It’s approaching Christmas, and I hate to be a Scrooge but, honestly, there are many aspects of the season that I outright despise. I dedicated a whole post to the subject of hating Christmas, and then I had an epiphany: it’s not, in fact, that I hate it; what I actually hate is the associated stress and – possibly more so – the waste. It’s sacrilegious, and I resent feeling obliged to buy into it. So, this year I’m focusing on zero waste gifts that don’t make me cringe and feel a part of the problem.
I’m creating a guide for sustainable gift inspiration, but I also want to talk about an even better idea I’ve had. I’m slightly apprehensive, for fear it comes off making me appear ungenerous – which I promise is not the case and totally misses the point…hopefully that shines through!
Environmentally Friendly Gift Ideas
Genuinely sustainable gifts (not those which are subject to some clever greenwashing tactics) are great, but – however small, they often still have an impact.
Be it the packaging or the manufacturing process, there’s almost certainly some negative environmental effect. Don’t get me wrong, I fully endorse sustainability over the alternative of not giving a shit but, in those cases where it works – I think I’ve hit upon something even better:
Zero waste gifts, ie. gifts with literally zero waste.
Truly Zero Waste Gifts
In case you’ve not figured it out yet, I’m talking about secondhand, preloved, or regifted. Whatever you call it, it amounts to the same thing: not buying new, but recycling something. I’m not talking about going to a charity shop either, which you could do – but this cuts out the middle man:
I’m going all in and talking about an item you already have in your home; what’s more sustainable than that?
However, this suggestion has limitations. As adults, there are likely very few items, if any, that we could pull out of a cupboard and wrap up for somebody else, without them being somewhat offended – especially if they’re aware of what you’ve done. And let’s face it, you kind of need to be honest because it wouldn’t be in its original packaging and it probably wouldn’t be in brand new condition.
This doesn’t really work as a concept. Not unless you happen to have a very close friend or sibling who is as environmentally conscious as you are, and has long admired something you own which you’d also be willing to part with. Certainly I don’t think this works adequately enough to be a viable gifting option which can be scaled up to cover all the Christmas gifts you need to purchase. It wouldn’t for us, anyway. More’s the pity.
But there’s another scenario in which it absolutely could work…
Making Preloved, Zero Waste Gifts Work For Your Family
Why not do it for the children?
Do you have a select group of families with whom you exchange Christmas (and/or birthday) gifts for the kids? I do, and as the years have passed, so the number of children has increased. I have five close friends with whom I do this, with a running total of eight children between them – a number which may very well grow over the next couple of years. That potentially equates to ten gifts received each Christmas at the moment, plus eight more gifted.
That’s a hell of a lot of additional stuff coming into our playroom every year. And don’t forget, it’s not even taking family into account, or birthdays. And, while it may earn me the label of Scrooge, I can’t bear it. It means having to do a recce of our playroom three times a year in order to make space for all the things.
Worse, many of my girls toys barely even get looked at because they just have so damn much.
They have no appreciation of their good fortune, and looking around at the excess not only makes me cringe but it also stresses me out, in part due to the mess, but more so because it feels so incredibly wasteful.
Zero Waste Gifts For Children Achieves Multiple Objectives!
Now, to clarify my position, I am very glad to give gifts to my best friends’ children – it’s one of the loveliest things about Christmas. This is not about obligation or affordability which simply do not feature in this idea – I’m very content with the unspoken arrangement we all have in place and have no wish to stop giving gifts.
I just feel there’s a better way that could improve the environmental impact. As well as a few other benefits too!
1. Promotes Generosity and Gratitude
Making it a semi-regular thing for your child to pick out an item they think a friend will enjoy playing with is a great way to encourage generosity.
2. Fosters Appreciation
If your kids are anything like my eldest (and no doubt what my youngest will become in due course), then for them Christmas has become about little more than the presents. Perhaps the edible treats too.
Don’t get me wrong, we try to promote spending time as a family as being the most important facet of Noel, and actually that does register; but ultimately most excitement is generated from the material aspect of the season. And while I could be mortified at that admission, the sad fact is that our society basically conditions young children to be this way, and so if yours are any different then please do tell us all your secret.
Bottom line, having a smaller number of toys in the playroom will encourage children to appreciate those they have.
3. Develops Concentration
Too many toys can prevent our kids from focusing. Choice becomes overwhelming (think of a huge menu at a restaurant and you’ll know I’m not making this up!) and it also stunts imaginative play. Having more open-ended toys, and fewer of them, is excellent for the development of small children.
4. Improves Wellbeing
…And we all know that generosity is one of the best things we can do for our own wellbeing!
5. It’s Free!
This set-up also saves you all a significant amount of money at an already expensive time of the year – bonus.
It’s so much simpler to walk into your playroom and select something than having to think about where to shop, what to shop, how much to spend, how to collect or deliver. A toy swap really brings back the true spirit of Christmas.
7. Decreases Mess
…Whilst also making way for the new (or preloved) toys you anticipate receiving in return. Double bonus!
8. Reduces Waste
The big one, and where this all started: if you’re careful to use eco-friendly wrap, a toy swap completely eliminates waste.
9. Encourages Our Children to Be Eco-Conscious
On top of all of the other benefits of a kids Christmas toy swap, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to teach our children to value their planet, and why and how to care for it.
I believe there’s a movement towards sustainability, and I want to be part of the reason the next generation see it as a responsibility to not only continue the trend but to ramp it up a gear.
I will be leading by example as best I can where my children are concerned, and I hope that implementing positive changes at an early age will help to ensure they see being environmentally conscious as the norm, and something to take pride in.
Now I’m going to be brave and share this post with my circle of friends; will you do the same?