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Posts Tagged ‘eco-friendly gifts’

by Steve Crandall

A decade ago I wrote a letter to the editor for our local paper describing our family approach to holiday giving.  It inspired a deluge of mostly negative responses – the most humorous labeling it “unchristian”.

What we do is try to give time rather than money as that levels the playing field for all.  We choose 5 others via lottery and have a maximum budget of $100 for the lot.  Children under 10 are treated separately like normal kids.  It is considered a very “grown up” thing to do this by kids in my family.  The drawing is on the 4th of July and I usually start working on projects in August so as to not get too swamped.  I aim for 10 hours on each and have finished 3  as of last Sunday.  I have a slightly different concept of family than the rest of my family, and have a total of 7 projects this year.

My father is brilliant at this and writes special poetry.  He thinks about it all year and violates the rules by choosing some of the people he gives to (by doing more than his 5) .. so my mother is always on his list.   My skills are not great, but I make little sketches and build things. The variety of gifts I have received over the years and the thought and love that went into them has been amazing, but that doesn’t match the excitement and joy that comes with giving something that has come from my own hands.   And there is an additional bonus:  nothing to return the day after Christmas.

What is striking is that this extreme customization of feeling and love is considered out of the mainstream and “crackpot”. We aren’t doing it to save money and probably give more to charities than we would have spent on gifts.

If something this simple is considered radical and “hippy”, I fear that changing consumer patterns is extremely difficult.

Steve Crandall is a gifted scientist with a big heart. We are very fortunate to have him enrich La Marguerite with his frequent comments. You can follow him on his blog.

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First day of Not So Green Exposure Project. Sunday. 9 days before Christmas. I am feeling pressure from all the stores to buy lots of stuff, in a hurry. When I opened the San Francisco Chronicle this morning, I found 25 inserts from various advertisers:

9 Days Before Christmas, and I Am Feeling the Pressure

Target: Expect More – Pay Less’. Holiday Hours: Open Sunday through Saturday 8am to 11pm’. Sony: What to Give. What to Get’. Cost Plus World Market: ‘Wondrous Gifts. Wow Prices’. Dell: ‘Wish for right now. Ask for brilliance. Wish for smiles. Ask a knockout. Wish for safekeeping. Wish for more’. Ritz & Wolf Camera. SALE. FREE’. Radio Shack. Last-minute deals worth the wait‘. Best Buy: ‘WOW’. Macy’s: 9 Shopping Days to Go’. Circuit City: Dash through your list’. JC Penney: ‘Super Hot Buys. 3 Days Only, Sunday-Tuesday, December 16-18’. Mattress Discounters: Last Chance to Save on Tempur-Pedic Mattresses’. Nikon: ‘Incredible Holiday Prices’. T-Mobile: The Exclusive Holiday Collection’. Bed Bath & Beyond: 20% off any one of our hundreds of thousands of items’. Sports Authority: ‘Save up to 40% on outerwear’. Big 5 Sporting Goods: ‘Gigantic Holiday Coupon Sale’. Sears: Entire Stock on Sale’. Mervyns: ‘Christmas Countdown Sale. Only 9 Shopping Days Left. Must-have Gifts, Can’t Miss Prices’. Crescent Jewelers: ’12 Months Interest Free. No Down Payment’. K Mart: ‘Okay, Let’s Wrap It up! Sunday 12/16 – Sunday 12/23. Monday 12/24 6am-10pm’. Magnolia Audio & Video: ‘Sights and Sounds For the Holidays. All on sale’. Pepboys Auto: ‘Holiday Gift Guide From the Boys’. Michaels: ‘Great Gift Sale. Thousands of Creative Choices’. Staples: ‘That Holiday Was Easy’. Walgreens: ‘Open’ til Midnight Thru Dec. 23′.

25 voices shouting in unison, and leaving me with a bunch of impressions, all jumbled up in my brain.

I have to go shopping for presents, I know, this is what one does for Christmas, right? Not a single mention of global warming and going green. It doesn’t fit in the whole picture. No, let us concentrate instead on the task at hand. It’s a job, and everyone is out there to help me get it done well, and fast. The mall has turned into Ali Baba’s cavern, filled up with goodies, especially for the occasion. Plus all the stuff is so cheap, and the stores are open 24/7, I have no excuses. I just have to hurry, there is no time to think too much, the good deals are in limited supply, and only for so long. If I am smart, I can even ‘save’ money, with all the sales, and awesome discounts. And for big ticket items, I don’t have to pay right away, payments can be deferred. Nothing is spared to maximize my fun of getting as much stuff as I feel like. Under the guise of getting presents, I can satisfy my urge to shop. Guilt free. It’s for others, it’s mandatory. All for a good cause, the creation of one big happy family moment. Christmas morning, unwrapping presents like mad, by the tree. Giving my love ones and receiving from them, stuff. The more, the better.

In the past I would have gone along with the voices, and seized the opportunity. This year, I am resisting it. No move yet, towards the mall. No gifts list. Christmas has become a problem. How to satisfy the children’s expectations, without compromising my growing green core? I am sick and tired of shopping. At the same time, I still love the ritual of wrapping gifts, and placing them under the tree. The more, the better. Concrete manifestations of love, displayed for all to see.

To help Green Girl Wannabes like me, there are plenty of green experts, with lots of good advice on how to green my Christmas. I will probably end up listening to them, and walk the path of compromise, buying still, only greener presents.

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