It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is right around the corner, and as the first snowy days fall upon us, as the child in us yearns to make a comeback, as our count-down-to-so-much-good-food begins…there is something else I urge you to think about. As joyful as the holiday season can be, it is also an opportunity for consumption, waste, and excessive spending. Does it need to be this way? Absolutely not! Remember that each one of us speaks with our wallet, and, in case you forgot, there’s no better feeling than putting your dollars where your heart is.
Here is a guide to doing your part and feeling good about your actions this holiday season.
Before I go on to give you tips and tricks on how to gift ethically, let’s narrow down what we mean by ‘ethical’. For our purposes, ethical gifting and hosting means prioritizing low (or, if you’re really brave, ZERO) waste products, local artisans and markets, products manufactured in fair conditions, and gifts that keep giving.
Cut down on waste
Get creative and use alternative gift wrapping methods! Here are a few ideas:
*Pimp up an old shoe box.
*Use newspaper for a cool, rustic look.
*Bring back the stocking! Who doesn’t love digging their arm into a giant sock to retrieve their surprise?!
*Sneakily hide a gift WITHIN a gift. Not only will the person receiving it be doubly surprised, but you’ll also save a couple of trees!
*Re-use gift wrapping from previous years. Choose a bag over paper, as it can be used again and again!
*Buy multi-occasion gift bags and wrapping paper. Choose plain coloured paper you can pimp up with pretty ribbons and bows over Frosty The Snowman paper which is, you know, limiting. You can also get a cute tote bag or cotton canvas bag as part of the gift, and use it as the packaging!
*Recycle recycle recycle. Remember, you and that green bin are besties. Keep a bag next to you as presents are chaotically unwrapped around the tree to dump all the wrapping in and use again next year. Pssst.. It’ll save you money too!
*If you absolutely must buy fresh and new, how about choosing post-consumer waste recycled paper instead?
Indulge in the Magic of DIY
DIY Christmas prezzies is a whole new world that is about to blow your mind if you haven’t yet come across it. Handmade soaps, candles, beeswax wraps, jewelry, baking and preserves, macrame plant holders, ceramic mugs, flavoured spice mixes, you name it. Since a handmade gift requires time, effort and lots of love, it will mean the world to whomever receives it. If you’re not into the DIY scene, stock up on some beeswax wraps from Abeego! Now there’s a super-duper useful and eco-friendly gift idea that !
Tip: A quick Google or YouTube search will leave you feeling overwhelmed with ideas!
Give a Gift that Keeps Giving
Ever heard of B-Corp or 1% for the planet? Many retail and online companies have shifted towards more ethical practices by seeking accreditation with organisations that recognize certain standards. When you buy an item, a percentage of profits may go towards a good cause, the cost of your purchase may be matched and donated to charity, or trees may be planted! (Need a new beanie this winter? Check out Tentree, a Canadian brand that stocks stylish warm winter wear and plants trees with every sale!) There are so many awesome businesses out there doing amazing things, and waiting to be discovered by people like you.
LantigaVita is a B-Corporation, meaning they’re all about respecting high standards of social & environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Their fashionable Tempus 2.0 LantigaVita bag is specially designed for life in the fast lane, making it a practical purchase for years of good use!
Keep it Local
Support your community’s artisans and the local economy by scouting out Christmas markets and pop-up special events. Not only are they good fun, but you actually get some face to face contact with the creators themselves, which is RARE nowadays. Buying local also means your item has traveled fewer miles to get to you, and is possibly a much more sustainable option. See below for a list of Montreal Christmas markets you may want to hit up with some pals. If you want to support a local artist selling eco-friendly and ethically crafted scarves and mittens, Leonce often collabs with illustrators in Montreal to ensure your knits are as unique as can be!
Build a Sense of Community
I have intentionally devoted this entire section of the gifting guide to a new board game invented in Montreal called Alegoria. Sounds lame? Think again. How many times have you heard people say they hate small talk and wish they could skip it and go straight to real talk. Alegoria does JUST that! The game is centred around a mandala puzzle board and aims to form a deeper connection amongst players, to spark discovery, and to create a memorable experience for its players. Who knows, you may even surprise yourself with your response to challenging questions you never gave much thought to in the past.
Prioritize Needs Over Wants
Choose a gift you know the person at the receiving end actually needs, as this is an item they would probably have to go out and buy for themselves anyways. This way, you’ll reduce unnecessary consumption. Here’s a gift that suits coffee and tea drinkers alike: Lab Muffin’s Beauty Science Mug will be sure to please your nerdiest of friends. Oh, and as a side note, if you want to get the science behind your endless list of beauty-related inquiries, check out Michelle’s website Lab Muffin, filled with science-meets-beauty articles that are sure to teach you something new!
Go for the Experience Gift
Bring your significant other to a wine tasting, a newly opened restaurant, a day at the spa…
Take your bestie to a ballet, high tea, or on a hike in the mountains…Memories are invaluable, and often make the best gift! A private or group cooking workshop with Priscila’s Kitchen is a grand idea for those who aren’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty. You’ve still got time to sign up for her Hosting Sans Stress Holiday Workshop!
Empower your Fellow Women
Artistri Sud offers training programs to female entrepreneurs around the world that focus on developing self-esteem, encouraging social, political and legal empowerment, and creating sustainable livelihoods. Donate to this organization for a feel-good boost, while supporting a local cause. You can also volunteer with them if you live in Montreal.
Put Your Skills to the Good Use!
Think of a service you can offer and turn it into a personalized gift certificate. Offer a coupon for your time – babysitting for your sister’s two kids, house cleaning for mum, a massage for your best friend, a home cooked 5-course meal for your partner. Get creative!
And one last suggestion…
Get going on some healthy habits!
For that auntie who won’t stop nagging you about the couple pounds she’s recently put on, why not kick-start her fitness journey by offering her a private Pilates class with a qualified, experienced teacher at Contrology Studio in Westmount.
For the vegan or aspiring-vegan on your list, offer the ease and luxury of colourful, organic plant-based meals at their doorstep with Pure Prep. It doesn’t get any simpler, you log in, order your meals, and BAM! Yummy food ready to enjoy, 100% guilt-free.
Not having sufficient time to make breakfast is no longer an excuse with YumiOats, a great gift for the busy-bee. They sell reusable jars too – tap on the back, you’ve made a sustainable choice! Shout out to two successful McGill alumni who started their journey alongside Étymologie’s Founder, Raquela.
Do you live in Montreal? Lucky you! You won’t want to miss out on all the lovely Christmas markets and events. You’ll be all set for a fabulous, low-waste and ethical holiday season.
*Christmas market at the Old Port
*Salon de Métiers d’Art
*Place Jacques Cartier Christmas market
*Le Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal