Mindful Holiday Shopping

Like a lot of people, my favourite time of the year is Christmas. I’m not afraid to admit that I am one of those people who will wack on a Chrissy tune early in November. There is just something about it, the food, time with loved ones, connection to childhood memories, doing things for others and don't even get me started on Christmas movies. The Grinch is a personal favourite, perhaps because he reminds me of my brother Finn. Nonetheless, I digress.

Today, I wanted to write about mindful gift giving. Lets face it, despite how much we all love the holidays, in whatever form you may celebrate them, it is also a time for excessive consumption, with an average Australian estimated to spent over $955 this festive season. I recognise that this money all goes to making the experience that much more special and is great for the economy, but how much of it feels a little bit wasteful? In all the hustle and bustle, it might be hard to take the time to consider how certain products are made, where they are made and if the gift receiver really needs the present in the first place. There have been lots of guides and articles written around the holidays urging shoppers to make more thoughtful decisions with some lessons I’ve learnt summarised below.

Gift Shopping:

Christmas is a time for giving, with present shopping one of my favourite yet most stressful aspects of the whole experience. If your anything like me, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to get presents for everyone - family, friends, pets, hairdressers, the list could go on and on. It can get expensive really fast and can also feel really wasteful if you are buying something for someone that they don’t really need, already have, or don't want. Some ideas to overcome this challenge are:

  • Asking people what they truly need and if you are unsure they would like the gift make sure to keep the receipt so they can exchange it.
  • Organise to do Secret Santa with friends, family and work colleges, saving money by buying one great gift for someone rather than lots of little, less meaningful gifts for everyone. Remember its always best to choose quality over quantity!
  • Perhaps you could get creative and make a gift for your loved one (I have written a piece about how to make terrariums, which can be a good use for recycled glass jars if your interested), or buy an experience such as concert tickets and make memories!
  • For those people who seem to have everything and really don't want anything, how about donating the money you would spend on a gift to a worthwhile cause. There are a variety of charities and social enterprises out there that need our support, and perhaps you could pick a cause that means something special to your gift receiver.

On another note, an article was published recently, which found that online shopping can be more environmentally friendly than traditional shopping as a delivery truck generally uses less fuel per package than the equivalent number of people driving to pick the goods up. Nonetheless, there are a few factors that might negate this benefit, such as redeliveries, returning unwanted items back in the mail and complimentary shopping trips to check the goods in store. I suppose one way around this is to be sure of what you are buying before you click the checkout button, which if done correctly, will not only help the planet but save you a trip to the mall and we all know how crazy parking can get this time of year! Packaging is also an issue, so be sure to recycle!


Gift Wrapping:

No pressie is complete without wrapping, but again (without trying to sound repetitive) think of the waste! Fortunately, there are more environmentally friendly ways to do this without compromising on style (because we all know that aesthetic is important). Some ideas could be to use newspaper, things that can be reused like boxes or bags (my boyfriends brother Nick, has used the same ‘Merry Christmas’ bag for years – even for birthdays!), or even fabric! This is embraced by the Japanese technique called Furoshiki, with a guide to such gift-wrapping found here. For wrapping that cant reused, remember recycle or dispose of it correctly.


O’Christmas Tree:

Nothing beats that pine-y smell, but is a real cut tree more sustainable than reusing a fake tree year after year? It really is a debate and something I’ve been asking myself! I have a problem with chopping down a tree for it to only be used one time of year (its also expensive!), however, a real cut tree is biodegradable, a renewable resource and can be recycled. It also makes for a useful habitat and stabilises soil up until the time they are cut down.

In comparison, plastic trees are made from non-renewable resources like petroleum, which means they do not biodegrade and cannot be recycled, instead sent to landfill where they are disposed of. Ultimately, it would appear a cut tree is more sustainable (depending also on how many Christmas' the plastic tree is reused), but even better than that is a live potted tree! You could keep the potted plant outside as an addition to your garden and simply bring it in for the festive season.


Finally, remember to enjoy yourself this Christmas. These lessons are not intended to dampen Christmas spirits, it is just something to think about! Take time out, spread love, and be merry. I hope the New Year is fantastic!