How Zero Waste Improved my Holiday Spirit

Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

Spread the Sustainable Gospel!

A couple of years ago, I was that person who started looking for the perfect gifts for my 20+ person Christmas list months in advance. I’d make detailed Pinterest pages and lists and spend nearly every weekend in a shopping mall or retail store. If I wasn’t in a physical store, I was scouring dozens of online stores. I’d spend hundreds of dollars on scented lotions, gaming systems, cheese and sausage kits, the latest – trendiest small appliances, wrapping paper, bows, gift tags, gift bags, tape, the special tape applicators that are designed for package wrapping, special wrapping paper cutting devices, AND BATTERY OPERATED WARMING SOCKS.

I was tired.

I was stressed.

I hated the holidays.

I loathed the holidays.

The amount of consumption that is expected was making me miserable. It is making everyone miserable. I was lying in bed at night worrying about having enough time to get everyone’s gifts. Gifts that would later, assuredly, never get used. We keep telling ourselves that presents are not the true meaning to Christmas but yet, we don’t change. We keep buying and consuming. We all know deep down that a measure of one’s love isn’t the stuff that we give, but we don’t believe ourselves.

It wasn’t until my first Christmas since I had started my zero waste journey, that I noticed just how material oriented the holidays were. Everywhere I’d turn there was some commercial, ad, flyer, sale, or broadcast reminding me that I needed to get my gifts purchased – that I needed to “buy” something. That I should feel guilty if I decided to opt out of gift giving that year – I was a Grinch. That first year I was still determined to get everyone a gift, I just thought that zero waste meant I needed to “make” everyone’s gifts. Still though, the stress, the supplies, the money involved in making ALL of those gifts was enough to make me even more insane than the year before! It almost got to the point where I gave up. It still just wasn’t adding up for me – it didn’t feel any less materialistic. There was still an obligatory exchange of stuff whether it was handmade or purchased from a store.

The following year was much different. Not because I chose to make it different – it chose me. I was pregnant with our first child and honestly, we couldn’t spend any money. Every penny was saved for the baby and that meant that we didn’t get presents for anyone. “Presence over presents,” was our motto that year and guess what? No one cared, no one was mad, no one felt betrayed or left out because we didn’t get them presents. It was fine.

Now, during the holidays, we have a ZERO obligated gift giving environment. It usually consists of 1-2 gifts for our loved ones that come in the form of experience gifts or consumables. We make our Christmas about food, fun, laughter, and togetherness and less about the gifts. It’s AMAZING.

I wrote this post a few days after last Christmas. This is merely a reflection on the last few holidays that I’ve changed my view on what consumption does to us. I know many of you usually feel defeated because of the holidays with your new goals of reducing but let me just say that it’s ok. Don’t feel defeated. Feel inspired to keep influencing in any way you can. People will change, trust me. It just takes some time. Over the last three Christmas’s, the amount of stuff under our tree has dwindled away – I’m not the only one reflecting any more. My whole family is. Love – family – time – moments. Those are the things that last a lifetime. And those things are the PERFECT gift every holiday season.

For more tips on how to transition your family to less gifts check out my post, How I Avoid Getting More “Stuff” During the Holidays.


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