Sondra Abruzzo ’19
Oh, the holiday season! There is nothing I love more than good food, warm drinks, and coming up with the perfect gifts for my friends and family. Although seeing your twenty-year-old daughter joyfully unwrap the Vitamix she’s been asking for is priceless, the environmental costs of getting that blender to her is actually quite high (yes, this is me, I wanted a blender for Christmas).
Extracting, transporting, and processing raw materials to make items like my blender requires substantial energy inputs, often times through the burning of fossil fuels. Manufacturers individually wrap each piece of the Vitamix in disposable plastic film, and place it in a cardboard box with styrofoam packing peanuts. A gas-guzzling truck transports my package to our local Costco, where my mom buys the blender, wraps it in more disposable wrapping paper, and gives it to me. While I love my Vitamix dearly, this wasteful process indicates a larger problem. Our global economy relies on a continuous cycle of consumption and disposal, as consumers continually pour money into the market by purchasing new things to replace their short lived items. This cycle is incredibly unsustainable, and although a major paradigm shift away from capitalism and our consumer culture is necessary for real change, here are some hot tips on how to gift sustainably this year.
Online rush shipping is a hard no no! I get it, we all love the convenience of Amazon, and for those who are Prime members, there is nothing quite like that free two-day shipping. However, when you rush your orders, the packing companies will often send the products in multiple, often too big, boxes that take up unnecessary space in the already underfilled transportation trucks and planes. This speedy process ends up using more packaging and fossil fuels than necessary. Therefore, I encourage you to plan ahead, and order those gifts a week or two in advance, instead of three days before.
Don’t wrap your gifts. Oh my goodness, I cannot begin to describe how much of a waste wrapping paper and gift bags are. You are literally buying something just to throw it away! Instead of wrapping my gifts, I hide them around the house and send my family on a scavenger hunt to find them, rhyming clues included. Not only is it fun for my family (I hope), it gives me a good ten minutes to chill out and scroll through everybody’s perfect holiday photos on Instagram. If this hiding idea is a little too kooky for you, wrap your gifts in something that was already going to be thrown away, like newspaper or a paper grocery bag. I can assure you that Pinterest will have 100 ways to make that look cute and aesthetic.
Try to gift your family with experiences rather than material things. Tickets to a movie, concert, museum, sports game, etc are great ways to give a meaningful gift to someone without generating so much waste. You might also consider gifting a spa day, a skill- based class, or a nice dinner out. These types of gifts also let you spend even more quality time together, and isn’t that really what the holidays are about? Nevertheless, if you do decide to buy your special someone a tangible item, try to buy things with as little packaging as possible. Purchasing cute gifts at flea markets and second hand stores eliminates all the environmental costs of creating a new product, avoids most of the pre packaging involved, and saves you money. Plus, if you take the tags off, your lucky friend won’t be able to tell if its thrifted or from Neiman Marcus.