Gifts are not one of my love languages.
I’ve taken the quiz, and I know this for a fact. It’s dead last.
I’m not sure to what extent this is nurture, or if it’s written into my astrological or actual DNA, but I do know that most of my friends who are non-Christians or didn’t celebrate Christmas, are similarly ambivalent about holiday shopping.
Growing up Jewish, we lit the candles every night of Hanukah, but there was not one gift per night. My parents valued experiences over stuff, and were luckily very into the homemade “coupons” for back massages, breakfasts in bed, and hugs that I would give them every holiday.
Perhaps out of rebellion for never getting to enjoy the festiveness of the holiday season with horrifying sweaters or twinkle lights on our backyard’s evergreens, I’ve carried a bit of bitterness around holiday gifting into adulthood. While I can continue to psychoanalyze the origins, I know that a big source of my current bias has to do with waste.
As a contrast to my family, Charlie’s mother takes gifts very seriously. It is definitely her primary love language, and even if I had never been the recipient of her Easter bunny baskets or birthday knitted slippers, I would know that she has a lot of love to give.
Every year, Charlie comes home from Christmas with about double the nights of Hanukah in gifts. And for every fabulous and needed item, there’s one stocking stuffer whose only purpose was to give the 30-year-old child inside one more thing to unwrap. These tchotchkes (as my people would call them), spend about a month hanging out in a gift bag on the hall bench, before getting added to a donation bag, before likely ending up in landfill.
Even as only a witness, it makes me feel wasteful and sad.
A big lesson from my no waste experiment was that you can buy organic and recycle until the cows come home, but until you start buying less stuff, it can all feel a little futile.
One little stocking stuffer equals a lot of landfill. There’s the tremendous amount of bubble mailers and packaging that goes into last minute Amazon purchases, the plastic-coated gift bags, wrap and ribbon (none of which is recyclable), and then, often, the gift itself.
I’m not trying to be a Scrooge here, though I’m sure I’ve driven many of you into the other room to furiously thread cranberries onto dental floss. What I am trying to say in a nutshell is that the holiday season is one of the highest periods of waste around, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can indulge your love of gifts, use it as your language of love, and show Mother Nature some love in the process. Here are four small ways:
- Shop locally. This requires you to get organized now and start getting your errands out of the way. Another option is to order online from stores that are committed to waste-free shipping. Package Freenot only sells products that are sustainably made, everything ships zero waste. So you can rest assured that you won’t be dealing with packing peanuts or unnecessary foam.
- Use recyclable wrapping options. It may not have the pizzazz of a pack of elves, but newspaper, kraft paper, or butcher paper (so long as it’s biodegradable) and biodegradable twine does have an attractive DIY look. You can even string some pinecones, dried flowers or cranberries onto the name tag for added festiveness, then compost the entirety of your wrapping waste.
- Choose experiences over things. You can still make cool cards or hand-drawn coupons that give the recipient something else to unwrap. Maybe it won’t look as robust under the tree, but it’s never too late to start teaching people that good things come in small packages, even on Christmas.
- If a thing, make it something reusable, useful and sturdy. OR something that will help you live a greener life in the first place. For this category, I have a whole handful of suggestions.
Read on for a list of my favorite products from No Waste Month and others that I aspire to acquire to make my life less wasteful in the New Year.
Even if you have to order these things online, or shroud them in your favorite tartan gift wrap, at least you know your presents this year will be making the world a little greener going forward.
From one healthy (low waste) hedonist, to another,
Terracycle Zero Waste Box. These efficient cardboard boxes are an easy way to live a lower waste lifestyle without too much added effort. You simply toss all those hard to recycle items and let Terracycle do all the work for you. The only catch is that they are a little on the pricey side. But what a better gift to give someone who aspires to do better for the environment but isn’t sure where to start. Use code NOVEMBER20 for a discount through the end of the month (or TGIM if you’re catching this on cyber Monday)!
Countertop Compost Bin + Bags. For the slightly more sophisticated waste warrior, or someone with a great backyard, these countertop bins couldn’t be easier to integrate into your routine. It’s been something that has cut our waste in half now that the city offers Food Waste Bins on the street in our neighborhood. This model with a charcoal filter is remarkable good at blocking odor.
Reusable Swiffer Pads. As the semi-proud owner of an extremely sheddy dog, Swiffer has enabled me to be slightly less resentful about the floors of my apartment being covered in hair. But during No Waste month I had to re-evaluate the waste we were creating with them. One solution is to use one per month and vacuum the excess along the way. But a fully no waste solution is to get reusable pads that can be tossed in the wash once a month instead of tossed. Any micro fiber cloth would work, but these pads are especially convenient.
Striped Tea Towels/Rags. We’ve almost completely swapped paper towels for these handsome rags. Though not necessarily made sustainably, they are affordable to buy in bulk and attractive enough to double as rustic dinner napkins, which has meant a whole lot less staining of the good stuff. When they get sullied beyond use, we cycle into full rag mode under the kitchen sink.
Bamboo Toothbrush + Refillable, Biodegradable Floss. Tossing toothbrushes and flossing according to your dentist’s recommended schedule can produce a lot of landfill. Luckily, there are a lot of good eco options these days, including this numbered bamboo toothbrush system. Perhaps even a great option to have on hand for holiday guests who don’t arrive prepared! For flossing, there is dental lace, made from silk, and a few other good options here.
Natural Skincare + Makeup + Reusable Cosmetic Poufs. For those looking to make some swaps with personal care products, there’s no better gift than a super nourishing, natural face oil, refillable blush compact, and a washable cotton pouf to apply or remove it with. Click the links about for some of my favorite brands.
Glad Rags Organic Hankies. While I’m not big into gifts, I am certainly big into cards (love language = words). And a good one is guaranteed to make me weep. Reusable hankies to the rescue!
Beeswax Food Wrap Reuseable Bowl Covers. This is by far the best alternative to plastic wrap. The beeswax softens when pressed lightly and warmed by your hands, creating a tight seal on veggies or bowls. Plus, the bee’s Wrap lasts for up to a year with proper care and regular usage!
A Beautiful Bar of Soap. One of the simplest changes you can make to your lifestyle is switching from body wash or hand soap in a plastic bottle, to an old fashioned bar. This article breaks it down for you and has some great suggestions on brands. I love Osmia face soap and Schmidt’s for the shower.
Charcoal Sticks, Go Pure Pod, or Soma. As you know, I’ve been a big fan of natural charcoal sticks for filtering my water ever since The Wellness Project. The Go Pure pod is a great addition to the portable filter scene and is a lot less noisy. Soma Water Filters are not biodegradable though they are made from plant-based materials and certainly better than a plastic water bottle!
Non-Toxic Nonstick Skillets. Not only are cheap teflon skillets bad for your health, their easily flake-able surface means a relatively short shelf life. I’ve done a round-up before on better options, but that was before learning about these multi-purpose nonstick pans that can rock a 500 degree oven!
Stainless Steel Food Containers. While glass tupperware is also a great sustainable option (especially simple mason jars), it doesn’t ensure as much wear, tear and longevity as stainless steel. All it takes is one chip in the dishwasher to start to literally chip away at the shelf life. These metal containers are air tight and fabulous.
Reusable Water Bottles. S’well bottles hold temperature, are BPA-free, non-toxic, and non-leeching and they have committed $800,000 to clean water efforts since 2015. BKR glass bottles are tres chic and donate a portion of their proceeds to clean water and cancer prevention movements worldwide.
Tushy Bidet Attachment. Okay, maybe not a gift for everyone. But these affordable easily adaptable attachments have been cutting down on TP big time, and making people proud members of the clean butt club.
French Press Coffee Maker. No pods, no filters, no problem. French presses are where it’s at for for no waste enjoyment of coffee or loose leaf tea.
Rent The Runway Unlimited. Towards the end of book tour I became addicted to this monthly service that lets you swap out pieces of your wardrobe at your leisure. It cut down on mindless spending on clothes, and a lot of donation bags in the process. The best part is that RTR uses eco-friendly garment bags that produce no extra waste during shipping. You can gift someone a one month trial and see how they like it!
Boob Pots. Nothing is greener than a house plant, which have been known to improve air quality in confined spaces, and generally improve the energy of your room. My friend Katie Dalebout recently gifted me this boob pop and I’ve never been more excited by a container for a new plant friend.
The Wellness Project + 4 Weeks to Wellness Course. Okay, okay. I may be biased. But why not give your loved ones the gift of wellness this holiday season? When you try to live healthier, you end up living greener, and vice versa. For a Cyber Monday additional discount on my new companion course, use the code MONDAY20 before November 28th!
p.s. Make sure you don’t get stuck with unwanted catalogs when you shop! Use catalogchoice.org to unsubscribe for any unwanted mailings once the holidays are over.