NO PLANET B: Sustainable, intentional gift giving during the holiday season

This is a column part of a monthly series called “No Planet B” written by Sustainability & Energy Management Coordinator Chelsea Malacara and her sustainability interns. This series aims to provide insight on how we can begin to think and make sustainable choices on campus for a better future. 

It is now the season of giving and no matter who you are shopping for, there is an intention behind what you plan to buy for them. Stores are overloaded with gifts and marketing is aims to entice the average shopper into buying as much as they can for the “lowest” prices. This cultural shift to consume more can be strenuouson society and the environment. By being more intentional this season, you can transform the urge to give the most and instead, give the best. Through all the noise of the holiday season, it’s important to ask ourselves, “how can I give back to those who matter to me in a way that is thoughtful? How can I be intentional not only with whatI buy, but where I buy it from?”

According to data from Shift Workspaces, when you purchase from an independent business, 52% of the revenue is recirculated into the local economy compared to a purchase from a chain store, where only 14% of the revenue is recirculated into the local economy. Shop local and shop small. The small businesses in your community are more likely to have something unique and special. Shopping small and local also has the benefit of reducing your environmental impact by using less fuel that contributes to air pollution and reduces packaging that comes from online shopping. 

Another bonus to intentional gift giving is that it forces you to plan and possibly save time and money. Prior to purchasing your gifts create a plan and a budget for each person on your list taking into consideration quality over quantity. Select gifts with a set intention for each person. Gift them something that pertains to a personal interest or something that you have in common within your relationship, it shows that you care about them. Giving a present with significance behind it can have a meaningful impact. It’s also a more efficient way to shop. If you don’t know where to start, try the local Milwaukee shopping guide that covers your holiday needs.

It’s fun to watch someone rip open the wrapping paper on a material gift and see their eyes light up, isn’t it? But this year, consider gifting an experience. Experiences are just as meaningful and last a lifetime. Try a homemade coupon for a date with you, perhaps snowshoeing through a local park with lunch after, a membership to a local attraction or museum, or just a gift card to a new restaurant that serves their favorite cuisine. Not only is this a meaningful way to express love and gratitude for someone but it will provide stories to tell for years to come.

We cannot talk about the holidays without recognizing that this time of year is particularly challenging for so many people. As Jesuits, we are called to serve the poor and vulnerable through service. Giving back to your community during this time is important. Get connected with Marquette’s Office of Community Service to find an opportunity that speaks to you. Find something you are passionate about and devote your time to it within Milwaukee or your hometown community. Forego an afternoon of gift shopping for a shift at the soup kitchen or adopt a family for Christmas and get presents for their children.

So, this year and those to come, remember to be intentional when purchasing gifts for those in your life. Shop local and small. Don’t forget the spirit of giving and spending time in your community with those who need the most support. Give back to those who matter to you in a thoughtful way and get creative with the experiences you choose to share with those you cherish. Take this time to be present and more considerate about your impact on others and the world around you.

This story was written by Sarah Knott. She is a sustainability intern for Chelsea Malacara, the Sustainability & Energy Management Coordinator for Marquette University. She is not a staff member for the Wire. She can be reached at [email protected]