Experiences Not Things

thumbnail_img_6682Before the end of classes, I suggested to my roommates that we go do something in lieu of buying each other gifts. They were enthusiastic about the idea, so today we went to lunch and then attended a ballet at the University of Florida Phillips Center.
This was one of my favorite “green” gifts for several reasons. First, we got to spend time together (time that may have otherwise been spent stressing out in Target looking for last-minute gifts). It was a way to relax and have fun pre-finals week. Second, we ate at a small business and supported a local dance company. Third, besides the ticket we received at the door, and the cups our coffee came in, this outing produced no landfill waste. Lastly, I got two other people to participate in “green” gifting.

Planning an outing like this is a fun way to celebrate the season and honor your friendships without a large impact on the environment!

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Repurposed Gifts

 

So giving a “used” gift can feel a little strange. Giving used items is taboo in our society. This is something I wanted to overcome. I wrote about the used jewelry box I bought in Ybor that I did not have a particular recipient in mind for. I ended up painting it for a friend who has a travel themed room. Since the box had some wear and tear, personalizing it was a way to make it like new again.

 

Brown Paper Packages…

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There’s always that one scrap of paper that’s left over from a roll that you’re just not quite sure what to do with. In this case, I rescued this scrap from a pile at The Repurpose Project, but nevertheless, I have certainly faced this dilemma before. I decided to give this scrap paper a new life by turning it into a gift bag for a necklace. I found simple instructions through Pinterest (it was the simplest origami project I’ve ever taken on), and I added a sticker from a set of festive decals which were also plucked out of a bin of miscellaneous objects.

It was important to me that I celebrate the holidays in a more conscious manner, without sacrificing the things that bring me joy. I have fond memories of unwrapping presents with my family, and while zero packaging is certainly an option to consider when “green” gifting, it was not something I wanted to give up. However, by opting to wrap my presents, extra effort must be made to ensure that the paper does not end up in the trash can on Christmas morning.

The Repurpose Project

The Repurpose Project is one of my favorite places in Gainesville. It’s fun, quirky, and it’s good for the environment. The Repurpose Project attempts to divert resources from landfills by giving them a second life, and it is FULL of cool and useful stuff. Since my goal is to reduce waste this Christmas, I knew this would be a great place to do some shopping.

While browsing around, I found a necklace for my mom. I’m not sure of its story, but I think most of the jewelry in the store are either used or made by local artists. My mom and I have similar taste, so she has been the easiest to shop “green” for thus far.

There was also a section of wrapping paper scraps, half-used rolls, bows, and gift bags. I picked up one roll of snowflake paper, and a festive piece of scrap of paper for smaller gifts. I also found a set of Christmas stickers to use on packages.

 

Gainesville Art Festival

This month I attended the Downtown Festival and Art Show in Gainesville. Not only was it a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it was a great place to hunt for gifts made by small businesses. Most of the artists were based in Florida, including the sisters who created the wooden Santa figure I purchased for my mom.

(Art by: Alba Mas and Teresa Gutierrez)

 

Local and Ethical Gifts

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White Oak Pastures, Bluffton GA.

A class field trip to learn about sustainable food systems took me all the way to the little town of Bluffton, GA. We visited White Oak Pastures, which is a family owned farm that is operated under sustainable and ethical guiding principles. Part of our property tour included a visit to the general store which contained products from the farm, as well as some products sourced from other small businesses in Georgia.

While in the store, I bought White Oak Pastures beef jerky and a bottle of Roasted Pecan Syrup from Thomasville, GA for my dad. It felt good to support a business which I knew had sustainable principles at its core. However, local and ethical specialty goods come at a cost. The prices were a little higher than what I would normally pay for a similar product, but I was willing to pay extra for a quality product.

 

The First Gift

My first exercise in sustainable gifting occurred at the Stained Market Place in Tampa, Florida. My mom and I decided to stop in because of its colorful exterior, and the intriguing piles of “junk” outside the store front. While inside, I found a used drum head for $5 (pictured above), a jewelry box for $2, and a colorful wicker basket for $10. If time permits, I always circle used and vintage stores more than once. These types of stores are not organized like your typical retail shop. Sometimes it takes a second pass to find an amazing piece hidden in all of the “junk.”

While the basket was a gift to myself, I will be repurposing the jewelry box and drum head for Christmas Gifts. I don’t have a clear vision for the jewelry box yet, but I plan to repurpose the drum as a side table for my boyfriend’s bedroom. Drumming has always been a hobby for him, so it caught my attention immediately.

It felt a bit strange buying something used as a gift for someone else. But I was excited to make my fist sustainable Christmas purchase. I was supporting the local economy and buying something used! Compared to a traditional shopping experience, this was much more enjoyable. I really felt like I was discovering something new and exciting when I came across my purchases.

 

A Green Christmas

According to a 2013 survey by Pew Research, approximately 92% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas. The same survey revealed that 86% of Americans buy gifts for others as a part of the holiday tradition. Gift-giving is ingrained in our culture, however this behavior can be detrimental to the environment. The EPA states that household waste increases by more than 25% during the holiday season. This equates to about 1 million extra tons of waste diverted to landfills between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Increased consumerism during this time period also accounts for an increase in embodied energy use.

I will be exploring ways to minimize resource use and waste, while maximizing benefits to local economies and ethical businesses.

I have created a personal set of guidelines to follow this season:

  • Gifts may not be purchased from “big box” stores
  • Gifts should be purchased from local, small businesses
  • When possible, gifts should be used or repurposed objects
  • Gifts should not contribute to unsustainable behaviors by others
  • All wrapping must be sourced sustainably and creatively
  • Gifts should not have excessive or unnecessary packaging