Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the Season to be Thoughtful...

Last year we had the giftless Christmas. We just decided that we had no time, no money, and no stomach for buying useless items we didn't really need. It was an extreme response to dealing with the negative aspects of the season. Don't get me wrong; I love Christmas. I just feel that something has been lost along the way. It has come to epitomize for me the excess and waste of our society.

As a nation, we need some serious therapy. This whole Christmas thing is about way more than mindless consumption. There is a nostalgia for Christmas past, the expectation and excitement that we recall when we were kids: the sight of the tree on Christmas morning and mountains of gifts waiting to be unwrapped. It's a pretty picture.

The reality of Christmas present is not so pretty: mountains of discarded wrapping paper in the trash the next week, along with plastic packaging, dead trees, and houses bursting with cheap plastic items from China that will end up in landfills or incinerators in less than a year. We suffer the stress of trying to recreate the ideal of Christmas by spending money we don't have and then the stress of paying the bills afterwards. This is not healthy. Meanwhile news headlines trumpet the progress of this year's retail sales versus last year's, and if consumers aren't spending more, it's bad for an economy that is based on the ideal of corporate growth. I'm no economist, but surely we can't just keep growing indefinitely. Is there no limit to the number of plastic toys we can buy each year?

From here, Christmas future isn't looking good. The plastic that's used to make those toys and package them for sale is petroleum based. Oil is a finite resource. Burning oil raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, change that may have profound effects that we cannot even imagine. 

Okay, enough of this depressing's Christmas after all, time to make merry. It is a good opportunity to start thinking about our gift purchases. As consumers, we have the power to bring about change. Buy from companies that have sustainable practices. A few weeks ago I went to a presentation by Betsy Blaisdell of Timberland (they have a great blog). This is a company whose CEO believes profit and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. It's important that we hold corporations responsible with our purchasing power, and that we reward companies that are doing the right thing. We need to measure CSR (corporate social responsibility) and make choices accordingly. To help you get started, check out the Ethical Corporation Responsible Business Summit 2010 Award Winners and Commended Companies.

So when you give this year, give some consideration to our planet. I promise, you will feel very good.

Happy Holidays!

Labels: , , , ,