Reviews | Holiday gifts? Try to buy nothing new this season


The extent to which my community embraces second-hand goods may be unusual, but according to Goodwill International, which has more than 3,300 stores in the United States and Canada, sales for the period March to August 2021 increased further. by 11% over the same period in 2019. Online retailer ThredUp cites research that the second-hand clothing market in the United States will double over the next five years, reaching $ 77 billion.

All of this is good news for the planet: it somewhat reduces the movement of things around the world and the extraction of the natural resources needed to produce new earrings, small cars and more. of puzzles. It also saves some items from landfills while they may still offer some use or joy. But I know this won’t solve our environmental crises – we need much more radical changes led by big business and governments.

Nor is it at the root of what drives consumer culture. Swapping new for used doesn’t really reduce the urge to consume, JB MacKinnon, author of The Day The World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves The Environment, told me. and ourselves ”. “If we maintain the mindset of the consumer, we will always end up coming back to the same problem of simply consuming too much energy and too many resources, whatever form of consumption we make, even circular or shared”, said Mr MacKinnon said.

I like Mr. MacKinnon’s suggestion that time spent together chatting, going for a walk, or preparing a meal is far more meaningful than anything you can unwrap. And I agree that the ritual of handing over items purchased while posing in matching family pajamas can actually hamper the human connection most of us seek while on vacation.

But realistically, I’m not sure my family will ever give up Christmas presents. My mom’s annual Yankee Exchange – you might know it as a “white elephant” gift party – is a real highlight of the season. However, we can make some changes. In his book, Mr. MacKinnon suggests that even a gradual reduction in our household consumption could help the environment, without crippling the global economy.

To me, finding ways to replace the new with the second-hand feels more like a treasure hunt than an obligation. Seeking and sharing things reminds me that I live in a place of abundance and makes me feel connected to others. Last year in December, a local mom set up two long tables on her porch and invited other parents to drop off small toys, books, hats, mittens – anything that could make a good stocking. Xmas. I came with a bag full of toy cars, plastic animals, hardback books, and stickers, things my kids had lost interest in or ignored. I left with a bag that frankly wasn’t that different, but it was new to us and better reflected their current interests.

It probably saved me $ 50, but it was a helpful reminder that our stuff is not who we are. The plastic snakes and wooden blocks I swept from under the sofa don’t have to be mine forever. I have a community to share them with, one that I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of.

This year, I may propose to set up the exchange table myself.

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