Sustainability has more than one meaning. It can mean spending local, being environmentally-friendly, spending less instead of more, and questioning where products are made and in what conditions.
I sat down with Satya Ramen from JUDES, the Just Us! Development and Education Society. She suggested these nine ideas and tips to help you give green.
- Make it yourself. Whether or not you’re artistic, making gifts from reusable materials might mean more to a friend than purchasing something. Ramen says that she ransacked her family members’ basements for old pieces of fabric to hook rugs.
- Give Time. Spending time with family or friends you don’t see often can also be a special gift. “It doesn’t have to be at Christmas,” Ramen says. “People think that December 25th is a deadline. It can be at any time of the year.”
- Give Services. If a family friend has children, you could offer one or two nights of babysitting to give your friend time for him or herself.
- Good as New. Treasures can be found in antique shops or second hand stores that might be too expensive elsewhere.
- Give a family gift. Ramen says board games are a great way for families to “turn off the TV and electronics” and spend time together. It also reduces the need to buy every individual person a gift.
- Make a limit. If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to cap the amount of spending you do on gifts. Ramen says this hard because sometimes we have expectations about the value of the gifts we receive. If someone gives you something that was more expensive than the gift you gave them, you might feel guilty.
Ramen says not to give guilt. “Guilt is not a gift.”
She encourages people to confront family and friends about how much you’re expecting to give and receive this year. Set a limit and stick to it. If you’re worried that you or your friends might break the limit, Ramen even suggests making a written contract with a friend.
- Buy local. “We sometimes forget who makes it and the working conditions for what we buy,” Ramen says. “But just because it’s a local business, doesn’t mean that things sold in it are made local.” She suggests talking with the store staff and management about where the products come from and the labour conditions of the workers making the product.
- Collect donations. Instead of gifts, you might want to encourage family and friends to donate to a charity or a society on your behalf. However, Ramen says to ensure that your preferred charity is reputable, look them up on the Canada Revenue Agency website. They list complaints against Canadian charities and organizations that have been revoked of their charity status.
- Look for the sign. If you want to ensure that the books you’re giving are green, look for labels like the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Ramen says that the certification means that it has been made with recycled paper.