Monday, December 7, 2009

A new kind of gift to give

If you do an online search on green gift giving you’ll find all kinds of unique and nifty items made of recycled products or organic materials. There’s a growing market for all gifts eco-friendly and more and more places to find them locally.

But I often think we should all challenge ourselves a bit more on the green front during the gift giving season. Buying stuff for gifts isn’t awful but there are more ways to give. Of course we all know this but when it comes down to the Holiday crunch it always seems easier to buy something rather than sit back (impossible during the rush) and give some thought to other gift options.

Before you next zip into Winners think about this: based on U.S. stats, the products we buy and the assorted packaging that comes along with them, account for 44% of our greenhouse gas emissions. I was stunned by this. Turning off the lights and driving less are important green living tips but curbing shopping habits is the mother of them all.

So how do you curb your habits during the biggest shopping season of the year? I found my inspiration at the office…

At work there are often online auctions to help raise money for worthwhile causes. They’re filled with corporate branded clothing, cell phones, gift certificates and such. Recently someone had the brilliant idea to ask employees to donate a personal skill or service to these auctions and the resulting variety has been a boon to the online auction hall. It also got me thinking about a whole new kind of gift to give at Christmas.

Here are a few examples:

  1. A friend with a sailboat put up for auction a two-hour evening sail, complete with wine and cheese.
  2. My husband is a terrific guitarist so offered two hours worth of guitar lessons.
  3. Are you computer savvy? A co-worker offered to be someone’s computer geek for a few hours. He can configure a home network, program a PVR, connect all the pieces of a home entertainment system and ensure your wireless modem is properly secured.
  4. Another coworker will do a personal coffee run every day for a week for the lucky bidder (and pay for the coffee too).
  5. I will soon be delivering one freshly baked loaf of bread a week for four weeks to one of my coworkers.

You can take the same approach with your Holiday gift giving.

  1. Are you someone who is hyper-organized? Offer to help someone set their kitchen cupboards or closets to rights and purge the clutter.
  2. Give a week’s worth of frozen homemade meals to friends who are often rushed at mealtime.
  3. Give tidy bundles of kindling to someone with a woodstove or insert.
  4. In a little book, write out the recipes for your best speedy weeknight meals and the kid’s favourite lunches.

The more you think about it the more ideas that come to mind. These are the sorts of gifts that area a joy to receive and especially pleasurable to give.

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