December 09, 2015

How You Can Celebrate a ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’

If there’s one thing about the holiday season I love, it’s the connection with my loved ones. If there’s one thing I dread, it’s the warping of the season into an unhealthy obsession with buying stuff and going into debt. How many times have you given a gift which you felt obligated to give and suspected the receiver never really needed? How many times have you been on the other end of that equation? Why is it that we get so fixated on stuff?
One way to counter the consumerism hysteria is to reduce how much we buy and integrate more homemade gifts into our plans. Yet, some have chosen to forego buying stuff altogether and instead celebrate a “Buy Nothing Christmas.” You may have seen the hashtag flying around, as the new tradition is becoming a popular alternative to the usual holiday grind. Originally created by Canadian Mennonites, the movement has become a truly enticing way to skip the nonsense and get back to connecting with loved ones.
How can you celebrate a Buy Nothing Christmas? Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

For Those Who Want to Give Gifts
  1. For your gardening buddies, giving seeds from your own garden, homemade compost or canned fruits and vegetables is a great way to protect your budget and give the gift of connecting with the Earth and how it nourishes us. You can also create “seed balls” for guerrilla gardening, so folks can “bomb” abandoned lots with beautiful wildflowers!
  2. Handmade books or ebooks! Do you have cherished family recipes to share or tutorials highlighting your skills? Make a booklet for your loved ones with colorful photos. If you do it electronically, there’s zero waste!
  3. Organize a gift swap! Whether it’s with co-workers, family, your place of worship or your neighborhood gym, hosting an event for people to trade their gently worn clothing or last year’s untouched gifts is a free way to shop and a chance to socialize. Whatever isn’t swapped can be donated to those in need, or the whole event can be donation-based and the funds given to a shelter.
  4. Try your hand at making something new. Have a recipe for fancy brownies sitting around that you’ve never tried? Always had an interest in learning how to make candles or bath bombs? Curious about crafting homemade jewelry or knitting scarves? Why not use this time of year as a reason to tap into your creativity and try something new—you just may discover a new skill.

For Those Who Want to Give Experiences
  1. Offer to teach a skill! Whether it’s cooking techniques, jewelry making, guitar lessons, making DIY green cleaning agents, or tips on running for beginners, we all have something that we do well which others could benefit from learning.
  2. Host a baking party or a cookie exchange. Having a bunch of people over to share their favorite holiday morsels is a wonderful memory for the scrapbook, especially if you open up your kitchen and bake the treats together. Swapping recipes and the baked cookies will provide lasting joy throughout the season.
  3. Coupons. This is not a new concept, but one that can be very much appreciated. If there are new parents in your life, offer a night of babysitting so they can go out on the town. If a family member is taking on a big home improvement project, offer up some of your time. Give the gift of preparing a home cooked meal for the busy loved ones in your life.
  4. Give the family a meaningful, memorable experience. For instance, taking a hike through the forest can become either a mindful meditation or a fun contest for kids—identifying bird calls and other wildlife or collecting leaves for pressing into a scrapbook is a great way to create lasting impressions.

Low Waste / No Waste Packaging
  1. Make your own cards or gift tags from recycled paper or cardboard. I have a friend who makes her own cards from cutting out small, colorful strips from old magazines and gluing them onto cardboard—the possibilities are endless.
  2. Get creative with your wrapping materials. Instead of pricey paper that mostly ends up in the trash, wrap with reusable tea towels or compostable newspaper. Or, you could present gifts in useful cloth bags so the receiver can buy groceries without plastic bags later.
  3. Instead of wrapping, you could present gifts inside of other gifts. Bundle up your gift in a homemade scarf or rustic basket from the thrift store. Clean up glass containers for recycling, transform them into a flower vase with paint or other materials, and stuff them with other homemade gifts.
Cheers to enjoying a stress-free, “buy nothing” holiday!

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