Ahhhhhhh, the holiday season. ‘Tis the season of giving! And by giving, what we Americans really mean is buying stuff for people!
Before I put my foot in my mouth (or whatever the appropriate turn of phrase is when you are writing instead of talking), let me get a disclaimer out there. I’m fully supportive of the giving of gifts. I celebrate Christmas, and I can’t wait to see my little boy rip the wrapping paper off of the gifts we have for him (which will probably entertain him more than the gifts themselves). There is so much that is good about this time of year.
That said, sometimes the holidays can turn into forced consumerism, and that isn’t good. Remember, just because it’s the holiday season, that doesn’t mean the environmental footprint of what you buy disappears. It still takes fossil fuels to ship our gifts across the country. Santa’s elves are still assembling billions of pieces of plastic into toys for our children. Our landfills will still gobble up the old stuff we throw away to make room for our new stuff. There’s no such thing as an environmental hall-pass at the end of the year.
Here is my ask – please give to others, but give mindfully. Maybe there is a more environmentally friendly substitute for that perfect gift for you child. Perhaps you could give consumable goods rather than durable ones that will eventually languish in a landfill (my wife and I often give amazing salami or jerky from a charcuterie down the street). Experiential gifts, like tickets to an event, are great too.
Remember also that we can give the gift of service to others. A simple foray into this space is a donation to a favorite charity in someone’s honor. We gift my parents in this way. More advanced is to do something kind for the person you care for, rather than hand them a physical gift. You could even volunteer your time for a cause that you know your loved one cherishes.
Lastly, I want to share an idea with you all, and if any of you decide to try it this year, please reach out to me and tell me how it goes. Let’s call it a “green elephant exchange.”
You may be familiar with a white elephant gift exchange, wherein each person brings a wrapped gift to a party, ultimately leaving the party with something that another person brought. You take turns opening the gifts, stealing ones you like from other people, and hopefully enjoying yourself in the process.
Instead of opening and stealing physical items that you may or may not actually want, what if everyone brought a sealed envelope that contains a promise to do something good, either for yourself, another person, or the environment? Someone might bring, “I will go hiking one Saturday in my nearest state park.” Someone else might bring, “I will volunteer one afternoon at my local Boys and Girls Club.” I bet people would fight over “I will take a vacation day from work to sleep in, read a book at a coffee shop, watch a movie in the middle of the day, and cook a meal for a loved one.” Sounds pretty great, right?
I wish you all many blessings during this special season. Let’s love others, give generously, and be mindful that gifts are about a lot more than buying stuff.