10 December 2008

Go Grinch Green This Holiday

I have to admit that I used to dread the holiday season with the same amount of trepidation I typically reserve for getting fillings, or visiting the MVA. I worked retail through high school and most of college, and the holiday season from behind the counter was one never-ending nightmare. The amount of things purchased- the quantity of paper used to wrap purchases, and the bags to cart them home, and the wrapping paper and the bows and ribbons and all the multitude of trappings that seemed to accompany the holiday turned my eco-sensitive stomach on an annual basis.

Now I flat out refuse to set foot in a store from November onward- and I’ve found this to be a much better approach to the holidays. What shopping I do I manage during the year- either from local vendors, where I find unique hand crafted items for the people on my list, or, for the more difficult giftees (my dad), I use the internet to find ecofriendly stores who ship with a minimum of packaging and donate proceeds to minimizing their carbon footprint.

But really, by and large, I don’t buy gifts at all.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute. No, I’m not a Grinch- I just know that most of my friends share my sentiment for gifts that have no particular purpose- bottles of lotion and the umpteenth scarf and who knows what else. I have more than enough STUFF, thanks. When I give gifts, I aim for things I know will be appreciated. This is why most of my friends receive cupcakes, often accompanied by a bottle of wine.

We prefer to take a more traditional approach to the Christmas season, making it more about visiting and spending time together, celebrating the season over a good bottle of wine and delicious baked goods, preferring to exchange cookies and clementines rather than objects we know none of us will use. If you think about it, this is how Christmas used to be- a celebration of the season, where people exchanged special treats of cakes and candied fruits and spirits, and all the children got a new toy to last them until the next year. Possibly immediate family members would make something special for one another, or include a small gift carefully selected for the recipient. But gift giving was not an obligation in the sense that you had to go out and buy something for every person you crossed paths with on a regular basis (and especially not for people you saw maybe once a year).

This method is not only less stressful (and in my opinion, far more enjoyable than endless hours spent stressing over what to buy the people in my life), but is much more ecofriendly. Most websites will offer holiday green tips such as reusing wrapping paper and packaging materials, but I find I don’t use them at all. There’s nothing to throw away (we recycle the wine bottles) and nothing leftover to clutter our lives except the warm memories of evenings spent laughing and eating.

It may take some doing to convince your family to go more traditional, but I find most of the people I talk to are more than willing to adopt a less materialistic attitude toward the holiday- only they are afraid their own families won’t go along with the plan. I suspect we are all wishing for a way out of the hectic, stressful, topped with a bow holiday lifestyle we seem to be stuck in- and if this holiday, we turned and reached out to one another with our hands instead of our wallets, we’d find others just as willing to accept our gifts of good cheer. There’s a lesson to be learned from How the Grinch Stole Christmas: “He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming- it came! It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before- maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store- maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Remember the Grinch, after all, is green.

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