10 December, 2023

Being a Small Part of Something Big

This year, we’ve taken a three-part approach to our annual gift guide. We start with self-focused gifts because some of us may need a reminder to “put on your own oxygen mask first.” But, to employ another cliche, “giving is better than receiving,” so we also have some great suggestions for your loved ones and colleagues. Finally, as the year comes to a close, we’re all taking stock and making resolutions. To that end, we have some giving suggestions aimed at making our planet healthier and a bit happier for everyone. Scroll on down to ‘On our minds’ for the full list!

On our minds

Looking for ways to treat yourself this season?

Why not invest in art? The price tag of a Basquiat or Picasso can be prohibitive, but Masterworks buys and trades multimillion dollar art and sells shares to investors. This allows you to diversify your portfolio with an asset that has a demonstrably high return (nearly four percent higher than the S&P), even if you don’t have a large sum to play with.

While your investments are working overtime, make your own workspace cozier with a Keap Candle subscription. Keap makes small-batch candles from clean-burning coconut wax. They’re packaged in reusable tumblers for zero-waste. Just as importantly, they smell fabulous. (If you’ve followed our work awhile, you know PLASTARC loves to promote a multisensory approach to design, in big and small ways.) Our team also appreciates the portable, desktop-sized Happylight Therapy Lamps, which help your brain create extra-serotonin during these short days. (We’ve written about how important this is for our often underappreciated circadian rhythm.)

If you’re tired of sitting all day but aren’t totally in love with standing desks, try this ergonomic kneeling desk chair. First unveiled in 1979 by Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik, it relieves back pressure while encouraging you to move throughout the day, without even thinking about. (Arguably it looks a lot better than those giant yoga-balls as well.) If you need a quick reset, these SmartGoggles use biometric data to relieve eye-strain, reduce anxiety and lower your heart rate. They double as a high-tech sleep mask.

We all know the holidays can be both a delightful and a stressful time. Don't forget to take time out for yourself and focus on what supports being your best self. Focus on new year resolutions that you really want to accomplish. In preparation you might consider for yourself: a yoga subscription (virtual or physical), a mindfulness or meditation app, a personal coach, or explore a new sport. (We enjoy mountain biking with kids.)

What about treating others (the way you’d want to be treated)?

We love delightful design, and the handwoven lamps from artist Nathalie Miebach check all the boxes. They’re unique and playful, serving as both a cheerful light-source and a sculptural art object. They’d make a perfect gift for a design-conscious loved one, whether they’re young-in-age or young-at-heart.

Need another gift for an art-lover? Artlifting partners with differently-abled artists and those facing housing insecurity to create fine art at various price points (prints or originals), as well as entire wall coverings. They also have printed journals, coffee mugs, wrapping paper, greeting cards and more. You can search for artists in your recipient’s home state or commission a one-of-a-kind piece.

Who doesn’t love a fluffy cookie? The Macaroon of the Month club could be a delicious fit for a wide range of folks on your list, from siblings to clients. They’re the gift that keeps on giving— a tiny batch of lighter-than-air, melt-on-your-tongue-sunshine shipped fresh each month, every month of the year.

Know a kid (or adult!) who could use a bit of levity at dinnertime? Need a white elephant gift? Know someone looking to start a lively Instagram account? Encourage a friend to showcase their day-to-day creativity with the affordable Ms. Food Face plate.

Gifts with a Local-to-Global Lens

PLASTARC’s goal is to make the world better, one workplace at a time. In alignment with that goal, we’ve made this list of some things to do and give (and some organizations to give to).

Your friend or colleague may love these adorable, reusable paper towels as much as we do, from a company with the goal of freeing the ocean of plastic. Along those same lines, these biodegradable undies would make a great stocking stuffer, and the company plants a tree with every order. Know someone who needs to compost in a small space? This countertop gadget turns food scraps into compost in just three hours.

Community fridges are a decentralized food bank movement, where anyone is allowed to take what they need from a fridge on a sidewalk, usually powered by an extension cord to someone’s house. Figure out where the nearest community fridge is (usually a quick internet search will guide you) and fill it up. It’s not just a great example of mutual aid, it’s a cool use of public space.

Speaking of public space, since its founding in 1972, the Trust for Public Lands has protected over three million acres for parks and public use, in addition to publishing data on conservation, climate change, and other related topics. The Trust has also helped pass over 500 conservation-related ballot initiatives. If you care as much about healthy spaces as we do, it may be a nonprofit you’d like to fiscally support.

We think of Wikipedia as the “public land” of the web. Anyone can use it, it’s ad-free, and the platform doesn’t sell your private info. You don’t have to write 1700+ articles about female scientists (as one incredible Wikipedia contributor/ scientist has). Currently, only two-percent of users donate. Let’s boost that number!

Give someone the biggest gift ever; sign up to be a bone marrow donor. The new documentary, American Symphony has raised awareness for the need for donors. The film tracks Grammy-winner John Batiste’s quest to write a symphony, as his 35-year-old wife, Suleika Jaouad, undergoes leukemia treatment for the second time. Only four percent of the donors on the National Registry are Black, which makes it much harder for Black patients to find a match.

A lot is happening globally this holiday season, and it’s easy to be distracted by all the darkness. But in these challenging days, we wish you light and moments of both levity and agency, where you feel confident that you know what you need to do and are able to get out there and do it.  See you in the new year!

From the archives

Got more people on your list than gifts on our guide? Check out these “ghosts of gift guides past.” In 2021, we focused on recycling and reusing, in the spirit of deacquisition – as many companies tried to figure out what to do with excess office space. In 2019, we wrote about gadgets and refreshment, taking a wide interpretation of the latter.

In addition to gifts, at the end of 2022, we were thinking about how to redirect data and accommodations made to keep us Covid-safe into ways to track and enhance worker delight. And around this time way back in 2015, we were talking to our clients, Mozilla, about their open source workplace.

In the spirit of commonality, even in divisive times, we’ll leave you with a crowdsourced holiday poem created by Kwame Alexander and Minnesota Public Radio listeners a few holiday seasons ago. It’s entitled “Thank You, America.”

In Case You Missed It

Right now, we’re all running in a million directions. It’s easy to miss a few things in the holiday bustle, but we’ve got your cheat-sheet right here.

Flexible, Fluid Spaces

Check out this recap of or presentation from Tradeline Space Strategies, featuring our unique blend of case studies and recent research on using pilot programs to test flexible spaces and drive ABW adoption.

Reframing the Issue

At CoreNet’s recent Global Summit, PLASTARC joined client-leaders of two financial institutions to discuss forgoing “back to the office” mandates in favor of transforming the office into a cultural hub.

You Do You, When You Want

We wouldn’t call synchronicity overrated, but the many benefits of asynchronous work are often under-recognized. PLASTARC outlined these benefits in our most recent webinar.

Piecing it Together

How might tech, real estate, and facilities leaders collectively use data to figure out the best utilization of space? PLASTARC speaks with Enterprise Connect to explore the latest options.

Turn Back Time

Last month our newsletter was about nurturing workers of all-ages. Recently the largest X Prize ever was announced: $101 million to the team that can “turn back time” at least a decade on cognitive, immune, or muscular function in older adults.

Looking Ahead

2024 is nothing but possibility! Maybe some of these events should fill the space on your calendar. You can always catch up with our goings-on via the event listings on our website.

Get your Data Unstuck!

PLASTARC’s upcoming webinar helps you move beyond a plethora of predictions by using data to prioritize and take action, rather than becoming overwhelmed. Join us online Dec. 14 at 1:00 PM EST.

Forced Labor in Design & Construction?

AIANY hosts Design for Freedom’s Brigid Abraham in the first of a three-part series on how architects and designers can increase transparency along the supply chain, to avoid human rights abuse. Happening Dec. 12 from 6-8 PM EST, in New York.

Mix it Up, Social Science Style!

Action Design Network, which promotes the use of neuro and behavioral science in policy and product design, is hosting a holiday mixer on Dec. 12 at 6 PM EST, in New York.

AI in Architecture

Curious about AI’s role in architecture? Join other knowledge-seekers in this day-long event at AIANY exploring new possibilities. Happening in New York on Dec. 16.

Explore the Future of Financial

Interested in what changing work trends look like in the financial sector? We'll see you at this conference bringing together all things financial, from real estate, to office design, to tech. Happening in New York on Feb. 2, 2024.