Resource extraction: They aren't made of pure wishes and magic, despite what the marketing leads you to believe. They are made of something, and it's probably plastic. The raw materials are likely mined, or drilled (using fossil fuels) and then shipped to China where they can be refined (using more fossil fuels, and producing pollution), then they are probably assembled by people being paid a very minimum wage, and possibly compromising their health in a marginal work environment. The final product is packed up neat as can be and shipped back to us (more fossil fuels) where we can enjoy it for a few weeks until it breaks, falls apart or becomes irrelevant. At that point it either goes into a local landfill (or incinerator) or gets shipped back to the third world to be dealt with there.
Does this make you feel festive? It makes me feel sick to my stomach. I have been thinking a lot this last couple of years about what we (as the consumer) can do to help reduce this cycle of waste, and help make the holidays a mindful, and joyful, and sustainable time for all humans. This is what I have come up with:
1. Stop and remind yourself of the reason behind the season. Whether your holidays are based around religion, celebration of seasons, family and loved ones, or a combination thereof... there is nothing that says you have to buy a lot of cheap, disposable crap to make this time of year meaningful.
|Bringing Natures Beauty Indoors|
3. Gift Homemade, Handmade, Fair Trade. Spending your own time or energy making homemade gifts for your friends and loved ones can be one of the most meaningful things about the holidays. A hand-knit scarf, a jar full of delicious preserves, a sampler of holiday snacks--these are all great options. But what about the person who is home-made challenged? Consider browsing local craft fairs, holiday sales, or Saturday markets. Supporting small businesses that ply their wares at these venues is great for local economy, as well as more sustainable than buying a cheap, imported and impersonal gift at one of the leading retail chains. If all these options fail, there is always Etsy, the online mecca of all things hand-made. If you can't find it on Etsy, you probably can't find it, period. Lastly, consider exploring the Fair-Trade option, especially if you are buying stocking-stuffers like coffee, chocolate or teas. If you live in North America it is almost impossible to buy those things from a local producer, but the Fair Trade label ensures that your dollars are ethically spent overseas.
4. Less is More. Do I really need to say anything else here? One very thoughtful, meaningful, ethical gift is worth so much more than a handful of cheap trinkets. A few simple, elegant decorations can spruce up your home just as well as a plethora of gaudy, cheap ones.
|handmade wooden toys from this Etsy Shop|
I'll be posting more about hand-made holidays over the next couple of months, so if its something you're into, check back. Please feel free to share how you and your family make the holidays meaningful, mindful and special in the comments below.
peace and joy to you all in the upcoming holiday season,