Why Think Differently?

Do you ever stop to think about the environmental or ethical impact when you choose a gift?

I know it’s hard – we’re so busy just getting the gift bought, wrapped and sent most of the time, that it’s not easy to stop and take the time to consider whether our gift could be doing any harm to people or the planet.  But the fact is that the choices we make can have an impact, good or bad, on people half way around the world from us, or on the very health of the earth itself.

Do we need to constantly consume?

According to the Story of Stuff, if everybody on earth consumed at the rate of the United States (and I’m not sure our consumption patterns are so different in Canada), we would need 3-5 planet earths to provide the necessary resources!  Heads-up folks!  We only have one earth!

If you haven’t seen it already, then I highly recommend watching the full Story of Stuff:

What’s the real cost of gifting?

It’s not easy to paint an entire picture on how much Canadians spend on gift giving per year, but according my research, here’s a summary of some of our individual typical gift spending:

Christmas $674
Valentine’s Day $37
Mother’s Day $84.16
Father’s Day $95
Kids Birthday Parties $225*
* (based on $20-25/gift and 10 per year)

 

Of course there are also family birthdays, Easter, weddings, anniversaries, teacher gifts, retirements… so, my guess is that in fact the total spent per household on gifts may be in the order of $2,000-2,500.

This is a significant amount of gift buying and doesn’t necessarily include the cost of wrapping or shipping gifts either!

And if we think the monetary value of this gift giving is high, then the cost to the earth or vulnerable communities can be far higher if we continue to buy gifts that can cause harm.  Gifts that add to our consumption of goods, gifts that have dangerous toxins in them, gifts that come at the expense of precious, finite resources or gifts that are made affordable and available thanks only to improper manufacturing, child labour or poor working conditions.

If gifts come at the expense of someone or something, is it really a good gift?

Our consumer habits lead us to the mall more often than not, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact it’s only in the last 100 years that humans have come to consume in the way that we do today.  We can choose to change that and we can choose to think about gifting differently.

Do you ever think there has to be a better way?

Well I happen to think so!  I think we can save money, save precious resources, spend our money to support communities (either our own or those elsewhere in the world through fair-trade) and learn to give gifts that just feel better all round – good for us, good for the recipient, good for the world.

I think that we can choose to take our $2,000-2,500 that we may spend in a year on gifts and consciously use it to make a difference:  To truly enhance the life of the recipient, while respecting the earth’s resources, choosing not to exploit people around the world and to turn gift giving back into the joy it was intended to be.

I challenge you to do just that!  They say it takes 21 times of repeating something to make it a habit!  Let’s start today and begin shaping a new future in gift-giving.

easy. kind. giftastic.

Sources:
  • Holiday shoppers plan to spend more this year – article, Globe & Mail, Nov 8, 2012 sharing findings of annual Bank of Montreal survey conducted by Pollara.
  • Retail Council of Canada finds that Canadians get it right for Valentine’s Day, Feb 12, 2013 Canadian News Wire
  • Gifts for mom: Are you as generous as the average Canadian? – article, Globe & Mail, Apr 15, 2013
  • Father’s Day spending is on the rise across Canada  - article, The Toronto Star, Jun 11, 2013
  • Birthday Party Etiquette – article, Today’s Parent Magazine, June 2013