With the holiday season fast approaching, two contributors give pointers on how to approach gift giving.

Embrace the holiday spirit with more sustainable gifting

While people may feel at their most charitable during the holiday season, the spirit of giving usually ends up hurting the environment. Heightened consumerism around the holidays results in more solid waste being generated, polluting the planet and exacerbating the labour and environmental practices of many multinational corporations that stand to profit.

According to Zero Waste Canada, household waste can increase more than 25 per cent during the holiday season, yielding 545,000 tons of waste from gift wrapping and shopping bags alone. Exchanging homemade or secondhand gifts are other meaningful ways to circumvent unnecessary holiday consumption this season.

Furthermore, ethical consumers may be interested in supporting fair trade businesses in the spirit of the holidays. For example, products with the FAIRTRADE Mark are made according to the internationally established Fairtrade standards, which aim to ensure “decent working conditions and fair terms of trade and to support local sustainability for farmers and workers in the Global South.”

As of 2017, there are over 200 companies in Canada selling or trading Fairtrade products, ranging from cosmetic companies to chocolate companies. These companies produce about 7,000 Fairtrade-certified products to the Canadian market.

While the business of Christmas is not always sustainable, there are convenient options for consumers looking for more ethical alternatives. Perhaps we can learn from the story of the Grinch and realize that the holiday spirit is embodied by gratitude and faith in goodness and togetherness, rather than by accumulating excessive material possessions.

—Madeleine Kelly

A four-step guide to saving

It’s the season of giving but don’t let debts ruin your holiday spirit. Homemade gifts can be creative and affordable, but if you’re the type of gift-giver who lacks the time for creativity or would prefer to shop around, planning ahead and allotting the appropriate amount of time for spending are surefire ways to help you save money.

Here are some helpful tips that I use to alleviate the stress of holiday shopping:

  1. Set a budget. This sounds simple and obvious, but retailers know that consumers buy into their deals. As consumers, it’s important to set a budget to avoid overspending on unnecessary items.
  2. Shop online. Many stores offer the same savings on their websites, making online shopping more convenient and easier for you to compare similar items from different retailers. Many sites will also offer a welcome discount if you join their email list, as well as extra savings and free shipping codes once you’re subscribed, so bear with the overflow of marketing emails just for this season to get some extra discounts.
  3. Spend intentionally. It’s important to consider who you would like to spend money on, so compiling a list of people and assigning an amount of money for each person will help your bank statement stay within budget.
  4. Budget your time as you would budget your money. Time is money, so scheduling and setting deadlines for your holiday shopping will keep your budget on target.

—Tiffany Lieu