Give a better gift

Give a better gift

Lillian Connolly , Journalism 1 Student

Last year as Christmas got closer and closer I began to stress out realizing, “oh shoot I still don’t have gifts for anyone!” Between homework and sports, I couldn’t find time to go Christmas shopping. I usually like to get people meaningful gifts- something that I know will make them laugh, or something that’s actually useful.  Last year, I just got people stuff instead. 

This is an issue across our country. Last year UPS expected 8.75 million gifts to be returned, and according to RetailDive, 5 billion pounds of returned gifts end up in landfills. What if we could just avoid this unnecessary trash in the first place?

Cindy Chan, assistant professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says experiential gifts are better to give than material ones.

“An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it- like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa- and is more intensely emotional than a material possession,” Chan says.

Of course, you don’t have to give someone a safari adventure. You could just give someone the gift of your time and presence. For my birthday last year, my friends brought me out to lunch. This was during my busy season with the insanity of the end of the semester and my afternoons and weekend mornings spent at Nordic practice. This simple gift of a cup of coffee with my friends was far more valuable to me than any material gift I could’ve gotten.

According to ScienceDirect, people experience more anticipatory happiness, enduring happiness and remembered happiness when given an experiential gift than when given a material gift. I find that often when I get a material gift, I love it for a little while, but over time I start to forget about it. This is not the case for me with experiential gifts. I remember them for longer and the memories bring back the happiness I felt in the moment.

In addition to making both the giver and receiver happier, experiential gifts can make our planet happier too. Material gifts come with their own environmental footprint. They often require fossil fuels for manufacturing and shipping. They can deplete natural resources such as precious metals and jewels. Once they are used or thrown away they go to landfills where they take up space and release methane as they decompose.

Gift-giving is a fun tradition, and it feels good to see people’s reactions when they open your gift. But our materialistic society puts pressure on gift-giving which can make it more stressful than fun. This is the opposite of what the holidays should be about. Holidays should be a time to just be present and enjoy your time with family and friends. If you’re trying to think of gifts for your friends or family this holiday season, consider an experiential gift. Your friend, the earth, and your future self will thank you.