The Christmas season has in many ways become a consumer holiday, in which countless gifts are purchased and wrapped, houses decorated, tons of food eaten, and all the excess going to waste. For me, pursuing a minimal waste lifestyle (which I’m not particularly good at) is a matter of stewardship. I see my concern for the environment, animals, and humans are the natural response to the gospel of Jesus Christ which is a gospel of restoration. Part of that restoration happens now, as believers engage with one another and the rest of the world with an uncanny and reckless grace and compassion. Part of that restoration comes when believers respond to the truth of God’s purpose for our bodies by honoring them through healthy eating, proper exercise, mental health, and positive body image. Part of that restoration comes when believers take responsibility for their small role in minimizing the damage to our environment through excess waste, irresponsible production of products, and by prioritizing supporting sustainable practices. The other part of that restoration will come when Jesus returns, restoring all things to their intended design, and reigning as King forever.
Because we do not know when part two of the restoration will come, I believe our responsibility is to do what we can about part one. I believe the worshipful response to the gospel of Jesus is a life that reflects His Lordship in all things: body, mind, relationships, creation, etc. So when it comes to holiday seasons that draw our attention to excess, to greed, to impulses, to indulgence, and to more, we don’t need to say to no to everything. We need to reframe our perspective and look to chose things that reflect the Lordship of Christ.
So as a challenge this holiday season, for those of you who haven’t already bought all your gifts, here are some ideas for gifts that you can feel good about this season.
I know it might not seem super kind. To some it might come across as cheap or inconsiderate. Be cautious about how someone might feel getting a secondhand gift, but for those in your life who wouldn’t mind at all this can be a great option. Shopping hand is significantly less expensive which might free you up to get them a few more things they will love for the cost of one new thing. Plus, shopping hand is a way to keep things out of landfills and back in circulation as long as it’s functional. Don’t forget about sites like Ebay or secondhand book stores. These are great options for things that are still high quality, but not necessarily brand new. As a reminder, there are TONS of excellent household goods in secondhand stores. This is a great options for your college friends looking to acquire the household necessities or the newly married couple in your life.
Look for higher quality staples that will last a lifetime (or at least a long time)
One thing that I’ve been gradually doing over the last year or two that I’ve pursued minimizing my waste and my environmental impact, is investing in products that are high quality and built to last. Our industrial world, informed by the consumers love for things, has increased the amount of things made and often decreased their quality. Before the industrial revolution, craftsmen made their products and often made them to last. Now, the market demands quantity over quality because people are often looking for a cheap set of dining room chairs, rather than one that might cost more, but that they’d likely not have to replace for many years. Part of the shift toward minimizing our waste, is a shift in priority and I think this can be reflected in a focus on quality over quantity. For those of you with budgets that allow, consider purchasing gifts from companies known for their quality. Note: this does not always mean the most expensive option.
Make your gifts
This takes more effort than stopping at target on your way to a Christmas party, but it can be more meaningful and is an easy way to minimize your waste and not play into the consumer cycle. For the first four years of our relationship, my husband and I exclusively made each other Christmas gifts. We made photobooks with notes for each one. He’s written me devotionals. I’ve made him beard oil (that he still uses). I’ve painted for him. He had a friend make me a beautiful candle centerpiece for our table. This was a fun and challenge tradition (until we started running out of ideas). Try this with your loved one. Maybe agree to making each other gifts for the year. Other ideas for gifts you can make:
DIY body scrub
DIY beard oil
DIY Lip balm
Recipes in a jar (just put all the dry ingredients for cookies, brownies, soup, etc. in a jar and tape the instructions to the outside)
Frame a special photo
Write your story together down for them in a special way
Knit or sew something
DIY bath rack (for setting things on while in the tub)
Make your own candles
Making your gifts can take some creativity and time, but it’s often more heartfelt and a great way to minimize your waste and often helps keep the gift budget low if you’re thoughtful about it.
Give the gift of experiences
This year my husband and I asked that our families focus on getting our daughter experiences over toys (we said some toys are okay too). We also decided that we would get her one small thing to open, and then purchase an annual pass to our children’s museum. Our daughter loves the toys she has and doesn’t realize that she has way few toys than the average American child. I’ve intentionally limited the toys in our home so that I don’t spend my whole motherhood cleaning up after her and so that she doesn’t grow up constantly overwhelmed by things. We aren’t financially going to be able to spend $20 plus dollars every time we want to go to the children’s museum and if I do, then I feel like I need to spend the whole day there to get the most of it. Purchasing the annual pass will allow us to go as often as we want, for as long we want, and make memories with her that will help her development, attachment, and give her experiences to grow.
Other ways you can give experiences are:
Buying concert tickets for you and a friend
Saving up for a trip as a family
Annual passes to zoos, museum, indoor play areas, fitness centers (yoga, class pass, local gym), season tickets to sporting events.
Purchases gifts from local business supports small business owners which is usually really good for the local economy, but also typically limits the environmental impact of gifts that are shipped from far away. You might have found an affordable, high quality gift, but if it’s being shipped from Europe, there’s a significant environmental impact associated with that gift still. Consider looking for a local alternative. Instead of buying that cute mug on Etsy that will be shipped from Hong Kong, go to your local coop or boutique gift store and see if they have one you like. Added benefit: no need to pay an extra $10 for shipping and handling.
If you buy new, buy from companies that care and work toward sustainability
For sustainable fashion companies this list has been helpful to me: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing
The point of this post, isn’t to shame anyone who likes to buy lots of gifts for their loved ones in the holiday season. The point is to challenge the way we typically think we have to do that. Consider trying with even one person this year to buy a gift that you can feel good about in every way. Smalls steps that we make into habits and build upon make big changes in the long run. Plus, I find that the more I think about how to find thoughtful gifts that I feel reflect my stewardship values, the more my excitement to give gifts grows too. Rather than it being burdensome or passive shopping, I get to think about how I can bless the people I love with a gift this season. I hope this posts helps those of you who haven’t finished your shopping yet, and maybe challenges others for the years to come.