Skip the Stuff, Give an Experience

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

By Jessica Keith

Not to be unappreciative, but I really don’t need any gifts at the holidays. And by “gifts,” I mean “stuff” — clothing, kitchenware, electronics — stuff that I don’t really need and stuff that puts a strain on our environment to produce.

I decided this after college when I found myself relatively financially secure. With needs met — a decent shelter with everything I need in it, moderately fashionable clothes (please say they are), good food, and yes, even some fun “extra” stuff not essential for my well-being on Earth — I was set. And I still am.

I’m pretty proud of my efforts to cut down on the amount of items I accumulate. And I try to stick to my guns, even during the holiday season when everyone and their mother (hi, mom!) delights in surrounding loved ones with twinkling packages full of stuff they just know they’re gonna love.

But “sticking to my guns” has taken on a few shapes during the years. At first, I tried to request no gifts at all. Too much, too soon! Then I tried to reroute my gifts to charities. But darn it, the nice people in my life who love me just wanted to give to me.

Enter the “experience” gift. It turns out, people can deal with this. They know they’re giving you something you want to do, they’re helping you make memories and they’re doing their part to leave a lighter footprint on our planet during the holiday season.

To each their own when it comes to enjoyable experiences, but I’ll get you started by sharing some of my favorite ideas:

1) Lecture tickets. Fill your brain and impress your friends.

2) Campground reservation. Too much for you? Upgrade to a cabin. Need camping tips? We’ve got you (and your little ones) covered.

3) Bowling gift certificate. You know you love it. Don’t be embarrassed.

4) National Parks pass. Many states have a national park. If yours doesn’t, check out the next state over — road trip!

5) Zoo or museum membership. Year-round fun; this is the gift that will keep on giving.

6) Fill-in-the-blank class. Painting, cooking, photography (or that weird, new fitness class you’ve secretly been wanting to try!).

7) Concert tickets. Rock. On. We have a few suggestions.

8) Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership. A gift for you and the local farmers you’ll be supporting.

9) Restaurant gift certificate. May I suggest one? Check out these Nature’s Plate winners!

10) Massage. Ugh. The holidays can be rough. Go relax.

What experiences will you add to your wish list? Let us know in the comments section on the right!

Jessica Keith is a Marketing Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio.

[Image: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. Image source: discopalace/Flickr via a Creative Commons license]