Choosing the right gift is always a challenge. You need to know something about the recipient — what kind of thing would they enjoy? You need a budget — what’s the right amount to spend? You might also consider the world at large — how can you give a gift that maintains or improves the health of our planet? Should you buy something that can be wrapped up and put under the tree, or is a gift of experience more appropriate?
For many adults, and even children, more “stuff” is not what they want or need. “I really think that gifts of experience and gifts of time are the best,” says Nina Hitchen, founder of Plastic Free MV. Noli Taylor of IGI echoes that sentiment. “My take on gifts is to give experiential gifts rather than stuff. I bought my daughter a knitting lesson at Vineyard Knitworks and it was so fun. I took my son to a play,” Taylor says. Some experience gifts, like Broadway shows or charter sailing, can be expensive, but there are reasonable, common-place options like tickets to local shows, or just to the movies.
If you do choose to buy a physical gift, there are many options that don’t deplete non-renewable natural resources and aren’t packaged in excess plastic. Excess packaging is hard to avoid when you’re ordering from online retailers, so buying local is a step in the right direction.
Young children are easy to please with toys of all kinds. Tisbury Toy Box has Green Toys, brightly colored trucks, boats, tea sets and more, made of recycled plastic, and ocean-themed stuffed animals made of recycled plastic. They also have lots of Melissa and Doug wooden toys and a variety of blocks, including a Ryan’s Room Bag o’ Blocks which come in a cloth bag. “I also carry wooden teethers and rattles made by Maple Landmark in Vermont as well as other organic baby items,” says store owner Kate Salop. Wooden toys tend to be more durable than their plastic counterparts, and can be passed down from one child to the next, or from generation to generation.
Older children, tweens and teens can be a bit pickier than they were as toddlers. I have been surprised to find that my tween really likes reusable straws, which could make a nice stocking stuffer or small gift. Stainless steel water bottles and travel mugs are useful, save on plastic, and many of them look great. There are styles for every age group except the tiniest infants. LeRoux has a wide variety, from utilitarian-styled Thermos containers to the very shiny S’well bottles, tumblers, and more. To add a local political endorsement, you can buy Plastic Free MV gear, including straws and water bottles, at the West Tisbury School store every school-day morning.
Bags are a handy and fun gift for most age groups, too. Attractive, recycled and reusable bags from Blue Q Bags are available at Alley’s, Rainy Day, and more. For adults with kitchens, dish towels and cloth napkins can make colorful and stylish gifts. Beeswax candles, beautiful-smelling soaps, and more small gifts can be found in the aisles of Cronig’s and at other local stores, or you can go to the Farmer’s Market for locally made Flat Point Farm goat milk soaps.
A final option is to eschew the new. If your gift-recipient appreciates quirky, vintage items, try shopping at Chicken Alley in Vineyard Haven or the MV Boys and Girls Club Second Hand Store in Edgartown. Not only will you be finding something unique, you’ll be supporting local services that Islanders need throughout the year.
When you get home from your shopping excursion, whether it’s Dec. 1 or Christmas Eve, one final task remains: wrapping. Most gift-wrapping paper is non-recyclable, so look for alternatives. The easiest thing is to keep the wrapping minimal – maybe just a reusable ribbon. Alternately, you can decorate old paper bags to wrap the gift or find a large square of cotton to tie up in a neat package (see mymodernmet.com/fabric-gift-wrap/ for more). Finally, relax and enjoy the holidays!