The Impact of Gift Giving on Planet Earth

Guest Author: Jackie Quinlan

How the Tide of Gift Giving Changes as We Become
More Aware of Our Impact on the Planet

gift with bow, gift wrapping, gift giving, environmentOnly 5% of people cited receiving gifts as their favorite part of the holiday celebrations in a Finder survey on Christmas gifting. The survey found that $13 billion dollars a year is wasted on Christmas gifts, which are often bought hurriedly out of a sense of duty.

The majority of people who answered the survey said that spending time with family and friends was the most important part of the festival, and they valued it far more than receiving gifts.

Finding Alternative Gifts

With a growing awareness of the human impact on the environment, and more people committed to reducing waste, this attitude toward Christmas gifts has made an impact. It is changing the sorts of presents people spend their money on, not only at Christmas, but for birthdays and weddings, too.

While the tradition of a physical item wrapped in Christmas paper is still very much alive, an increasing number of people are searching for alternatives. They look for gifts  that cause less harm to the planet, do something good for the wider world, and are better appreciated by their loved ones.

 Charitable Causes for Gift Giving

The idea of buying a goat for a struggling rural community instead of a traditional gift has been around for a while. Charities like Oxfam offerer unwrapped gifts during the festive season. More people are now considering this option as they look for a way to reduce their impact on the environment.

goat as gift, give a goat, I goat you something really specialScientists in Zurich have found that feelings of happiness are triggered by the act of giving. When people donate to charitable causes as a gift to another person, both individuals benefit from the effect. The gift-giver has given to both their loved one and to an important charitable cause. The receiver also benefits from the good feelings associated with giving, despite not having spent the money themselves.

Both giver and receiver benefit from the knowledge that they have not contributed to waste in the world. They also know that they have helped improve quality of life for someone else. More people now opt for donating to charitable causes as a gift-giving alternative for a range of celebrations. Organizations like Facebook even encourage charitable donations to honor birthdays. Many couples prefer to support good causes instead of receiving traditional wedding gifts.

Long-term Subscriptions

For some gift-givers, the idea of a physical object is still important, but they want to be sure that their gift is truly appreciated and won’t contribute to the waste stream. For this reason, many people are now giving subscriptions for their loved ones. These deliver the joy of a gift several times throughout the year rather than on just one occasion.

There is now such a variety of subscription boxes available that people can select themes they know someone will truly appreciate. The task of selecting the exact items can be left to the suppliers, who are more familiar with the products available in the chosen niche.

flower of the month, gift giving, flower subscriptionA husband who knows his wife enjoys trying new cosmetics and fragrances, for example, might find it difficult to choose individual items. By signing her up with a regular delivery instead, he’s able to give her the gift she wants without making mistakes in selecting the products. She is treated to a monthly surprise.

Magazine subscriptions are also a popular choice, as are regular deliveries of fresh flowers. Subscriptions allow people to choose personalized gifts without risking getting it wrong and ending up with an unappreciated or wasted gift.

Experiences And Activities

When the physical object is not important, but the giver still feels more comfortable with gift that directly benefits their loved one, experiences and activity days are becoming increasingly popular.

hot air balloons, balloon rides, gift giving, experieincesWith no physical materials involved, waste is minimized, and their loved one can experience something they have always wanted to try but have never been able to justify buying for themselves. Experiences range from hot-air balloon flights to beauty treatments. They have the added benefit of being shared, thus offering valuable time spent with the gift giver or another person as well as the experience itself.

Many of us want to give gifts on special occasions: it’s a way for us to show our love for another person and make them feel happy and special. But with a growing awareness of the harm unwanted gifts can do to the planet, many are now eschewing traditional gifts in favor of more creative ways of expressing our love.


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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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