I’ve got a bad word I want to say. It’s a really scary word, brings about many mixed feelings and often results in its hearers grasping their wallets, either in glee or horror.
It’s only 55 days away!
So what does Christmas mean? For those of religious persuasion, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. For many others it’s a day like any other, except with higher pay rates. For most though, it’s a day where you give and receive many gifts, a day spent with family and friends, overindulging in fine foods and drink. It’s a day, generally celebrated with excess.
But who pays for that excess?
Firstly, we do! Our credit cards will be groaning and the retailers we have visited will be rubbing their hands in glee at the glut of spending.
But who else pays?
When we purchase that gift to give someone, who is paying the true cost behind the gift? Who bears the brunt of the manufacture costs, production waste and then who performs the labour? What is the real price of the t-shirt you’ve just bought for $20? Well, if you think about a cotton t-shirt, where is the cotton grown? Is it GMO cotton and what impact does that have? Who picks the cotton? Then, where is it transported to for spinning, dyeing and finally weaving into a t-shirt? Who deals with the waste products and dirty water after dyeing? How far does the t-shirt then travel before it reaches the shop where you pick it up, purchase and package it into the shops bag which may well be plastic, before it comes home and is wrapped in paper before resting under the tree.
It’s pretty scary when you stop and look at what it takes to produce a simple t-shirt. Or pair of jeans, shirt, shorts or even the good old fallback jocks and socks. But is it any different from a technology gift? What is the footprint of an iPad, or a new laptop, or for the kids, toys. Plastic toys made from crude oil fossil fuels. Hmmm.
Christmas for us is also complicated by the addition of Allegra’s birthday just a fortnight before and my nephews birthdays in early January and early February. It is always a challenge to find appropriate gifts for them that don’t compromise our values (I try to avoid buying plastic when and wherever possible) and don’t cost the earth, figuratively and literally.
So, what can you do to reduce the impact of Christmas?
1. Make your own gifts. Pinterest is a wonderland of gift ideas that can be made at home, often using ingredients found in your pantry. From homemade body scrubs to cookies in a jar, there is a great idea here for many people. If you can sew, knit or crochet, there are heaps of ideas out there for small or larger gifts that can be made.
2. Buy an online gift. I’m not talking about shopping online for a gift but rather buying a gift that can be downloaded to their phone, computer or kindle such as a book or a film or tv series. These are great gifts for people overseas as the carbon miles are reduced greatly. Yes I know there is still impact, but the environmental cost of a digital book would surely be less than a paper book.
3. Give an experience. You could make up a book of vouchers or simply buy tickets to an outing or event for the person, and you could even buy tickets to make it an outing that you share together. Take the kids for a ride on Puffing Billy (for those in Melbourne), a trip to Luna Park (Sydney or Melbourne) or another theme park or even a trip to a local trout farm, or fishing on the bay. Make it a special day out including vouchers for ice-creams, fish n chips for dinner or other things the kids will enjoy that may be a bit of a treat. Chances are they will remember the experience far more than a gift that may well be obsolete or forgotten in a few weeks. For adults, tickets to a concert, lunch at a flash hotel or restaurant in the city or even a voucher for a spa treatment could be the perfect gift. As a full-time mum, the idea of an hour off for a massage, or even just a haircut is gold! (No, I’m not dropping hints.) Alternatively, give the gift of a short course or class. This may be a little harder when you have to plan dates but what about a cheese making class or a French cooking lesson?
4. Give a growing gift. In these times of rising food costs, buy a nice pot now, plant a variety of tomato seedling you think would be appropriate and remember to water it until Christmas. How lovely it would be to have your Christmas gift ready to start giving you tasty fruit that you could even use for Christmas lunch if you’re lucky. Plant some basil and chives around the bottom, buy a tub of bocconcini or a mozzarella cheese (or make your own if you’re a cheese-maker) and a box of crackers and you have ready-made fresh bruschetta to go!
5. If you do choose to buy a gift, try to buy one that is environmentally sustainable. Toys made from sustainably raised plantation timber, not old growth forests, organic and fair trade items whenever possible or even something that helps reduce energy costs like a bicycle or solar charger. Or support a local business. You could even look for a gift that replaces a disposable item such as a reusable coffee cup.
The impact of Christmas is not just in the gifts we give but also in the day itself. However, I have rambled enough for tonight and it’s time for this little hippy to get some sleep. That will be another post for another night.