If you are looking for gifts this season either for Hanukkah, Christmas, the Winter Solstice or whatever you celebrate, I would like to request you think about the environment. Remember all that paper you wrap gifts with comes from trees and contains chemical dyes, The decorations you buy, especially the inflatable snow globes on the front lawn, are basically items awaiting the landfill. Many artificial trees are made of plastic that will be around longer than Christmas itself will. This is all stuff we will eventually throw away. The catch is when you say “away” where is that?
Each year dozens of people buy a “little something” for their neighbors, the mailman, Johnny’s teacher’s pet hamster, etc….Many of those gifts are meaningful because we are taking time to show others we care about them and we were thinking of them during the holiday. We do try our best not to forget anyone or let anyone think for a moment they were not considered this season. The problem is that many of these thoughtful gifts are not things people need or want. Cheap vases, small figurines, plastic ornaments, plastic cookie boxes are all gifts that sound just lovely and use tons of fossil fuels to create. Plastic ornaments are actually made from fossil fuels, then transported from China on huge ships that burn fossil fuels, then shipped in trucks to Walmart while burning even more fossil fuels. One could guess it takes several barrels of oil just to make one little smiling plastic Grinch ornaments to hang on your tree.
The holidays are a time to gather with friends, family, and coworkers and celebrate our human community. It has also become the heart and soul of capitalism and our ongoing addiction to “stuff” we don’t need, won’t keep, and eventually will “throw away” wherever “away” might be. I would like to make just a few suggestions. Most of these came because I myself am going to some friend’s house over the holiday and I don’t want to buy stupid little gifts just to give a gift. I want to give people gifts that they can use and enjoy that won’t be landfill material later. These ideas of based on what I read and also what I have observed from the last 40 years of holidays.
For off: Thousands, if not millions of people have been buying stupid little figurines, cheap vases and holiday ornaments for decades. You can find many of them in landfills and you can also find them in second hand stores, antique shops and holiday rummage sales. Rather than buying new stuff to add to the cycle of regifts, buy ones that are already in the regifting system. There are some great gifts waiting to be found at the local second hand store. (Remember to re-use and recycle)
Second, avoid gift baskets of “products” that are bottled up in plastics. Only around 1% of all the plastics we make are actually recycled. While shampoo and hand cream do make nice gifts all the extra packaging involved in this baskets is going to be trash. The basket itself may also be made of plastic. If you are going to do gift baskets, make them. Go to a second hand shop and buy a basket (reuse) and then fill it with up with products that people would use anyway rather than stuff they will throw away. Skip the plastic bow too!
Buy local goodies! Chances are your local area has at least one winery, gift shop, bakery or candy store where the products are made locally. Giving gifts made locally means less fossil fuels were used in the production of the products. Wine, cheese, candles, pies and candies are just some of the items you are likely to find locally that make great gifts with little packaging. Buying local means that trucks and ships were not used to ship stuff all over the place.
Organic Coffee and Tea is a great gift for people. Buying organic means that no chemicals or pesticides were used in the production of the products. You can buy these locally too! Depending where you live, it is likely you can find local stores who are roasting their own coffee beans and who care where those beans came from. Some coffee beans where grown in places using slave child labor, or by companies that take advantage of their workers. When you buy organic, also read the label to see from which country the beans where shipped and how they were harvested. If it doesn’t say it came from people friendly places, it might not have. I proudly endorse my favorite coffee which I still buy when I can….The Coffee Exchange in Providence, Rhode Island.
When possible, use this season as a teaching moment and explain to your kids why they don’t need the “big” gift of the season. Each year toy companies create hot items they claim will be impossible to get. Lines will go around the corner to get these items while truckloads of them will sit ready to feed the frenzy. Commercials will convince children that it won’t be Christmas if they don’t get “X” gift. This may be the first chance you get to prevent your child from being indoctrinated into the world of materialism and stuff-based society. Capitalism teaches us that we need something outside and extrinsic to be happy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Parents often think they are making their kids happy by getting them cabbage patch kids, tickle me elmo or xbox 360. In reality, parents do more harm than good by teaching kids they need a “Zu-Zu Pet” to be happy. Teach them young that to be happy, they need to learn to like themselves without the perfect jeans, the perfect bike, the perfect [fill in blank with “stuff” item] because the greatest gift you can give a child is the ability to find inner happiness without Zu-Zu pets.
I would think and hope that by now, you get the point I am trying to make with this article. Think about the products you buy this season. Avoid excessive packaging and for god sake avoid thinking that any item you can buy is worth trampling other human beings at the opening of the doors of a store. Try to buy items that people need rather than stuff you give just to have a gift to give. Make donations in their name to the food pantry or their favorite charity. There are endless ways to keep the spirit of the season without killing the earth, killing our souls and teaching our children that all this material crap is the path to peace and Happiness.
Enjoy Your Holidays and remember that Peace! It’s not just for Christmas anymore!
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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