Saturday, December 13, 2008

Greening the gift exchange

The office gift exchange. It's the one thing I dread about the holiday season.

There are few things I like worse about Christmastime than buying a random, $5-10 gift that would be acceptable to any or all of my co-workers. By over-generalizing to our staff, the end result is that you're off to shop for a gift card, a bottle of wine or treats, or some cheap thing from the Target dollar spot to fill your sack for the trade. It's impersonal, and it bothers me to no end.

This year, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of the usual Starbucks gift card, I headed next door to a new gift shop in the strip mall where I work. I was able to shop locally, help support our local economy and hopefully keep a new business in business, something that's tricky to do these days.

Wow. Eight dollars can do a lot!

Voting with your dollars makes sense this holiday season, or at any time for that matter. I probably could have bought a gift similar to it at Wal-Mart or another chain store, but it was nice to help out a new business in town.

There are other ways to help make your office gift exchange a little greener, or at the very least, a little more local:

Buy organic or locally produced coffees, wines or foods. We received Endangered Species Chocolate in our bags this year from our bosses (which hit both criteria for us!).

Make it yourself. One of the most coveted gifts in our office has been a co-worker's offer to bake cookies for the recipient. A batch of homemade cookies was never fought over so much!

Buy the gift of time. Limited by the dollar funds? Offer to take that person out to try out the local restaurant of their choice.

Going generic? If you're stumped and reaching for a candle or holiday craft, at least purchase it at the one of hundreds (so it seems) of craft fairs going on this holiday season.

If you must buy the gift card, buy it for a local business as opposed to a chain.

What does your workplace do? Have you finally tossed the gift exchange? Or have you come up with fun alternatives to this tradition?


Farmer's Daughter said...

We don't exchange at my work. With so many teachers, it would be too much. My department instead has a luncheon and we all bring something. It's a nice little party for us to enjoy without giving gifts. And unlike in elementary school, high school teachers don't get presents from all their students! Every now and then I get a nice card from one of them. I give them all candy canes on the day before vacation, and that's it. And right about now, we're all ready for vacation!!!

Kim said...

I don't have a workplace but we have a few gift exchanges going on with groups we belong to. One exchanges ornaments, they don't care whether they are cute or ugly, new or used. The second group has a generic gift exchange but we all try to stay with an equine theme since it's a horse riding group. This year I'm bringing homemade placemats in horse fabric wrapped in a reusable drawstring bag (also homemade). Both groups play a game while exchanging the gifts so it's more about that than what's inside the package anyways.