Simple little things to reduce your carbon footprint #5: A leaner winter holiday


Today I present an idea that invites to you be a bit more introspective than the points I’ve brought up before, but can produce an extremely positive impact on our environment if you choose to stick to it.   At first it may seem that you’re giving up a lot, but I believe in the long term, you’ll be doing yourself, and the environment, a favour.

Less is more

Now that November has come around, some of us may start thinking about the next big winter holiday.  We’ll have our list of people for whom we need to buy gifts with various other chores on our to-do list.

So, what if you considered not participating in the gift-giving activities of Christmas and Hanukkah?  I know you’ve likely already heard about the materialistic aspect of the holidays before, but today, if you are one of the people who has a list of gifts to buy, I invite you to sit for a minute to think about why you participate in this annual activity.  Close your eyes, take a moment to be still, and ask yourself why you are involving yourself this year. 

Once you’ve done that, read on.

What answer did you come up with when you asked yourself this question?

It’s how I show people I care for them

Let’s take a moment to explore this.

During the rest of the year, do you give a hug to someone you care for when they need it? Do you applaud them for their accomplishments? Share a laugh with them over a joyful moment? Now, on December 25 you need to give them a doodad to express your feelings?  That seems silly to me.

My husband and I have been together for 20 years, and for the last 18 of those years, we have bought each other a grand total of zero gifts. None. Not for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, nothing.  But I know he cares for me because he’s there for me during my lows, cheers during my highs, and is always available to actually listen to my thoughts and feelings.

So, if you have people you care about, this year why don’t you explain that you’re no longer exchanging gifts with them, and that instead you’re giving them a clean planet that both of you can enjoy for years to come.  Then, why don’t you focus on other ways of showing that you care?

It’s how the kids know I love them

I admit, when it came to stopping my Christmas gift-giving, I found it hardest to stop giving to the young ones in my life.

Consider this: traditions and beliefs are an accumulation of circumstances and events that you grew up with.  Just because you grew up with adults saying “I bought you a gift, ergo I love you” doesn’t mean that this generation needs to hear the same message.  A child will believe he needs a gift because he’s surrounded by consumerism every day, especially around the Holidays.

I am not an expert on parenting, so I don’t know how you’d approach the topic with children in your own family, but I do know in my heart that someone needs to take a step to break the cycle.  If you talk with the young ones in your life and start a new non-materialistic yearly tradition, they are more likely to approach the holidays in new ways when they grow up.   

And, you’ll also be giving them the gift of a clean planet for them to enjoy as adults, and wouldn’t that be even better?

Don’t forget that our future generation is more aware than we might give them credit for – you’ve seen Greta Thunberg, right? – so our young folk could very well be fine with the gift-less Christmas.

I love receiving gifts

Let’s sit with this one a bit too.

For me, when I stopped giving gifts to others, the idea was that they would stop giving gifts to me too.  This idea might be tough for you: “Wait, I’m not going to get anything for Christmas?”

In the paragraphs above, I explained that children create beliefs based on what’s around them. Do you think there’s a chance that you grew up believing that the gifts made you special, and that you knew that adults in your world cared for you because they bought you the season’s coolest toy? Or, perhaps you grew up in a poor home where you didn’t consistently receive gifts, so as an adult the gifts you do receive make you feel safe?

This is obviously a deep topic that I can’t explore fully here, but it’s one I invite you to think about.  Somewhere in your past, you made a connection that “gift receiving = love”.  Perhaps today is the day to explore ways of showing and receiving love that are gentler to our planet.

They bought me a gift last year

So?

Perhaps they are thinking the same thing you are.  “She bought me a gift last year, now I’ll get her one this year.”

If you are doing something because you have to, or because of some unwritten rule, then it’s not fun. Stop doing unfun things!

Put an end to this cyclical logic and don’t get a gift for someone simply because they got you one.

Someone will be upset if I don’t buy them a gift

This is one where you may want to sit for a minute to explore inwardly.  If you have a belief that is important to you, and someone doesn’t respect it, is it worth holding onto that relationship?

I’ve had some friends who were constantly repeating anti-vegan jokes when we were together.  That got tiresome, and now I’ve let those friendships fade away.  Where was the fun of getting together with someone who often belittled something that was important to me?  So, instead I’ve focused on friendships where I have fun and can speak my mind.  A zillion times more enjoyable!

So, where is the fun in buying a gift for someone just to avoid upsetting them? The gift-giving turns into a “must do”, and it becomes an unenjoyable obligation.  Seriously, guys, focus on people who will respect what is important to you, and life becomes so much freer!

I don’t know why
or
It’s what I’ve always done

If you can’t find a reason why you’re participating in the holiday gift-giving, then it’s a perfect time to stop!

My experience with eliminating gift-giving

As I’ve explained, my husband and I stopped exchanging gifts many years ago.  Even before I was the eco-vigilante I am today, I didn’t understand the appeal of carbon molecules arranged in a pattern, and didn’t relish the idea of needing to buy someone something at a specific time of the year.  So, our relationship has been pretty much gift-free from the start, and I don’t miss it at all.

Now, my other relationships…

About 12 years ago, I started explaining to friends and family that I did not want to participate in gift exchanges, for any reason.  I didn’t want souvenirs from their vacations, for birthdays, for Christmas, or even my wedding. No gift cards either, please. (Yet another single-use plastic; no thanks!)

Some people didn’t seem to completely understand what I wanted. I’ve persisted and sometimes had to repeat the message “no gifts means no gifts”, and have fully stopped gift exchanges.

Some people thought that I was missing out and not having the same fun as everyone else. But you know what? I don’t miss it at all!

  • I don’t miss the additional clutter in my home.
  • I don’t miss crawling through malls to find a unique gift.
  • I don’t miss pretending to enjoy a gift that I didn’t need or want. (Sorry folks, but I know this has happened to all of us, so I may as well put it out there.)
  • And now that I’m even more eco-aware, I don’t miss unwrapping gifts while cringing inside knowing the impact they have on our planet.

So, what can you do?

If you’re not ready to cut gift-giving out completely, I hope you at least consider the reasons for it.  Perhaps you can reduce your list to just one person you really care about. Or, find ways of taking old items and making them into new gifts.

Mother Nature has given us many clues that our current lifestylee isn’t working.  Let’s make this the year we consider new ways to celebrate our love for each other!

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