Bah Humbug! I'm Not Telling You The Carbon Footprint of Christmas!

Just some Sustainable gift ideas that can also make Your Holiday meaningful!

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who gave gifts, these two were the wisest. O, all who give and receive gifts such as they, are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi
— O. Henry, Gift of The Magi

As someone who is excited to get across to others a deeper awareness of our impacts - and potentials - as humans, I must admit I am really tempted to share with you an estimate of the carbon footprint of a typical American Christmas.  I won't do it, though; who wants to be a Grinch?!

The reality is that we can have truly amazing holidays with our families and do so with improved impacts on our world.  I also promise to resist giving you some of the traditionally goofy-envinronmentalist-tips like wrap your gifts in fabric you harvest from clothing that you've lovingly worn holes through.  Not that the idea is (necessarily) bad - it is just that I know that the chances of you being interested in trying it are exceedingly slim!

Heroics, though, are not needed in order for us to make meaningful progress towards making more positive impacts in our world.  As some of our other posts here show - making even a 10% reduction in the different aspects of our lives as Americans can make a meaningful impact.  In fact, some of the best ways of celebrating the true meaning of the holiday season are de facto environmentally sensitive! 

Here are a few gift ideas that enhance your ability to truly connect with your loved ones while supporting a reduced environmental impact:

Give A Garden: For those of you who have family members or partners who love to garden, give them a collection of seeds for some of their favorite vegetables, herbs, or flowers.  For the romantics and deep thinkers, you can select seeds based on cultural/historic meanings of flowers - then make a hand written note about those meanings and why you selected them for that person.  To really push it over the top, dedicate time to help them create their garden in the spring time and it becomes a gift of time and support.   For those of you who may not have a yard, you can still make hay by checking into a community garden near you!

Produce a Commemorative Video:  For the techie among you, perhaps a video is your thing.  You can create a video to give to your friend or family member dedicated to sharing with them great memories of you have of spending time with them, or some how you see them as a person.  The video can be animated, or assembled from stills.  If you are adventurous and don't mind hamming it up a bit, you can use your smart phone or digital camera to create live recordings to edit.  There are a number of websites and tools available these days and most of them actually pretty easy to figure out pretty quickly.  Though not a 'plug', I can share some resources I've found: Powtoon and Animoto are pretty user friendly and here are some resources for iPhone and Android

Give Knowledge and Experience: I bet that person you are looking to find a gift for has interests.  Maybe they want to learn glass blowing or pottery?  Maybe they are always talking about feng shui and would love to learn more?  Maybe they are a Steven Seagal movie nut (no judgement) and would love to learn aikido?  Maybe they are into photography?  Or maybe they would be more into an experience - like perhaps the city they live in has a guided walking tour that they might love?  As with the garden gift - this is also a great potential for you to give them an even more important gift - your time; maybe you go on that walking tour with them?

Give A Donation:  Pick a cause that makes you think of them, or reflects an interest they have, and give a donation in their name.  This idea, more than any other I can think of, is highly cost flexible: they do not need to know if the gift was $5 or $500.  Just pick a good cause that will speak to them and give for them, print out an image from the website, and write a note on it about why you gave to this cause in their name.  This is also a great way to teach your children about the real meaning behind the holidays.

White Elephant Gift Exchange:  This is something you can get started with your extended family.  The idea can eliminate stress in needing to pick out the 'perfect' gift, can limit the amount of money spent, and if done right can assure every gift finds a happy home: Basic rules should establish a limit on cost and require that the gift be useful in day-to-day life or a consumable (or at least, have a 'no plastic junk' rule to keep it sustainable).  When you are ready to exchange gifts, everyone puts the wrapped gifts on a table and then everyone selects gifts in whatever order you establish.  Everyone after the first gift receiver has the choice to select from the still wrapped gifts or can 'steal' a gift from someone who went before.

Make something together: Rather than giving a completed gift, you can give the materials needed to create something together with a commitment to spend time together with that person or your family in order to make something together.  The potentials are limited only by our imagination: used/broken tile mosaic top garden table; living room wall mural; make a bird house or a bee habitat; make a home-made board game (Mancala is a great one)

The best gifts we ever get always have one thing in common: they speak to the receiver while speaking about the giver.  No gift can do that as well as one you make together or one which carves out time in our hectic world for being together.  Have fun and express yourself.  It will be appreciated!

Happy Holidays!

OK.  If you want to know it, you can click to learn about the carbon footprint of the typical American Christmas:

Photo: torgakhopper HE DEAD via Flickr