A Greener Christmas through Experiential Giving

It’s the holiday season, which never fails to spike my environmentalist guilt complex, and now that I have a young daughter I’m particularly aware of all the good and bad that the season brings. There is the ever-present tension between decreasing needless consumption and a stagnating economy, which is a big, broad issue that I’m not particularly interested in tackling…yet.

There is no getting around the fact that the gift-giving traditions of the holiday season result in an increase in waste. And I’m not talking about the useless gifts that never get used and end up in the landfill (Is this underwater cell phone system really for me? really!? thanks…honey). I’m talking about the peripheral stuff. This story on Marketplace this morning highlighted the fact that we see a 25% increase in waste over the holidays, which equates to a million tons per week. More specifically, it means:

  • 125,000 tons of plastic packaging
  • 744 million holiday cards
  • 8,000 tons of wrapping paper*

So what’s a person to do in this time of thoughtful gift-giving? The answer is not to stop giving, but rather, give experiences rather than things. It’s not only better on the environment, it’s better for you. As GOOD reported in their Winter 2011 issue, experiential purchasers report being more satisfied with their lives, less anxious, less depressed, and in better mental and physical health.

When it comes down to it, isn’t the annual membership to your local forest and the dozens of hours you spend there putting you in a better place than the new television you’ve been eyeing? Experiences form who we are. They become engrained into our being and, at least until dementia sets in, they’re with us forever. Give your family, friends and co-workers an experiential gift this season; the planet and those lucky recipients will thank you.

Happy holidays, everyone.


*Omahans: Please note that the Marketplace article indicated that wrapping paper is not recyclable. However, Omaha’s city-wide program does accept wrapping paper.

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