Mother’s Day, graduations, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Weddings… May and June. I think this is the REAL holiday season! With all these different events, and adding summer vacations, we can be spread pretty thin financially. I want to talk today about greening up the gifts for all the holidays and events of your life. Truly everything we do has a ripple effect, and some more profoundly than others.
I’ve read numerous articles recently about different states outlawing any number of plastics, including shopping bags, single use forks/knives/spoons, straws, 6-pack style canned beverage holders, and the like. HOORAY! Public pressure is gaining a foothold. There is SO much more to do. That’s why I believe that if we all take personal steps, they will add up quite fast! I also believe that gift-giving is one of the most overlooked areas of impact.
Did you know that *most* wrapping paper is recyclable? Normal wrapping paper is often made from recycled goods, ones without the super glossy coating added. Choose one of those. Think about it, it’s going to look pretty for about 1 minute…then the gift inside will be the center of attention, the paper and ribbons cast aside and then gathered into a big trash bag.
A good rule of thumb is if you can ball it up, and it stays balled up, it IS recyclable. If it’s the super shiny stuff, try to at least remove it carefully and reuse it for another gift, or elsewhere. In fact, you should skip the pretty glossy gift bags too…though they can be reused for more gifts or awesome lunch sacks. But in the end, it’s the laminate that makes them toxic. I personally prefer the “paper bag” looking ones. They can be reused for any occasion. On that note…ribbons, bows, and other embellishments are also NOT recyclable. Perhaps opt for cotton string, or raffia, or…no bow at all!
That said, I know gift giving can be about the giver…and how pretty theirs looks compared to others. Take weddings for example. The “gift table” is a centerpiece of the event! Big lavish boxes with fabric and glitter and flourishes that compete with main-stage costumes in Las Vegas! People (I mean “the women”) stand around and ooh and ahh the fancy wrappings and secretly vow to copy this one or that and then go congratulate the person who spent more on the wrappings than the actual gift! It’s a competition for crying out loud. Isn’t it the item inside that we should be impressed with?
The advent of gift cards was a big step in the right direction, but even those, when spent, are another source of plastic sent off to the landfills. If this is your go-to, at least opt for a refillable one, then you can keep giving without having to “buy” another present. Very green!
I’m practical. I like knowing that the gift I spend my hard-earned money on is going to be USED. And loved, and used UP! I pay attention to people. I look at their lives, and listen to what they say, and watch what they pick up and use. Do they have ratty mis-matched towels in their bathroom? Did they complain that they have no sharp knives? Is their umbrella bent on one side? Does their travel coffee cup look like it was thrown down a rock-strewn hillside…run over by a car? Do they always have plastic water bottles? Is their cell-phone screen cracked and worn? Do they have a broken windshield? Off the wall but USEFUL ideas that people really appreciate. To me…that’s a gift. Noticing what they need…the skill of observation. Giving someone a toaster when they are gluten-free is…not paying attention. Gifts should be personal and thoughtful, and in my opinion, of use. We, as a society, have TOO MUCH STUFF. Helping others cut down can be as important as cutting down yourself!
Some more ideas….whether for mom, dad, the grad, or the newly married couple.
What about your time…? In this day and age when we are all so very busy, seeing people we care about seems to be more and more difficult. I am just as guilty. But when I make a date with a friend, I am SO glad I did! I’ll share a little story…
Between ages 21 and 25, I lost most of my elder family members. Both parents and one grandmother (the other grandmother died early in my 30’s). It was a lot. Granny, my father’s mother, was 89 when she died. I was a busy young professional and quite full of myself. I lived a 5-hour drive away when she had a massive heart attack in February of 1988. The previous Christmas I had been in town but was unable to see her because of a really bad snow storm. Roads were closed and she was upset with me that I hadn’t been to see her, but she understood with the weather. I didn’t see her again before she died. I was wracked with guilt. The good news is, and some may not believe this, but she came to me in a dream to forgive me. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was powerful and precious. Most of us won’t get that sort of redemption.
My point is, of course, the gift of your time is the greenest of all. Experiences don’t have to *cost* much. Take mom to lunch or the movies. Take dad fishing or golfing. Make THEM dinner. Go for a walk. Help them with the yard work. They can probably go *buy* what they need or want. Really…they just want to spend time with you.
For the graduate…cash is always the right color. For weddings? Especially if you don’t really know the bride and groom, same. But if you don’t have a lot of green in your wallet, why not volunteer to help with wedding/reception set up and/or clean up? Do you sew? Can you help with dresses or suits? Do you make superb canapes? Weddings are extraordinarily expensive, so any help with that is usually greatly appreciated.
I just think gifts don’t always need to be a “thing”. And the less “things” we have, the more memories we’ll make…and those are the greenest gifts of all.
People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.