The scenes from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation replay in my mind every year during the holiday season. This year, I couldn’t help but think about the volume of resources used in the Griswold’s Christmas traditions as they cut Christmas trees, hang wreaths, string lights, and spread holiday cheer by sending cards and wrapping gifts.
The parallels to the real world are obvious: the mass of resources used every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is staggering.
This year, Cyber Monday sales were up 33 percent over 2010 sales, setting a new record. It's hard to read the statistics and not wonder whether this increased economic activity has enhanced our lives - and if it has, by how much, for how long, and how many resources were put into circulation to generate the benefits from all this activity.
Fortunately, there is a dMASS trend afoot in gift giving! For example, today's electronics deliver more function with less mass than ever before. Gift card sales were even higher than those for electronics. With Groupon and Lifesta, recipients can use their virtual gift cards to access local deals. Gift Rocket "combines the thoughtfulness of a gift certificate with the flexibility of cash.” American Express and Visa have essentially the same offering, though they require the recipient to have a physical prepaid gift card in hand. Plastic Jungle, Card Pool, Gift Card Rescue and Card Woo are gift card exchanges where people can buy and sell unused gift cards.
Gift Simple acts as a sort of gift registry to leverage one’s social network and consolidate the gift giving and receiving process. Though tacky from a traditional standpoint, this gifting process does save resources if it helps create a better match between gifts and recipients. When people receive gifts they want and will actually use, fewer resources are wasted on manufacturing goods that sit idle, generating no benefits at all. It also means fewer resources wasted on shipping returns.
As Christmas nips at our heels and last minute shoppers struggle to identify the perfect gift, we have some suggestions to help. You can now gift apps , ebooks, subscriptions (e.g., Hulu, Netflix), a virtual library membership, spa experiences, or restaurant gift cards. Know someone who has everything? How about giving the gift of time or customized virtual real estate: give a domain name! If you need more ideas for a weightless gift giving guide, you can find useful articles on gifts you can’t unwrap here .
All of us at dMASS want to express our gratitude for your support during the past year. We wish you a joyous holiday season!