Giving

So far this holiday season, gift-giving hasn’t been the completely trash-free picture I envisioned several months ago. But this year my family and I managed to make less waste than we’ve made in years past.

The tradition of giving gifts on Christmas, birthdays, mother’s and father’s day runs deep in my family. When we were kids, my parents gave me and my siblings toys in big boxes that spilled out from under the Christmas tree. My mom refers to those years as our pink plastic Christmases, as my sister and I would often receive dolls and doll accessories packaged in pink cardboard boxes with cellophane windows. As we grew older the spectacular gift display under the tree diminished and my siblings and I assumed the duty of giving back to our parents and to each other. Now that we’ve become adults with our own many financial responsibilities, the pressure to give several things has dissipated. This year we all pooled our money to get each person one thing that they wanted. I was in charge of coordinating my mom’s gift–a pair of English leather boots that she can wear hiking in the woods near my parents’ house. I felt good giving this particular gift because I know that if she takes care of them, she’ll have the boots for the rest of her life.

For many years now I’ve been wrapping gifts in unbleached craft paper from rolls I’ve bought at art supply stores. This was in part an effort to save money on gift-wrapping, but also to use a material that was less taxing on the environment than glossy wrapping paper. I also prefer the look to most patterned papers. This year I had grand plans to wrap all my gifts in fabric with different furoshiki techniques. But I ran out of time and decided to use a large piece of craft paper that my friend Kara had used to wrap the beautiful gift (two ceramic hanging planters) she made for me this year. The piece was just large enough to wrap my mom’s boots in, but because it had been used to wrap the planters, it was creased in many places. So I decided to give the paper a more deliberate, even texture and I crinkled it all over. I used paper tape in a few select places instead of plastic scotch tape. I finished it with a white ribbon from my ribbon stash–a jar full of fabric ribbons I’ve collected and re-used over the years.

Stockings are also a part of our tradition, but this year I didn’t give any stuffers. Mindful of my No Trash Project, my mom didn’t fill my stocking with packaged goods. Instead she gave me the wool running socks I had asked for and an olivewood spoon for my kitchen.

I’ve been making hemp cloths for friends, which I will give without any wrapping when I see them. I have many loved ones with birthdays coming up in January. I plan to give homemade and home cooked gifts. Homemade granola in glass jars wrapped in furoshiki cloth is what I’m imagining. I also love the idea of giving an experience as a gift–particularly surprise experiences, which I’ve been doing lately, even though some of my squirmy kidnapped friends find the trip to an unknown destination torturous. The looks on their faces when we arrive at a special place or event is totally worth it.

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