It is so hard not to get wrapped up in the twinkle of giving holiday gifts to our family, friends, coworkers, bosses, neighbors, book club members…and the list goes on. But when you step back, are those gifts needed, making a difference, or enhancing their lives? Are they appreciated or would that person prefer to have a handmade gift or even to spend quality time with you instead?
What I did remember was the time I spent with them. That is what pushed me to stop buying gifts like I was Santa Claus.
When I stopped buying so many gifts and starting hand making them, spending quality time with people, or not buying at all, I found that I made a large impact on the lives of the factory workers, animals, and the environmental resources need to make, package, and ship those products. Holiday gift giving does not just affect our budget and our wallet.
The bad news…
Products in the big box stores and department stores are not always made under the most humane conditions. Many products are made overseas and by people working very long hours, minimal to no breaks, and for unlivable wages. Most individuals making the products, we consume so readily, are not even able to buy the products for themselves. Not forgetting to mention that there are many child laborers around the world who also are forced into making these products. They also work under the same harsh conditions and are not allowed an education or a path to better themselves.
Then there are the animals and the parts of animals that are used to make items such as leather coats, wool sweaters, fur lining, and down-feather coats. Animals are used in almost every single industry, not just the meat and dairy industries. Animals are farmed in horrific conditions and mindlessly slaughtered without any relief from the pain they have to endure.
The environment is also significantly affected by the massive amounts of gifts that we purchase every holiday season. Our planet is being mined at alarming rates to produce the latest tech gadgets that are only popular for a short while until the next wave hits the market. There is also the need to deplete the environment to assemble the products, package the products, and then ship them to a local store. Even then, when the products go out of style, they are disposed of only to clog the landfills and leave behind harmful chemicals that affect both the planet and the people who have to work with the waste.
I know, I know this is a depressing post! But there is a silver lining and a bright spot. We don’t have to stop the gift giving altogether! There are many ways to give gifts during the holidays that leave a minimal impact on factory workers, animals, and the environment.
- Give an experience – Take the person for a hike, picnic on the beach, to a local park or nature center, or just be a tourist for the day in your town or a neighboring town. You never know what you will find!
- Make a gift – Buy the materials at a second-hand store, so you are not using new/additional resources. Pinterest and crafting books from the library are great resources for gift making ideas.
- Give the gift of food - Again Pinterest is a terrific resource for food gifts. By making them vegan, you are not contributing to the inhumane conditions of animals that are farmed for food. Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman has many fun and affordable ideas on food gifting. You can even search her website for ideas.
- Prepare an animal-friendly meal or series of animal-friendly meals for your family or friends. Make it a fun theme night by preparing a meal from a different region or country and then play a board game after your meal!
- Buy a gift from a second-hand store or thrift store - You can always find interesting books, neat gadgets, or cozy sweaters.
- Visit an animal sanctuary and learn about the work they are doing and the animals that reside at the sanctuary. If you have time, get your hands dirty and then spend time getting to know the animals.
- Have a volunteer date. Find a local organization that you are passionate about and see what kind of activities they need help completing. Most places will not turn down your offer and will greatly appreciate your time.
- Make a pact not to buy anything at all. This can be difficult, but I promise it is rewarding if you spend extra time with your loved ones this holiday season.