by Alex Colket
I promise I am not a Scrooge. I like the spirit of giving that this holiday season embodies, and I can appreciate the beauty of all the colors, lights and other decorations that are synonymous with the season. Certainly,  I enjoy the music, the family, the celebrating, and the food. However, I think it’s high time that we re-examine some of the traditions and behaviors associated with these (and other) holidays and ask if they are really something we should be continuing in light of the growing environmental crisis we face. It is great to emphasize the importance of sharing and giving with the people in your life and spreading joy and cheer to others around you, but I am sure we can achieve these goals and capture the spirit of the season without putting such a significant strain on the limited resources of our planet. Really, we don’t actually need to sacrifice that much of what we are accustomed to, we just need to reframe the way we express it, and rethink ways to give, to decorate, and to celebrate. In particular, here are a few traditions that I think it’s time to revamp or let go of:

 

#1) Wrapping paper, bows and other means of decorating gifts are certainly crucial to our historical celebration of the season, but they are very wasteful in terms of the materials used and the time/energy spent making them look all pretty.  Using reusable boxes or bags, or at least wrapping gifts in newsprint or other post-consumer paper goods still conceals the gift and gives the receiver something to open, and at the end of the day we have far less to throw away or burn. Instead we can just return the wrapping paper to the recycling bin where it came from, or reuse packaging for years to come.

#2) Christmas lights are beautiful and I appreciate all the creative displays and uses of them, but as we wage this war against natural gas extraction and usage, I think it’s important to prioritize our consumption of energy and I am pretty sure seasonal decorations are not as critical as things like heating, cooking, healthcare, and Internet access. Every year in this country, untold tons of carbon dioxide are dumped into our already unstable atmosphere just so we can show off our holiday spirit, but I am sure there are other ways to spread cheer that are not so damaging to the other 7 billion and evidence of this planet.  Let’s all agree that we can celebrate without so many lights, or at least turn them on sparingly. If you are stuck on the tradition of lights, find some solar-powered LED to meet your needs.

#3) I am not going to be so radical as to suggest that we do away with the practice of giving gifts, but I would like to point out that there are all sorts of different gifts one can give that are non-material and friendlier on the environment. For those who do prefer to give physical gifts – something that people can unwrap – there are all sorts of wonderful things made locally that don’t come embedded with the additional cost of extracting and shipping resources around the globe, further harming the environment and pillaging opportunities from  the poorer nations of this planet.  So buy local if you need to buy something, or even better, swap for something “new”.

#4) Traveling.  This is a tricky one, because it’s sometimes the only way people can be with their families.  Try to moderate your indulgence in this luxury (ever other year, maybe one family visit rather than several), or take buses/trains whenever possible.  If you do drive or fly, you can make it a little better by offsetting your travel through the Finger Lakes Climate Fund.  Consider celebrating with your local “family”.

Holidays are best when they are about fun, family, giving, and thanks. All these are easy enough to come by without placing such strain on the world around us, so let’s all commit to finding ways to celebrate that will allow future generations the same opportunities as we now enjoy.
P.S. Don’t forget to eat and drink local when indulging this season! :)
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