Do we really need more stuff to be happy in life? With the approach of the holiday season the question is worth asking.

Overconsumption is constantly knocking at our door, with advertising, planned obsolescence, unnecessary packaging, mounds of waste, stories we are told about what success, love and happiness really look like and often lots of confusion. But we don’t have to answer. It’s not worth the stress, the empty pockets, the overflowing trash cans or the cluttered home. There is another way.

To help you spend a more serene and green end of year, we have prepared a list of gifting ideas that will help you avoid the shopping center frenzy and hopefully stress.

Start with gifts that aren’t things…..

Offer time

It is probably the rarest resource nowadays. Offering time means spending a warm moment with a loved one, without a phone or other distractions. It can be an outing in nature, a babysitting offer for your friends who are parents of a young child, or a long visit with someone who could use some company.

First snow. ©Creative Common – Mark Bonica

Offer memories

TV, Netflix, news feeds on social media … all reasons we often stay on our couches at home, especially when the weather gets chilly or rainy. But nothing replaces an outing to the theatre, a show, a concert, a comedy show or the opera and sharing reviews with friends or family on the way home. Take a look at the events calendar in your area and see what’s happening. What about a camping trip or a visit to a waterfall or natural wonder? Memories can be made with a little imagination and little to no money.

Concert. © Susan Lloyd Photography – Creative Common

Offer an experience or a new skill

There are so many cool new or favourite experiences that can be shared with a loved one. It can be a cooking class, a workshop to learn soap making, pottery, the art of meditation or even how to make portable solar panels. More and more workshops are offered covering all kinds of how-tos that are fun or useful in our lives. Do a little research online and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the options.

Abdoulaye Ndiaye (visitor and workshop participant) at Welcome to the “Make Smthng Week” in Berlin! A weekend of workshops, talks and work stations with a focus on swapping, upcycling, making, DIY, veganism and minimalism.

Offer your know-how

Do you have a background in web development or photography, make your own canned foods, or are a pro at bike repair or sewing? Do your survey of people you love to know what they would like to learn and share your knowledge and time.

Welcome to the Make Smthng Week in Berlin!

If you’re thinking of something more tangible…

Offer a zero waste kit

You’ve no doubt heard of the zero waste movement and maybe you think to yourself, “zero waste, in what universe?!” But it’s really caught on and more and more people are finding new and innovative ways to cut their waste production and live more simply for the good of the planet and its limited resources. You might be one of them! If so, offering a zero-waste kit for lunch, bulk shopping, or even a simple reusable bottle, mug or straw for outings, could allow your loved ones to take the plunge and slowly start moving away from disposable options and packaging. Know how to make your own cleaners, personal care products or vegan mylks? Or keen to learn and share? Go for it!

Zero Waste Kit

Offer second hand

If you’re buying, buying used is for sure a greener choice. Antique and vintage shops, flea markets or bazaars, used bookstores, second-hand shops (or even your basement) are gold mines. Children’s toys, books, home decor, fashion finds and so much can be re-loved and shared. And let’s be honest, vintage is always a hit….or at least it’s worth a try!

Swap event in Hong-Kong during Make Smthng Week.

Offer your creations

Do you have special talents for drawing, cooking, knitting, embroidery? Why not offer one of your creations? An illustration, homemade truffles, a scarf, embroidered handkerchiefs, a doggie made from singles stockings? Do you have a torn and worn-out pair of jeans that could make a cute little shirt for a new baby? If you aren’t into creating but are feeling inspired, you could check out workshops like those noted above, and give a gift to yourself, or if you live in Montreal join one hosted by Greenpeace in on December 1st and 2nd as part of Make Smthng Week! A handmade gift is just as, if not more, rewarding to the person who offers it than to the person who receives it.

Support local and eco artisans

If all else fails, most towns have holiday markets offering locally made gift options, preferably made from recycled, refurbished or repurposed materials. But choose wisely and ask yourself: is this not just special but also useful and not contributing to a pile of stuff? Gift giving is a long-standing tradition, but it wasn’t always so complicated. So this year we are wishing you a holiday season that’s a little lighter on the shoulders, and the planet.

Do you have other ideas? Let us know in the comments!