Editor’s Column: Gifting Sustainably

Caylea Barone, Assistant Arts & Features Editor

As the last week of classes comes to a close and bustling students prepare for finals, I can’t help but rethink a few things. For starters, I have been in that festive-holiday-cheery spirit since mid-November, so it’s no surprise that my weekends have been spent watching cheesy holiday movies and drinking peppermint mochas. I’ve also been optimistic about Colgate’s Carbon Neutrality Commitment set for 2019, and I’m energized by the feedback and pressure that the student body is putting on the university by weighing in on what really matters: sustainability.

I have also been thinking about the gift-giving season, and our basis for the types of things we give to our friends and loved ones. So, after reading the Fourth National Climate Assessment report released by the National Climate Assessment (NCA), I want to write about giving gifts in a sustainable way. I know, you might be rolling your eyes right now because you’re reading another article about “sustainability.” But keep reading—I promise you that it’s important, and even the smallest changes we make this holiday season can have an impact on the longevity and vitality of our earth. As the NCA wrote in their report, “Future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today.”

From the ways in which we think about gifting to the ways we physically shop, there are more ways than one to be greener this holiday season. The first suggestion I have for gifting sustainably is to give an experience, rather than a “thing.” The first component of the age-old “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is first for a reason: it’s where we need to start, and it’s a critical step to consider in reducing your carbon footprint. By decreasing the amount of things you consume and purchase, you’ll be on your way to reducing your ecological impact this December. By gifting an experience, I’m suggesting spending some extra time with a loved one or doing a favorite activity with a friend who you’ve been missing lately. For instance, if you’re able to, you could take a long walk or go for a hike, or perhaps visit a place where you have fond memories.

My next suggestion goes out to those who are fans of wrapping paper. Consider a new alternative to wrapping paper this season, such as a reusable tote bag (canvas ones are great) or even a decorative box. By incorporating a sustainable packaging option, you also give a bonus gift! You can’t beat that, and I’m positive that the receiver will appreciate the extra special and sustainable addition.

I’ll also extend the invitation for those who may feel festive and crafty (like myself) to make a homemade gift this season. Whether you’re into baking and want to surprise someone with yummy goodies, or you’re more inclined to print some photos or paint a picture of a cherished memory, homemade gifts cut back on consumption and packaging—they might even save you a few dollars, too!

Other unique and sustainable gift ideas include purchasing a carbon offset, gifting to a charity, purchasing a membership to a co-op or farm share and gifting houseplants (or dorm plants, for that matter). I hope that regardless of your religious affiliation or level of holiday cheer, you’ll consider sustainable and green gift alternatives this gifting season.

Contact Caylea Barone at [email protected].