As we head into the season of giving, let’s consider how we can do so with sustainability in mind. People often face a lot of pressure at this time of the year to give gifts that don’t necessarily align with their values, and sometimes we need to take a step back, examine what’s important, consider the recipient, and plan gifts accordingly. 

This year has flown by. I’m sure I’m not the only one scratching my head, wondering how we got to December already. But even if we don’t know where the time has gone, one thing is clear – the silly season is upon us. Whether the Christmas period means family holidays, BBQs in the hot sun, relaxed drinks with colleagues or just some time to unwind from another hectic year, one thing is for certain. There. Will. Be. Gifts. 

Ewelina and I do our best to live an intentional life and minimise our waste production, which is why we founded Sustainable Salons all those years ago. However, we often find it hard to avoid the onslaught of gifts that inevitably comes with the Christmas season. And it’s not just the gift receiving that’s a little overwhelming; it’s the giving too. How can we give gifts that align with our values? Where do we find gifts that will be loved by friends and family, that don’t cost the earth and won’t end up in landfill within a few months? 

The holiday period is so deeply rooted in consumerism that it can be hard to break free and consider how else you and your family can do gift-giving. Instead of focusing on material wants, consider what your loved ones really need. 

Ewelina and I recently had a baby, and with her first Christmas fast approaching, we are feeling a touch worried about how many gifts we’ll be inundated with. It’s hard to resist giving an adorable little bub one more rattle, onesie or swaddling cloth, so, we have set some boundaries in place about the gifts we receive this year. 

This year, I personally don’t want anything. I guess that’s not strictly true, but I don’t want any material things. Instead, I want the people who love me and want me to be happy this holiday season to donate in my name to a charity or organisation that aligns with my values. What makes me truly happy is giving back to my community. Whether it’s a donation to my local surf life-saving club, food drive, support hub for people with a disability, or any other organisation doing good locally, I’m all in. 

If you’re also finding yourself overwhelmed with things at this time of the year, consider the same. Ask your friends and family to donate in your name. Maybe it’s a medical institute you feel passionate about or a program for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. No matter where your interests lie, there are organisations out there that could use your help far more than you could use another Christmas sweater or pair of slippers. 

Now is a great time to encourage your clients to consume, spend, and gift mindfully. I recently visited a salon where the staff had placed a small collection tin at the front counter. Clients had the opportunity to make a small donation when checking out. The reception staff rang a bell whenever a client made a donation, and the whole salon applauded. It was only a small gesture, however, it made the clients feel like superstars, and I bet more than one client left the salon wondering how else they could make a difference in their community. 

If you can’t donate money, consider donating in other ways. Your time, for instance, is hugely valuable. Perhaps you could donate a few hours to an organisation on a food or clothing drive, or maybe you have clothes lying around yourself that are in good nick but that you never wear. Closer to home, you could think about donating your time to family and friends rather than giving gifts this year. Maybe your grandparents could use some help gardening, or if you’re a gifted baker, you could gift some home-baked deliciousness to your loved ones. 

Now, I’m not a Christmas Grinch, and I’m not against well-meaning and considered gifts that someone can love and cherish for years to come – that’s peak sustainability in my books. Still, the Christmas season does tend to be dominated by the gifting of, well, stuff. And let’s be honest, most of us have enough already. 

There are so many ways to give back this holiday season. Whether it’s money, time, food, clothes or anything else you can spare, consider how you can make this Christmas about more than tangible gifts.