When I was imagining this month’s post last month (because I do think about these posts in advance — I just don’t actually write them then), I had beautiful visions of a post detailing all the eco-friendly ways I’ve embraced this holiday season. Fabric in lieu of wrapping paper; no plastic toys; everything bought locally from sustainable farms, or grown in my very own kitchen herb garden.
Ah, the dreams we dream.
I have friends who do that kind of stuff every year. Their presents always look beautiful, and the treats are (often) tasty, and the blog posts they write always provide all the details you need to have a completely sustainable, eco-friendly holiday. And every year, I swear to myself that next year I will do something that crafty, that inspired. This year, I was determined to make it happen.
But as it turns out, when I try to wrap a present in fabric (without using tape, mind you) it doesn’t come out looking like an elegant holiday treat so much as something I was too cheap to buy wrapping paper for and thus chose to stuff in a used pillowcase. And I definitely could have gotten my two-year-old cousin something other than the Little People race track I chose, but… I folded. I don’t even know why. Ben was right there saying, “How about this stuffed animal? Or this wooden train set?” But instead, my brain went into overload while being assaulted by the overly cheerful Christmas music and the aisles and aisles of colorful gadgetry at Reny’s, and I freaked out and got the Little People race track. Which I’m sure little Jackson will probably love — but, really, I could have done so much better.
As for buying locally… I did actually support a lot of local businesses this year. I’m living in Brunswick now, and the natural foods store — Morning Glory — has an awesome loose-leaf tea selection and lovely teapots, so that was the perfect gift for someone on my list, while their locally made candles and lotions were ideal for another friend. I got gift baskets from Goodwill rather than buying them new (thus also eliminating the need for a lot of wrapping); I brought all my own shopping bags rather than using the ones in the stores.
The cookies I baked for our family Christmas party are vegan (and they taste really good, so it’s not like I’m being unnecessarily cruel to my meat-eating comrades). I found a couple of cool T-shirts for my nieces from The Mountain — “The Greenest T-shirt Company in the U.S.A.” — with some of the proceeds going to Best Friends Animal Society. Ben is not a fan of these shirts, but I think the girls will like them.Another gift for the nieces that has become an annual tradition are symbolic adoptions of endangered animals from the World Wildlife Foundation. At this point, the girls have an entire zoo of stuffed animals they’ve gotten as gifts for these WWF donations. I love that it’s given them some awareness of the plight of wild things around the world, while simultaneously making them feel as though they’re actually doing something to make a difference. And, yeah, I know: It would be better if WWF spent all of the money on their mission rather than using part of it to send people stuff, but I can have that conversation with my nieces in a few years. Right now, they like the stuffed animals; I like knowing I’m at least trying to make an impact with my gifts.
BUT… I also bought a lot of stuff from Amazon. I drove my Honda Element (Ben calls it the Elephant) all over hell and gone tracking down the perfect gift, which means I did more than my part to contribute to gas emissions this season. I bought a few things that were packaged in plastic, which means I’m adding more waste to the planet. My kitchen herb garden is still more a garden in my mind than one that actually, you know, produces stuff, so that didn’t turn out to be a viable gift for friends or family.
The bottom line? Yes, there are a handful of people in this world who manage to be completely earth-friendly during the holiday season. Those people may nor may not actually be human, and will always make the rest of us look bad. But if we can all go just a little out of our way in an effort to be kind to the planet while we’re out shopping for baubles and hoo-hahs for those special someones in our lives, I think that ultimately counts for something.
What about you? Are there local stores you can recommend to the rest of we weary shoppers this season, or gifts you’ve given that help out a charity you care about? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Jen Blood is author of the USA Today-bestselling Erin Solomon Mysteries, and the newly released K-9 Search and Rescue mystery The Darkest Thread. You can learn more about Jen and her work at http://www.adianpress.com.