Make Memories, Not Waste

Make memories not waste this holiday

Gift-giving and low waste can happily co-exist.

Studies show that experiences bring more happiness to people than stuff. Anticipating an experience—a trip, an upcoming concert, dinner with friends—makes us happy before the actual event. In other words, we benefit from the experience before we actually experience the experience. Afterward, we have fond memories. And even if the experience goes badly, we still have a good story to tell, which also brings happiness when we regale people with it later: “Remember the time I caught poison oak on our camping trip because I made out in the bushes with that Richard guy?”

A week before the holidays—and holiday shopping—kick off, here’s a list of experiences that some of your loved ones may appreciate. No wrapping required.

Entertainment and leisure

Sports: Tickets to a sporting event, lift tickets, skating rink passes, yoga class passes, gym memberships

Cultural: Tickets to the symphony, ballet, opera, museum

TLC: Spa day, massage, haircut and style

Travel: Weekend getaway, campsite fees, train tickets

Online subscriptions: Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, the New York Times

Fond memories of skating in Yosemite


You can never really go wrong with a food gift:

  • Give homemade anything: cookies, cookie mix, candy, cake, kombucha
  • Create “coupons” for favorite dishes that the recipient can redeem at a future date
  • Invite friends out for dinner and pick up the tab
  • Throw a dinner party as your gift
  • Make a reservation at your dream restaurant. A couple I know ate at The French Laundry this summer to celebrate their anniversary.

The gift of learning

I came up with lots of ideas for this section and want to do most of them now:

  • Dance lessons: tango, salsa, ballet, jazz
  • Music lessons: piano, violin, voice, drums, guitar
  • Photography lessons
  • Knitting classes
  • Sewing classes
  • Weaving classes
  • Pottery classes
  • Painting and drawing classes
  • Meditation classes
  • Horseback riding lessons
  • Cooking classes, including fermentation classes 😉
  • Surfing lessons
  • Flying lessons
  • Skydiving lessons (okay I have zero desire to do this but my brother used to enjoy it)
  • Scuba diving lessons
  • Sailing lessons
  • Lecture series
One of my fermentation classes

Only-for-someone-you-know-EXTREMELY-well gifts

Personal trainer. I wouldn’t suggest you spring this on a friend or family member out of the blue, but if you know someone who would like to get started with a personal trainer and perhaps can’t afford it, consider setting this up for them.

Session with a dietician. I would love this as a gift. Also, it may help me convince the people close to me to eat better. The advice would come from the dietician, not me, so they may actually listen.

Session with a financial advisor. As with most of the suggestions in this section, know the recipient well. If someone close to you has said, “My financial life is a mess. What shall I do?” or “I can’t get out of debt, for the love of God please help me” you could help.

Session with a business planner. Know someone who wants to start a business and needs help getting started? Pay for a meeting with a business planner.

Personal organizer. Whether they have piles of papers everywhere that need to be filed away, or haven’t had time to arrange for a handyman to fix the broken shower drain or simply need someone to go grocery shopping for them, the overwhelmed, overworked and harried person on your list may love this one.

House cleaners. You don’t want to insult your messy hoarder brother but his apartment is filthy. Hire housecleaners for the day to clean it up. Try to find independents rather than use a service that pimps out housecleaners, pays them next to nothing and keeps all the profits. If you’re a better person than I, clean your brother’s bathroom yourself.

Therapist. Reading this suggestion, you may think I need therapy for suggesting it but please hear me out. A lot of people will soon lose their healthcare coverage. If you know someone who can no longer afford therapy and wants to continue, you could pay for a session or two if you can afford it (therapy isn’t cheap).

6 Replies to “Make Memories, Not Waste”

  1. Madeleine Lawrence says: Reply

    Some great ideas there, especially ones for people you know really well. Um, I’m asking my kids for a large, stainless steel strainer for Christmas, to replace the broken 31 year old one I’m currently using! My partner and I won’t exchange gifts – it’s great to be on the same page, and want time together rather than stuff 🙂

    Madeleine. x

  2. I would give my eye teeth for the gift of a house cleaner. I’ve mentioned it in passing to those who feel they need to buy us things, but so far, nada. Instead, I get more junk that I donate or just throw out. Believe me, I go to great lengths to avoid throwing things out, but sometimes, it just has to happen.

  3. I read this ( and thank you) right at the point when I am up to my ears in ‘stuff ‘ as I clear out my fathers home – so not only am I experiencing a challenging emotional time with seeing my beloved dad in a ‘rest home’ I am also dealing with a lifetime of belongings that are no longer necessary and many that were never necessary. and aside from those that contain an experiential footprint the rest are things that I am obliged to find a home for. it is no task for the fainthearted …
    many great suggestions offered
    good on you

  4. […] dell’attività stessa, dei bei ricordi. E se proprio dovesse andare male – come dice lo Zero Waste Chef – almeno avrete una nuova storia da raccontare […]

  5. Amazing ideas, Anne. You’ve put an awful lot of thought into this than just compiling internet links. Appreciate the effort. What do you think about gift sets from the School of Life?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Anuja. They look like nice gifts but I don’t order much stuff online. ~ Anne Marie

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