Be a better gift giver + receiver

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A tricky thing to reconcile about what is an appropriate climate change action is the effect it has on the ones you love. We are not all the same and we do not have the same commitment towards the environment, nor towards how to give gifts as a way to communicate love.

You have a opportunity through gift giving to make an impact both for the people you love, and by yourself. Spend some time to think of gifts that can change their habits towards the environment and that will make their lives better. Also, think about how to react to gifts that you do not need.

The impacts are on more than one person, so putting this into practice creates a ripple effect from your friends and family outward.


• When giving gifts, consider a Buy It for Life item or an experience. For example, a park or museum membership, tickets to an event, a yearly donation, or a useful, or high-quality energy-saving tool. This is your chance to influence someone in a genuinely positive way.

• Relatively low impact consumables like special fun food and drink make great gifts as well. We all need to eat and imbibe sometime!

• If you are receiving a gift from someone who is not into the climate and environmental movements, and who might be offended if you say that you do not need anything, then use this opportunity to fill a gap in your path. Perhaps respond by saying you have a preference for a gift from a particular green company. For instance, certain sectors like textiles are typically bad for the environment -- but we do need to wear something, so asking for something specific from a company that offsets their carbon impact will satisfy everyone.

• If it is too late and you have already received the gift, a) use the gift for someone else and b) set up the gift potential for next year. For instance, announce to your family and friends that you prefer donations to your favorite non-profit this year and/or you are going minimalist for the sake of our shared future.

• If that does not work with a particularly notorious gift giver, in advance of the occasion for advice on a particular subject they are interested in that is environmentally friendly, such as edible gardening, and hint that you you want gifts in that area.

• For special occasions, such as anniversaries, join the family together to buy a family member a solar oven, or even a solar hot water heater, or a membership in community-supported agriculture (CSA) group.

• Alternatively, some families de-escalate gift giving altogether, and mutually agree to keep presents under a certain limit. Not only does this limit stuff we do not need it reduces time needed to intensely shop for others. Perhaps that energy can be channeled into a nice family meal instead!

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