–from Zero Waste Sooke
I imagine most of us have had a sense of despair after Christmas about the amount of waste the holidays have produced. Whether we are thinking in terms of dollars or time or actual garbage, it’s our culture’s traditional habit of packaging gifts in reams of gaudy paper that generates the most actual trash.
The good news? Other cultures have solved the dilemma in style as Zero Waste Sooke’s Wendy O’Connor will demonstrate with a free workshop on the ancient Japanese art of Furoshiki, set for the Sooke library on Nov. 15 at 6:30 pm. Who knew that funky cloth garments could be put to such good, practical use time and time again?
The practice raises the question of how we can all do our part to lessen the pressure and stress of our sadly commercialized holidays while also also adding a touch of personal creativity to the act of honouring someone near and dear with a gift.
The first step in a conscious gifting process should be to ensure your gift is something that’s actually needed. If you’re uncertain, the simplest approach is to ask. In many parts of the impoverished world, any gift is appreciated. But here in North America, where we have more stuff than we can keep track of and where everyone has pretty darned exact ideas of what they want, it is easy to duplicate an item already owned or to pick the absolutely wrong style, colour, size and make of something.
If that’s the case, your best-intentioned present will then sit in a drawer or corner of a basement awaiting shipment to a thrift shop or, worse, the landfill. Rather than picking a gift you yourself would want or grabbing any old gift just to get the deed done, the idea is to dedicate some time and effort to finding a gift that will truly keep giving in your giftee’s everyday life.
For folks who don’t want or need anything, consider something that can be consumed or used up, such as homemade jam, sauerkraut or cookies, a food basket, a selection of hand-made or locally made soaps, bath salts, shaving cream or body lotions, a meaningful photograph in a nice frame (from the thrift store) or books, CDs and DVDs (used or new).
Gift certificates for services (babysitting, lawn mowing, dinner-making), tickets to an upcoming local concert or event, or a gift certificate from a Sooke store or eatery are great ways of keeping your money circulating in the community. Barring all those ideas, give something made by a local or fairly paid third-world artisan. So if your gift is tossed into a drawer, at least someone sorely in need of income was handsomely paid for their work.
Speaking of income, if you bravely enter the big-box store rat race to buy a gift, it is all too easy to get caught up in flashy displays and shiny packaging. One way to calculate if something is truly worth buying is to ask yourself whether it will be of use for more or less hours than you’ll have to work in order to pay for it. If it’s less or even a little more, reconsider your choice and snap yourself out of the retail trance.
Of course, we imagine ourselves to be smart consumers not easily seduced by brands and advertising claims. Kids, on the other hand, can easily be sucked in by glitzy commercials, glossy catalogues and peer pressure. It’s all the more important, then, that adults model a sensible, sustainable approach to the holidays. It’s important to educate kids that today’s “must-haves” are often tomorrow’s trash. In fact, the stats on how long the average Christmas gift is appreciated after Dec. 25 are measured in mere weeks, not even months or years.
If you go the route of researching and finding a perfect gift, consider some waste-free ways to wrap it: i) Newspaper (maybe even using seasonal images from advertising fliers); ii) Used packing paper that’s been ironed and decorated (a great activity for kids); iii) Cloth gift bags, homemade and upcycled; iv) Bags and (carefully folded and stored) wrapping paper from years previous; and v) Jars, tins and boxes from the thrift store (or decorate/make your own boxes).
Another solution, as noted at the outset, is to get out to the Sooke library on Nov. 15 to learn how a scarf, shawl, t-shirt or even a table cloth can make a wonderful creative alternative to throwaway paper wrap. Folks who attended Wendy’s first Furoshiki workshop a year ago were knocked out by how quick and easy it was to personalize a gift and make a small but meaningful contribution to a zero-waste holiday.
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