Grant and I both had birthday’s in October. We started dropping hints to family and friends about waste-free, commercial-free gifts a few weeks in advance, and they came through with flying colours. We were given homemade cards and preserves and cupcakes, personal drawings, music, lovely soap, and garden plants (including a lingonberry bush that will hopefully supply us with jam next year). All thoughtfully wrapped in re-used paper or fabric including a card made out of the end of a cracker box. We got tickets to an event, friendly long-distance phone calls, a day spent zip-lining, and a night at a hotel on our next vacation. Not to mention the promise by Grant’s dad never to use plastic shopping bags again. They’re all things that we really value and that will never end up in the landfill.
On the consumer front, each of us did receive an article of clothing (from separate people), but both were very thoughtfully chosen. Grant’s was specifically for him to wear at work because he didn’t have a black button down shirt, and mine was black as well (we try to wear all black when filming), so they were actually very much appreciated. Mine had also managed to avoid the dreaded wrapping paper (after a hinting email) by being specifically wrapped in one of the cloth bags we usually use at Christmas.
We completely admired the effort that people put into choosing things for us that they might not have usually given or wrapped it in a different way or not at all. Even if they would have usually given it, you could tell there was extra thought involved. When my grandma asked for suggestions I said “give me something consumable”. This is from the letter from she wrote, tucked in a handmade card, accompanying a jar of her homemade jam:
“Blackberries picked on Chancellor Blvd (at the university of BC). Apples grown on Hornby (at our family cabin). Jar has been recycled many times! Consumable!” How awesome is that?
When I was a kid, I’d save my allowance for months to buy a single item (yes, I’m a “saver”). Seriously, I bought $30 stuffed animals at a time when babysitting only paid $2.50 an hour, so birthdays and Christmas were really events. Now that I’m “grownup”, if I want something (within reason), I can just buy it. The gifts we receive on our birthdays are no longer really about the gifts, they’re about who gave them or about introducing us to new things that we may not have heard of or thought to pick for ourselves.
Next time a birthday comes up in your house, I challenge you to give a waste-free gift. Here’s some ideas:
-draw a picture
-go out for dinner
-buy tickets to an event
-make homemade anything
-provide food (fancy jams or spices of oils)
-give experiences (go to the art gallery or skydiving or camping or to the aquarium. This one should be easy. Everyone likes to do something)
-give plants (they can even be cuttings from your own plants)
-get soap (everyone needs it, but most of us don’t buy the nice stuff)
-make good for coupons (you know, I promise to make dinner, clean the house, walk the dog when it’s raining)
As for wrapping, I’ll just let you know that I’ve been known to say “here’s your gift, and after you open it, I need my fabric bag back”.
Thanks to everyone who spoiled us on our birthdays!