Of course, we’ve all had to give a gift to someone who doesn’t need any more “stuff.” In this case, rather than wastefully buying items that will be discarded anyway, it might be a good idea to make something yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to get out your crafting supplies, although that’s totally acceptable too. There’s something to be said for knitting a scarf for a friend or drawing something you know they’ll like. But if art isn’t really your thing, “making” something could simply mean cooking a meal or a favorite food for someone else. It’s simple, practical, always appreciated and not wasteful.
Giving experiences rather than items is another way to give sustainably. Treating your friend, family member or coworker to a nice meal out, a day at a museum or a spa day can be more memorable than an item they won’t use and is a great way to support local businesses. You could also get them something they were planning on buying for themselves anyway, like movie tickets or membership fees to organizations they support or are a part of.
It’s not hard to give sustainably. It just requires a conscious effort towards finding eco-friendly, non-wasteful gift options. Both your secret Santa pick and the environment will thank you for it.