A consumer, as defined by the Cambridge online dictionary means to use up energy, fuel, time or food in especially large amounts. If a fire is said to consume a building, it literally means it destroys it completely. And us humans, we are consumers. We feel compelled to use up large amounts of resources at alarming rates.
Christmas, a time of giving, sharing and receiving, is just around the corner. A little less than 3 months to be exact. This is a time of enormous pressure for most people, as they feel a need to buy, buy, buy happiness by purchasing up large. Food and gifts fill their trollies as they rush around stores, chucking items in as if there is no tomorrow.
Thankfully, there is an increasing amount of people who are coming to their senses, and realising that all this “Buy, buy, buy” is not only putting them in debt, but also the happiness is short-lived indeed. Many “silly season” tokens are often bought for a laugh. A plastic trinket or object that will soon be discarded in the junk pile or second hand shop donation.
So how can we step off the fast track to consumerism, and walk casually toward the Sustainable Christmas Revolution? Easy. There are some ideas to consider, easily achieved and not only will they make your Christmas feel more real, but they are bound to bring a feeling of joy to others to. This does however, involve a little time thinking and planning, but don’t worry, you can start now, that way you won’t feel a panic attack as the Countdown to Christmas catches you with your pants down as you realise there’s only a week left to do your Christmas buying.
When our children were still young enough to understand the idea of gifting to loved ones, I told them to save their pocket money. Gifts can easily be bought (and easily dismissed and discarded), but gifts made with love are treasured for many years. A few weeks out of Christmas (and birthdays), our children would secret themselves away behind closed doors as they schemed and created gifts for us to hold sacred. The interesting side of this type of gifting, resulted in them becoming impatient to see our reactions. It became for them, more about gifting and watching our reactions than about what they would open for themselves. We received, and still treasure, many wonderful hand made gifts over the years.
Alternate Ideas to Traditional Gifts
- Think of the person you want to give a gift to, what do they need, or what is their interest or hobby? Make something they will treasure or use. For example, someone who is always complaining of the cold in winter would love a hot water bottle with hand-made cosy cover.
- Know someone with young children or a new garden? Why not gift them a “green gift”….. a fruit tree they can plant, which will give many more years of “giving” when it bears fruit.
- Time Vouchers are another idea we have trialled for the last two years. A family group all agree to not give gifts but rather time vouchers…each person gifts and in turn receives vouchers indicating an activity or time spent doing something of interest together. This way, we get to spent a concerted amount of time together, enjoying special time and memories for both giver and receiver. This can be as simple as a voucher for a massage, or walk on a beach.
- Christmas Crackers are a tradition for many families. Unfortunately, they are usually concealing nasty plastic toys which the Earth does not need more of. If you can’t do without this tradition, why not make your own crackers, and fill them with loving messages and useful gifts, say a packet of flower seeds, or small useful items (they can even be personalised, with names on).
- Instead of spending huge amounts of time making an insane amount of food for the one day of celebration, make a simple but special meal that your family can enjoy, and consider donating food to a local charity or food bank. Spread the love.
- Mystery Gifting or Secret Santa is an idea that often happens in people’s workplace Christmas Parties but can be replicated within family groups with a little care and organising. Each person draws a name out of a hat and is then responsible to gift something to that person. No names are mentioned so the gift is essentially gifted on behalf of the group. This can be specially hand made for that person, personalised and precious. This way, family members don’t feel pressurised to gift every member a gift (some families are rather large) but focus on the one person they have drawn.
- Some big family groups have a rule that excludes gifting to adults, and children are the only recipients of gifts. Again, please think about what you are gifting children…..cheap and nasty plastic toys that don’t foster imagination or sharing and caring don’t exactly spread the “joy” of the season.
These are just some ideas, I’m sure there are many, many other great ideas. Please feel free to add comments if you have some great ideas you would like to share.
Have a very Merry Sustainable Christmas Everyone! May you enjoy planning your very own sustainable Festive Season, and may you and your gifts spread Love, Light and Laughter.