Kiari Alatrash is a Langley student whose school writing project got her thinking about gift giving and the impact on landfills. (Family photo)

Kiari Alatrash is a Langley student whose school writing project got her thinking about gift giving and the impact on landfills. (Family photo)

LETTER: Give gifts that stand the test of time, Langley student suggests

A school assignment got a local student thinking about the enviromental impacts of gift giving

Dear Editor,

Give up the gifts.

Imagine this: it’s the week or so before Christmas, and you’re in a panic.


Because you need a gift for your uncle — the one you see a total of four times per year — and you haven’t a single clue what to get him.

There’s cheery music blasting through the mall speakers, but it doesn’t at all match up to the way you feel. Stressed and defeated, you decide on a random, overpriced T-shirt you hope he’ll like, and head home.

Sound familiar?

Almost everyone has experienced the dread of not knowing what gift to get someone, and almost everyone has experienced the discomfort of having to pretend you love a gift, when you really don’t. Especially when those gifts are from distant relatives that think they know what you want, but in reality, couldn’t be further from it.

Face it — even some of your closest friends and family have messed up big time on what you wanted.

While receiving unwanted junk is bad, what’s worse is what happens to it after. This isn’t just about being unsatisfied with your gifts, if it was, this wouldn’t be nearly as big of a problem.

Almost nobody in this day and age is oblivious to the ongoing landfill problem, yet there’s also not a ton of people doing anything to try and stop it. It’s shown that within six months, only one per cent of everything the average person buys at Christmas is still in use.

The environmental group Zero Waste Canada has estimated that from “mid-November to mid-January, Canadians produce 25 per cent more trash.” That might not seem like much at first, but when you think about the amount the average person already produces and Canada’s population of 37 million, it really starts to add up.

Additionally, standard, wax-covered gift wrap can’t be recycled. Not to mention any tinsel, bows, or tape.

• READ MORE: Skip the glitter to save animals when holiday crafting, B.C. group says

Glitter is an even worse offender. Those microplastics and their ease of travel cause them to get everywhere. I’m sure anyone who’s so much as breathed in its direction knows the struggle. It totals up to a shocking “545,000 tonnes of waste generated [just] from gift wrapping and shopping bags each year.”

Now I can hear you saying “Wait! This is horrible and all, but gifts help people get closer, and it’s fun to see what others would get you! Why should we get rid of gift giving entirely?” I mean, yes — gift giving is definitely linked to stronger connections and happiness. It’s been rooted in our psychology since the cavemen era.

Gift giving, simply put, makes both the giver and the recipient feel happier. However, the point of this piece isn’t to tell you that all gifts are a waste. It’s to convince you to be more conscientious of the gifts you are giving. After all, both of you will get more satisfaction if the gift is something they’ll truly use and enjoy, as opposed to something they’ll enjoy in the moment and forget about later.

While some may argue that they prefer tangible, material items because they can keep them forever, a good alternative would be to gift someone an experience. With an experience, you’re given something to look forward to, something to cherish in the moment, and something to fondly look back on for the rest of your life. If you enjoy it during, you’re probably only going to have good memories and feelings towards it forever, whereas an item only holds as much value to you as you decide in that moment. An additional perk of experiences is that they rarely end up in landfills. For example, a nice restaurant dinner will do much less harm than an ugly, itchy sweater you’ll never wear.

• READ MORE: How to make holiday gift-giving eco-friendly – and more meaningful

Nowadays, the holidays have become more materialistic than ever. People focus on how expensive the gift is, rather than the practicality or longevity of it. Typing anything along the lines of “gift opening” iinto the YouTube search bar will undeniably present you with videos upon videos of people opening piles of pointless, forgettable gifts.

However, as previously mentioned, this type of behaviour has dire consequences for our planet.

Furthermore, opening one, truly meaningful gift, will forever hold more value than a hundred meaningless ones.

So, next time you’re struggling to find a gift for someone, think not about the price or the instant gratification, but rather the value it’ll hold for them, and the memories that will come from it.

Kiari Alatrash, Walnut Grove


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