What if others aren’t on board? Troubleshooting low-waste gift giving

Troubleshooting low-waste gift giving

I get a lot of questions about one particular problem when it comes to minimal and low-waste gift giving: what about well-meaning loved ones who just don’t get it?

It’s tough, I know. Whether it’s a very generous grandparent who wants to shower your child with gifts or an aunt who doesn’t respect your wishes for experience gifts, it can sometimes feel like no one understands what you’re trying to do or why. Here’s how I handle the situation.

A personalized approach

Really, the approach that works best depends on the person, and you know them best! Some people appreciate upfront honesty, while other people are more sensitive. It’s important to recognize the love and care that typically goes into gift-giving, and show the gift-giver that you appreciate the gesture.

Here are a few examples of approaches that might work, depending on the person.

  • Share your concerns about environmental topics during regular conversation, and then eventually mention these topics in relation to the holidays. For people you see frequently, this might be a good option, because it won’t seem out of the blue.
  • Mention your desire to keep things minimal due to space restrictions (perhaps you, like me, live in a small space).
  • Ask for cash toward education, experiences, or a larger gift. Mention, for example, “my son’s class is fundraising for a school trip and he’d really appreciate contributions toward it!”
  • Alternatively, ask for gifts that last! Check out Metro Vancouver’s “Merry Memory Maker” app in the “Create memories, not garbage” website for gift recommendations at any budget.
  • Be upfront and direct with a friend who asks what you want for Christmas. Say, “honestly, nothing at all, but why don’t we go out for lunch instead?”
  • If your children are old enough and on board, have them broach the subject with relatives directly.
  • Create a blog, Instagram page, and business all about sustainability and write about these topics, so absolutely everyone knows how you feel. Just kidding, of course, but honestly, it works well for me! 😉

An across-the-board approach

Those with small children may have relatives ask them about gifts before the holidays. This is a perfect opportunity to send a wish list! If you think a wish list may be well-received by your family, I’d highly recommend it. Here’s an example that I have used in the past for my son, and it can be reworked for birthdays too:

Hi everyone,

We’re so excited for [insert child’s name] third Christmas!

If you’re looking to gift something, here are a few suggestions.

We always love non-material gifts like contributions toward his education fund, money for lessons or activities, or passes for an experience/outing [insert some local attractions]. As you know, we have a very small space and live minimally, trying to choose eco-friendly, long-lasting, and open-ended toys. We also love secondhand toys!

If you’d like to buy a physical gift, we would be very grateful for one of the following:

  • A chalkboard/easel
  • Age-appropriate puzzles
  • Books (please check with me first to avoid duplicates)
  • Hand puppets
  • [change this list based on your wishes and your child’s wishes]

Thank you so much! I’m happy to chat if you have any questions. 🙂


[insert your name]

Know when to let it go

At the end of the day, you can’t change everyone, and sometimes it’s important to accept the gift and be grateful. If you receive something that is not a suitable gift, kindly thank the gift-giver and consider donating the gift to charity later on.

This post was sponsored by Metro Vancouver’s Create Memories, not Garbage campaign.


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