Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on December 9, 2008
The holidays aren’t just about family squabbles, appalling television, overeating and getting drunk.There’s a lot more to it. How about deforestation, gas guzzling, waste and general excessiveness?
First, there’s the whole greeting card burden. I say burden because they’re as painful to send as they are to receive. How many cards are made from recycled paper? Worse yet, how many card and envelopes actually end up in the recycle bin after the holidays? Truth be told, no-one wants to see the annual photo of you and your loved ones in front of the fireplace in matching sweaters, so here’s an alternative: send a holiday e-mail. You can design a nice graphic or find one online. It saves paper and it’ll save you time.
Then there’s the Christmas tree. Since when has ripping a live evergreen from the ground and sticking it in your living room for a month been a good idea? Equally careless is buying a fake tree made of toxic PVC, guaranteed to be around for thousands of Christmases to come. Actor Josh Lucas has the answer, according to Ecorazzi: an organically recycled plastic tree. (I must confess to not knowing what that is exactly, but seems worth investigating.)
Next up is the American tradition of decorating the house with lights arranged to look like a herd of reindeer. It’s a baffling phenomenon to us British/Japanese/Aussie hipsters. The holiday energy bills of Beverly Hills alone would rival a small African nation. And what does it get you?
If you must decorate, do it inside. Be creative and resourceful, like Simon Doonan of Barneys New York. In a recent New York Times article, Doonan explains his concept of “Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer,” his use of empty soda cans to create mosaic-like decorations in the store windows. “You can do this stuff at home,” the article quotes him as saying. “You can go gold with decaffeinated Diet Coke, and there’s lots of blue and silver in drinks like Pepsi and Red Bull. You can make wreathes out of old silver pot scrubbers. We’ve done a green version of the 12 Days of Christmas, which I will happily sing to you and which ends with ‘a Prius in a pear tree.’”
And finally there are the gifts. The stress, the petrol consumption, the rash decisions, the desperation to find something – anything — usually results in bad choices and waste. And often times, the “thanks” from your recipients are really masking their “what were you thinking?” Instead, try asking your loved ones what, if anything, they need and buy accordingly. Avoid plastic items or toxic toys from China. Buy vintage. Or take my favorite tack — make something yourself. There’s nothing like a homemade item to deliver holiday cheer. If you don’t believe me, flashback to the look on your dad’s face when you presented him with an ashtray in the shape of rabbit.
Believe me, it is possible to make the switch from conspicuous consumption to conservation and still enjoy your holidays.