The best way to protect our environment and create less waste is to buy less stuff!
In Canada, we create more garbage per person than any other country in the world. Each of us produces approximately 2 – 3 kg (4 – 7 lb) of waste each day — that’s 1 tonne every year! Recycling our waste is a good start, but the absolute best way to reduce waste is to buy less. Our personal garbage production is directly related to our buying habits. Our society suffers from overconsumption, which means we buy more than we really need. Many of our environmental problems can be linked to overconsumption including the destruction of old-growth forests, the pollution of our lakes, streams and oceans, and the increasing sizes of our landfills, just to name a few. Overconsumption is also related to our use of natural resources — the raw materials used to create the things we buy. Resources such as oil, minerals and wood are expensive to extract and process. In addition, many of them are finite — once they are gone, they’re gone for good. The best way to protect our environment and create less waste is to consume less. So, continuing on the theme of buying less, I would like to encourage you to start by having a stuff-free Christmas this year.
I’m not sure how everyone else feels about Christmas gifts, but I could definitely do without more stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love spending time with my family, eating tons of amazing food, watching Christmas movies (Home Alone is one of my all-time favs), playing board games, going tobogganing and warming up with hot chocolate. These are some of my favorite things about Christmas. However, the one thing I can’t seem to wrap my head around anymore is the amount of stuff that we are expected to give and receive during the holidays. Again, I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I already have enough stuff. In fact, I probably have too much stuff and could purge at least half of what I own and still have more than I need.
My family is quite large and Christmas is always a very expensive time of year for us. So, last year we (very easily) convinced much of our families to participate in a gift free Christmas. It was awesome! We saved so much money and didn’t go home with bags of things we didn’t need (and may end up at Value Village the next day). My in-laws donated the money they would have spent on us to the Food Bank and said it was such a great idea we should do it every year. Everyone said it made the holidays much less stressful, and I couldn’t agree more. No more rushing around in busy shopping malls on icy cold days. No more saving funds all year just to be able to afford Christmas gifts. No more trying to find space in our house for all the stuff we received at Christmas. It really was awesome! So, I think we will make this an annual tradition.
A minimalist Christmas doesn’t mean that you have to forgo gifts entirely. If you would still like to give gifts we have provided some great minimalist and waste-free ideas below. In my opinion, the best gifts are experiences, time, charitable donations or food!
Gift Ideas for a Minimalist Christmas
Gifting an Experience Together
Instead of buying physical gifts consider giving the gift of a new experience. This will allow the recipient to spend some quality time with you which will lead to a stronger relationship and a more meaningful life. You could spend the afternoon golfing together, riding in a hot air balloon or participating in a paintball tournament. Events that take place in the summer months might require you to gift a ‘coupon’ for the event. You could even do something simple like a monthly date in which you meet up to walk your dogs together at Wascana Lake and you bring coffee for two. Or go to one of the afternoon tea services offered by the Regina Floral Conservatory. The Conservatory is filled with tropical plants and makes it feel like summer when you’re inside.
Donations to Charity
Consider making a donation in your friend’s name and get that warm fuzzy feeling for doing something good for someone in need. Make a donation to the Regina Humane Society or adopt an endangered species from the World Wildlife Fund. You can even buy farm animals, sports equipment, tools, education, seeds and more from Oxfam Unwrapped and they’ll donate them to people living in poverty all over the world. So go ahead and buy someone a goat for Christmas this year… I know I’d want one!
Courses, Classes and Programs
Register yourself and a friend in one of the City of Regina’s courses, classes or programs. There is everything from aquatics, fine arts, fitness, health & wellness, and sports. Sign up and take a yoga class together, or a photography course so your friend can learn how to use that fancy camera they got for Christmas last year. Check out the City of Regina Leisure Guide and search for programs that interest you and your friend. You can even sign up online!
Home-Cooked Frozen Meals
I like the idea of frozen meals because they are fast and easy, but I never buy them because they are expensive, make a lot of plastic waste, and have a lot of preservatives. However, home-cooked frozen meals are the best gifts ever. Try this – when you cook yourself dinner double the recipe, portion half of it into an aluminum baking dish, and freeze it. Stock up until you have five or more, package them into a gift bag and voilà – perfect gifts for students, new mothers or busy families. Baked goods is also a great gift. I know my husband would love to receive my mom’s home-baked cinnamon buns for Christmas.
It’s the gift that keeps giving for a year (or at least six months). Most subscription services are for products or more stuff, but you there are some pretty great ones out there for food, soaps and digital magazines. Consider gifting a subscription for the digital version of National Geographic Magazine or to a magazine of your choice. Etsy.com has a great list of monthly subscription gifts and everything is either handmade or vintage.
Another great idea — sign someone up for a few months of service from Body Fuel Organics. Body Fuel is a local Saskatchewan business that delivers fresh, local, organic produce right to your doorstep.
Memberships come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your husband would like to start going to the gym or maybe your son just started driving and could use a CAA membership. Other local memberships include the YMCA or YWCA, Regina Little Theatre, Regina Ski Club, Regina Community Radio (CJTR), Regina Jazz Society, Regina Community Orchestra, Regina Photo Club, and many more.
The best gift cards are ones for experiences, not stuff. Try getting a gift card to their favorite restaurant, or a punch card for a local yoga studio like Bodhi Tree Yoga. Gift cards for gas or groceries are also great ideas for students who are low on cash. And gift certificates for facials, massages, hair cuts, nails, and spa packages are always appreciated.
Want to try something a little different? Consider gifting a session in the Smith & Best Float Studio. Also called an isolation chamber or sensory deprivation tank, a float tank is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which individuals float in salt water at skin temperature. Float tanks are used for meditation, relaxation and sports therapy. I’ve tried it several times and it is incredibly relaxing!
Tickets to an Event
Tickets can be for movies, concerts, theatre performances or other local events. Try finding something you’re both interested in and you can enjoy the event together. Check out Tourism Regina or Eventful or upcoming events, and Regina’s Globe Theatre for upcoming performances.
Coupons for your time
Coupons for your time might sound like something you made for your parents as a kid, but they can be so much more. Coupons could be for shoveling the driveway, cleaning your house, babysitting, fixing something broken, walking the dog on a cold day, or making dinner.
I guess plants are technically considered ‘stuff’, but they are a good kind of stuff. Plants provide a number of benefits in the home. Plants beautify indoor spaces, eliminate harmful gases from the air, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and increase humidity. Recent studies also show that plants can reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration, boost creativity and improve overall mood. So, there are a number of great reasons to gift a plant.
Homemade Gifts from the Heart
Gifts that are handcrafted and made with love are by far the best gifts. These gifts often stand the test of time and may even be priceless keepsakes. Several years ago my brother decided he was going to write everyone in our family a letter for Christmas. He bought some nice colored paper and wrote to each of us explaining how he felt about us. It was such a beautiful gift and I still have the letter to this day.
Another great gift idea is a homemade photo album. You can make a traditional one by printing photos and placing them into an album by hand, or you can make one digitally online and have it printed at the store. There are several places that this can be done including Wal-Mart or Staples.
I still think one of the best ideas is a mixed tape. Now, I know ‘tapes’ don’t really exist anymore, but you can still make a playlist for someone on a burnt CD or for their iPod. You can make a playlist of love songs, music from when you were in high school, rockin’ gym music, or meditation music.
Finally, compost also makes an awesome homemade gift, especially for gardeners or anyone who keeps houseplants. We have a vermicompost bin in our basement and every month it provides me with a few bags of nutrient-rich compost. Package a few scoops into a mason jar with a crafty bow and you have a great homemade gift that gives back to the earth and reduces waste!
The Gift of Removal
I know this one sounds a little strange, but sometimes the best gift is the gift of taking stuff away. This is a great idea for people who are moving, have a lot of clutter, or needs yard debris taken away in the spring. Why not give the gift of more room and have the clutter taken away? PV Waste Solutions (PV Disposal) is a local business that provides driveway friendly disposal bins in a range of sizes. From a large 20-yard bin for a full house renovation to a small 9-yard bin for landscaping jobs, they can help get rid of your excess stuff.
When you rent a disposal bin from PV, they also offer a service to help send your used furniture to a better place — YQR Freecycle. If you have gently used furniture that doesn’t need to go to the landfill, they will help you get it to someone who needs it. All you have to do is rent a bin, email some photos of the furniture, and they will post it on their social media pages. If someone is interested they will connect you.
Well, that’s our list of minimalist and waste-free gift ideas for the holidays. If you have any other great ideas, please let us know and we will add them to our list. Thanks for stopping by!
Green Guerrilla Sustainability