How to Gift


IMG_6869(1)Ahh, it’s that time of year again – Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, Black Friday, just Friday – whatever holiday you celebrate, there’s a gift for it!  We’re sure you can’t wait to rip open packages of those boots you’ve been lusting after, the new pair of skis, the gourmet chocolates, and…that hand-embroidered sweater from Grandma, the mysterious fruitcake that regifts itself every year, the extraordinarily complicated board game that will be attempted once and then remain untouched until your children’s children have children.

Gifting is hard. Long gone are the days when giving loved ones a good old movie or CD would suffice. With end of the year parties and events, cookies to bake, crowded parking lots and long checkout lines, all the stress accompanying the hunt for the perfect gift adds up to create a hectic time of year.  We’d love to tell you to just buy everyone sustainable gifts and leave it at that, but we’ve decided to dig a little deeper.  Because you know what the worst part of the holidays is?  Those days right after they’re over, when it’s time to thank everyone for their kindness, clean up the mess, and…RETURN ALL THE GIFTS!  After some research, we came up with gift ideas that are sustainable, but also won’t end up at the top of the re-gifting list when next year comes around.

Tim Harford writing for the Financial Times points out some interesting statistics uncovered by social scientists Francis J. Flynn and Francesca Gino, who studied the topic in depth by surveying givers and receivers alike. “Givers thought that gifts they’d chosen themselves were more appreciated but recipients preferred the gifts that they’d specifically asked for,” Harford writes.  Although givers often believe that an element of surprise adds to the joyous occasion, it sometimes just leads to one of those awkward scenarios where you have a split-second to decide whether to smile and tell the giver how much you love it or ask if they still have a copy of the receipt.  Harford further goes on to cite Joel Waldfogel’s research that “the waste attributable to poorly chosen seasonal gifts was between 15 and 20 per cent of the purchase price of the gift — that’s well over $10bn wasted in the US alone every Christmas.”  (To read more, see the original article linked above.)

So the moral of the story?  You guessed it – give thoughtfully!

We’ve come up with a few ideas to help you out:

  1. Give experiences, not things.  Know a great restaurant someone loves?  Give them a gift certificate!  They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness (and have a whole evening to think about how great you are). Looking for some sustainable inspiration? Boston has a number of great local, sustainable restaurants to check out – see the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts’ Local Green Guide Website.
  2. Make a wish list (and ask your friends and family to send you theirs!).  We know, we know, you’ve probably outgrown the Santa story, and there’s no need to mail this one to the North Pole (postage stamps these days, amiright?!) but many websites and apps nowadays can help you out.
  3. There are a number of ways to tell if what you’re buying is sustainable, one of which is the B Corp stamp of approval. To learn more about B Corps, check out the official website, (or see Net Impact Boston’s blogs on the topic from this past March and April.)

And finally, for the person who already has everything…

The book that will teach them how to get rid of it all!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

We hope this advice is helpful!  Finally, if you’re looking for a laugh, check out Jimmy Fallon’s bit on #WorstGiftEver.  We’d love to hear about your own #worstgiftever, so be sure to tweet them to @NIBoston to share!

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