We all want to save the world, but sometimes the problems seem too big - and we feel way too small. The good news is, there are small things anyone can do to change the world's big problems in a big way! If you feel like channeling your inner superhero and making a difference when you stop to show someone you care, here's 14 tips from an environmentalist on saying 'congratulations!' or 'get well!', spread the love, partying like it's your birthday, decking the halls, reforming the New Year with resoluations, living for a better tomorrow, or simply celebrating the holiday season!
1. Mind your wrapping! Opt for reusable baskets or fashionable reusable shopping bags! It makes the present look Extra Special, you can probably spend less on what you put inside, you spend less time wrapping things, and you won't have to repair any broken paper if something tears.
2. Stop buying fast fashion! It goes back to exploitative labor overseas where workers operate in inhumane and underpaid sweat shop conditions, expends unnecessary fuel on shipping, and worst of all? So, so much of it ends up in landfills. If you can avoid shopping at (or gifting giftcards to) places like Forever 21, you making a difference with the environment, the economy, exploited workers, and the world.
3. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Religiously.
4. Especially avoid buying K-Cups and bottled water. Especially from companies that fill them by depleting already fragile aquifers in drought areas like Nestle. Carrying a water bottle also encourages you to drink water, and it makes you look healthier and like you have your stuff together!
5. Thrift your clothes and avoid shopping constantly, especially if it's something you intend to use once, throw out and replace soon, or comes in unnecessary plastic packaging.
Have you noticed those "mother's bath bomb baskets" or "grill kits for dad" that are 90% confetti and foam? The products inside don't tend to be cream of the crop either -- and your folks will probably throw them in a bathroom cabinet and toss the rest in a landfill.
They're worth more than $15 Walmart junk, yet it's both thriftier and infinitely more thoughtful to spend $4 on supplies to bake their fave dessert, or replace something they desperately need. (The older you get, the more you exponentially love a well-made pair of socks, or a cosy blanket for the guest room. Trust yourself. You know your loved ones!)
If you really think they need a bath or grill package, do a DIY kit using brands that display a socially conscious climate commitment. (If you're stumped on items you know don't belong in an environmentalist household, do some homework! There's almost always a great alternative just a search away.)
6. If you have to shop for new things, try not to order online. Buying from what's at the store already, or produced locally especially, saves a ton of gas and energy used in the shipping process. Not to mention, less boxes and plastic wrap!
7. Even if you don't live in a plastic-bag-ban region, you can live like you do! It's getting easier to carry reusable bags all the time, and they comes of tons of cute designs.
8.In your gift-giving, bake cookies that can easily be consumed (or at least biodegrade), or deliberately gift things that won't be tossed out or re-gifted!
9. Farmer's markets aren't just hipster-chic, they're economically awesome, have better food, and do wonders for the environment.
10. Donate cash, not items that may not be needed or require a lot of labor-energy-or-wrapping to ship, if you give you charities this year.
11. In fact, give to a charity as a gift on behalf of someone you know is impossible to buy for, especially if they're the type to refuse presents, instantly regift, or get awkward about opening things.
12. Avoid products with microbeads and/or glitter! They might not seem like significant pollutants, but they harm animals much smaller than you, which eventually does impact you in the dominoes of greater ecosystems. Plus, they end up in the water you drink -- and researchers are finding that they're not great for your skin, either. Definitely best to skip them entirely.
13. Go vegan. If you can't, go vegetarian. If you can't, go weekday-vegetarian. If you can't, stop eating red meat, avoid poultry, and favor sustainably produced fish. Yes, you can have a super yummy holiday without using animal products! Often, skipping the turkey is also cheaper, so that's two wins (and counting)! I highly recommend watching the Leonardo Dicaprio-produced documentary Cowspiracy (2014).
14. When in doubt, think carefully about conscious consumerism! All the marketing around you is saying "buy buy buy", and it's full of disposable seasonal-specific sales that aren't expected to last the year. Defy it! You don't have to line any pockets to be an amazing gifter! Remember, happiness studies consistently put experiences above possessions. Take someone to the movies, set them up to join you in a marathon next year, enjoy a local festival, plan to see a New Years celebration, or plan an eco-friendly picnic-and-hike at a national park for days of better-weather. If you have loved ones who will appreciate your time more than the clutter, embrace their mindful lifestyle and help the world while you do it.
Remember, gift-giving occasions are enriched by relationships, excitement, and the experience of enjoying other people and festivities. It doesn't have to be dominated by consumer culture and marketing with a little analysis, self-reflection, and critical thinking. Most importantly, we always have the opportunity to make opportunities to be a hero and do the conscious thing all-year round. There's no greater gift than sustainability for generations to come.