The holiday season has snuck up again. Does that make you feel like pulling the covers over your head until after the New Year? Sometimes I feel like that too.

We can become trapped in this consumerist dance, almost burdened under intense pressure to create these near impossible ‘magical’ moments. We might feel disconnected, dislodged, and stuck in the narrow tunnels of presents, packaging, bank balances, and shopping lists. That, however, is no way to spend your holidays and in the end, most things don’t really matter that much (outside of the basic essentials of course; I’m thinking socks and underwear, not televisions and a brand name purse).

My friends and I used to spend a lot of time, energy and money buying each other presents we didn’t truly need. It was stressful trying to find everyone the perfect gift and no one could really afford it, but boy was it a sight to see all those presents in a room together. Every year though, at some point after the present-high faded, I would start to feel guilty, wasteful and definitely a little poorer.

LWLG- holiday gifts WrappingWe chose to change it up and focus on spending time together instead. No, we didn’t ditch the presents all together (that would have caused an uprising!), but we draw names now and everybody gets one present. All that money that we used to spend shopping, we pool and donate it to charity. With a group of ten, it’s a sizable amount of cash. The great thing is every year someone new gets to pick the charity we donate to. This helps us all learn about issues that are important to each of us and we discover more about the work that so many great charities are undertaking. The first year we put together a hamper for the Christmas Cheer Board and dropped it off to a family in need. We’ve also bought goats and soccer balls for communities across the globe, supported local animal shelters, and this year we’re donating to Doctors Without Borders. Charitable gift giving is now one of my favourite things about the holidays.Myth-Cedar Christmas Tree

This year, we’re challenging you to do your holidays a bit differently; buy less, give thought to what you buy and where it comes from (it could be made by tiny people but they’re probably not elves), focus on experiential gifts rather than physical things and, since it’s the season of giving, find ways to give back, to your community or to your favorite charity.

If, like my friends and I, you’re not quite ready to give up gift giving all together, then try these greener gift options which will help you tread a little lighter on the earth and support your local community:

  • Buy tickets to the theater or to a show featuring a local or Canadian musician
  • Shop at local arts and craft fairs for something handmade and authentic
  • Pick up that special someone a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or write them a personalized note telling them you’re treating them to dinner
  • Visit and support local independent stores, especially ones in your neighbourhood
  • Pick up things at a thrift shop or garage sale; there are great deals to be had and you’re giving items a second chance and keeping them out of the landfill
  • Write a poem, paint a picture or bake that special someone a treat
  • Donate to a Canadian charity (including Green Action Centre) by visiting CanadaHelps.
Tracy with fair trade products at the MCIC

Tracy with fair trade products at the MCIC

For more ideas, check out our list of sustainable gift ideas for your family and friends. Consider choosing a local beer and wine or that which is organic and fair trade. Oh, and organic and fair trade chocolate not only tastes better, but lets you fill that stocking with joy and a clear conscience. Look for the certified Fair Trade logo, which assures decent working conditions and fair wages for artisans and farmers.

Finally, don’t forgot about gift-wrapping alternatives and remember to re-use the gift bags, tissue paper and bows.

“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”  The Grinch – Dr. Seuss

Happy holidays!