This post was originally published in the Teton Valley News on December 5th, 2013. It is reposted with permission.
Gift giving season is in full swing! Children are busy writing letters to Santa, spouses are dropping hints, and almost everyone is busy preparing for the holiday season. Gift giving can be a wonderful tradition. However, it can also create stress. Many people feel overwhelmed by pressure to give bigger and better presents, while others feel stressed when they receive unwanted gifts. Recently, a group of friends shared their feelings of guilt when they received unwanted and over-packaged gifts. Each of these women was trying to live life simply. They wondered how to kindly let their loved ones know they didn’t want so much “stuff”. Is it possible to reduce the stress of gift giving, restore the intended joy of the tradition, reduce waste AND support the local economy? TVCR’s five rules of holiday shopping are a good place to start.
- REQUEST. Ask people what they want and listen to them. Kids write letters to Santa for a reason – to share what they REALLY want, and to avoid getting things they don’t want. If you make gifts, let the receiver be a part of the process by picking out the colors, materials, and style.
- RECREATE. Who doesn’t love recreating in our beautiful valley? Give experiences that help people recreate or relax. Gift certificates for massages, lift tickets, bike tune-ups, or babysitting are almost always appreciated without leaving the receiver with unwanted “stuff”.
- REINVEST your holiday dollars in the local economy. Recaps hats, Toosh natural skin care products, Grand Teton Vodka, and Kate’s Real Food bars make great gifts that are both produced and sold locally, benefitting our economy twice! Consumable gifts such as the jams, salsas, soaps and lotions that can be found at local craft fairs are crowd pleasers that leave behind little waste. For a larger gift, a CSA share from a local farm supports small-scale agriculture while providing delicious fresh food.
- REFOCUS holiday traditions. Parents can feel a lot of pressure to fill the house with gifts. Yet when I teach schoolchildren about waste, I consistently hear stories of children feeling disappointed when they waste money on a toy that breaks or isn’t as fun as they thought it would be. Even young children appreciate a few good gifts over lots of cheap ones. Holiday traditions can be refocused around family time. I love presents, but my favorite childhood holiday memories are of skiing and biking with my family. Some families find more joy in picking out gifts to donate to those less fortunate than in opening gifts themselves. Others enjoy volunteering or donating to local nonprofits. Find your tradition, and make it special.
- RETHINK packaging. Reuse boxes and packing materials, wrap in brown paper or newspaper, and use shredded paper for packing instead of Styrofoam. Cloth gift bags are both elegant and can be reused for years. Remember to recycle wrapping paper and boxes after the holidays.
Hopefully these thoughts will help you to find meaningful gifts and traditions while minimizing stress and waste. Have a wonderful holiday season!