Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'll Have A Green Christmas

On the heels of my vow to go slow, I find myself musing about the holidays.  They're still four months away, but with baby Fiona arriving smack in the middle, I'd like to be a bit ahead of the curve.

Over the past few years, Franklin and I have hit on one of the best ways to quietly go green that I can think of, especially if your families tend to find your views on environmentalism a bit pointless.

We resist buying anything that we need for ourselves or the house until the holidays roll around.  Because my family asks for gift ideas - and is delighted when we send them the Amazon link - this means that we manage to acquire high quality items.  While it's not truly green - they're still buying, wrapping and sometimes shipping the gifts - it is a few notches above receiving unwanted and unnecessary stuff.  So far, this year's list includes:
  • Decent salt and pepper shakers;
  • A lemon zester;
  • Placemats and cloth napkins;
  • Wine glasses;
  • A wagon for Freddie.
Could we do without or find second-hand versions of the above?  Absolutely!  But if you're going to get gifts No Matter What, then this is a reasonable way to limit your personal consumption.  Plus you can always work in eco-sneak gifts - cloth napkins, for example.  And since my family tends to buy The Good Stuff, I'm comfortable knowing that their purchases are things that we'll have for decades.

With Franklin's family, we've taken a different approach.  They tend to buy things that They Believe You Must Want.  Franklin's aunt spent a fortune on a complete set of gorgeous, lovely silver place settings that we've used exactly once.  It was, in many ways, a terribly thoughtful gift given by a woman who is still flummoxed by the fact that Fern Doesn't Care About China.

I suppose we can consider the silver a family heirloom, but other gifts in the series - the Special Occasion Cake Stand (what, as opposed to my every day one?) springs to mind - have been busts.

Luckily, it turns out that my in-laws are happy enough to buy gift cards.  Whenever we contemplate a major purchase - like the 15 y.o. television we've just replaced, or the decent kitchen knives that we hope to someday acquire - the process begins several months or years ahead with gift cards.  It's a nice compromise.  And if it's not exactly green, well, again, it's slightly better than receiving another set of dessert plates.

While we feel like we've beaten back the worst of the holiday beast, there are a few other tricks up my sleeve for this year:
  1. I'm choosing green gift wrap.  We're not at the reusable fabric gift bag stage as a family, but I've noticed how many manufacturers now offer paper-from-paper.  We put our gift wrap into the Abiti Paper Retriever bin at Freddie's school, too.  I'm also trying to buy gift wrap that is non-seasonal ... solid silver, blue, red, etc.  This means that any left over is used in short order.
  2. I'm buying eco-sneak gifts whenever possible.  My brother-in-law wants a Sigg.  When I see what's on my siblings' lists, I might be able to think of some other creative ways to green up our giving.
  3. Fabric ribbon, baby.  My mother-in-law has been using the same bits of fabric ribbon for years now, and it's by far the best idea ever.  If I see it heading for trash while visiting my side of the family, I can always take it back.  And while we have very limited storage space, my shoebox full of ribbon bits is not a problem.  While I don't necessarily have coordinated sets of matching bow and paper, it's amazing how quickly it dresses up a package.
  4. I'm crafting found gift tags.  Gift tags are one of those things that never quite work for me.  They're expensive, and for some reason, I never have matching tags to coordinate with everything else.  My aunt uses prior years' holiday cards as tags.  I'm planning to do that and also keep an eye out for other things that come our way - junk mail, etc. - that could easily have a second life.
It's not much, but as I said, I'm dedicated to not taking on any more major initiatives - unless you count cloth diapering and breastfeeding a newborn - between now and year's end.

And who knows?  Maybe I'll figure out a few more things to add to this list between now and then.

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