Planning an eco friendly Christmas

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children-looking-at-christmas-presentsThis week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge sees us planning ahead for Christmas / Yule.

I don’t know about you, but finding gifts that delight the recipient whilst engaging your own values can be challenging, unless all your friends and families are from camp ‘earth friendly’.

I like to think that as I’m maturing in years I’m getting more tolerant. More live and let live. In that past I have been belligerent, by getting people lovely eco friendly gifts that I have loved, but which in all honesty has been a total waste of money. I’ve felt it was pearls before swine. So yes, you can see I can still be belligerent, intolerant, judgmental but I try to temper it. Life is sweeter that way…

Gifting for adults is pretty straight forward. Think edible or plantable and you’re pretty much onto a winner. Alternatively give a stressed parent a night out while you babysit, a trip to the theatre, a meal out or a massage voucher. IOUs rock and as EcoGrrl mentioned in a comment over on Reduce Footprints, asking yourself “How can I make them feel good?” is just about the most amazing gift you can give…

Gifting for my elders is a breeze and a joy. Pick them up, bundle them in a car and take them for a drive through the forest on a beautiful autumn day and you’ll create a memory they’ll be sharing at coffee mornings for weeks to come. Ok, there are a few carbon emissions, but it’s not some mindless piece of plastic crap that will end up broken in a minute.
Bake them some shortbread or make them a lavender bottle; something that reminds them of their childhood and their smile will light up the room.
Taking an hour a week to pop around for a cup of tea and a chat – it’s kids in a sweetshop syndrome all over…

But buying for other people’s (mainstream) children is quite a different thing.

Heck, buying for my OWN kid is challenging because her values are getting more and more different to mine.

Now that Little Miss Green is in school, is a tween, is watching a little TV at friend’s houses and seeing ads in magazines, my ‘sustainable’ lifestyle is harder to maintain when it comes to gift giving.

She values ‘more’. It doesn’t matter of what, but MORE counts.


I prefer one carefully selected gift that will be cherished.

She’s a ‘quick fix’ gal. She likes the hit of something new, even if it’s discarded or traded with friends in a few days.

I know! Can you IMAGINE how hard this is for me to share?

I soothe myself by telling myself she’s a natural Buddhist with no attachment to anything which is why she can acquire and let go quickly…

Ok, maybe not.

So back to other people’s children. In the past I bought hand crafted, open – ended wooden toys for them. I never received a thank you and I never saw the toy again. IN fact all I received was strange looks which went along the lines of “What IS this piece of crap?”

Lesson learned.

Now I’ve switched to giving money or store vouchers. Is that a cop out? Am I basically saying ‘go out and buy what you want but because I’m not the one buying the piece of plastic I know you’re going to buy my conscience is clear’? Or am I being ‘tolerant’ and meeting someone where they are at?

Books are a good thing for kids, but some of my friend’s children hate reading. So giving them a book isn’t a gift at all.

Clothes is ok, but not all children see clothes as a gift, they see it more of a necessity.

Sweets and chocolate? Which parent is going to thank you for that?

So after all of this I’m really not sure I have an answer. I seem to run around in circles and as I don’t personally celebrate Christmas it’s all a bit of a challenge for me. I honour that other people celebrate by giving them, what I hope, are well thought out gifts and cards. I wouldn’t mind buying Christmas presents so much if Christmas MEANT something to the recipients. But for nearly all the people I hang out with, there is not an ounce of Christianity in Christmas, it’s all about excess – excess food, drink and presents so it detracts from the meaning even more.

And as my beautiful girl grows up and forms her own opinions on things we have to compromise.

We celebrate Yule and bring lots of meaning and reverence into the day. But we still have ‘gift giving’ as a big part of that day to satisfy Little Miss Green’s needs at this time. I don’t want to be bah humbug about it all, but I DO want some respect for Mother Nature, who provides all that we need, during the celebrations. I want HER to be honoured and revered, not the banks and corporations.

What about you? What does Christmas look like in your household?


  1. Melissa on October 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    This topic has been on my mind, too, as we say farewell and the reality of another holiday season lurks ever closer. How we handle the whole thing is something that, as a young family, we’re still working out. We are quite certain we don’t want to let gift-giving become the main focus, but like you, we also don’t want to bah humbug the whole thing as our daughter gets older and actually wants to take part. Last year, our first as a family, we wrote to everyone we would normally exchange gifts with to let them know we were opting out, and that in lieu of gifts, we would love a photo of their family from the year, and perhaps a favorite recipe or idea for something to do together. No one sent gifts, but only one person sent a photo, so I think they rolled their eyes at us. As my daughter gets older, I think I may like to start making simple, handmade gifts for family and friends so that we can participate in the joy of giving without all of the buy buy buying. We shall see.

    Hope you don’t mind the novel in your comments! 😀

  2. Small Footprints on November 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    When I was a kid, I adored getting a lot of gifts … they didn’t have to be big, expensive items … there just had to be a lot of them. It was like a treasure hunt, opening each little item. So I kinda understand LMG’s desire for more. That doesn’t mean that the gifts can’t be green. I once gave my niece a handmade, wooden Advent calendar. Behind every door I put a treasure … homemade candy, an old necklace from my jewelry box, a “ticket” for a girl’s day out (just her and me), etc. Each small gift had a reasonably low environmental impact and she was thrilled with the treasures. So maybe, give LMG a lot of gifts but make them all Eco-friendly and special.

  3. Mrs Green on November 5, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    @Melissa: I love that you are thinking this through Melissa. I think your idea of a photo and favourite recipe / idea is just beautiful – what a shame your friends didn’t embrace the idea; I certainly would have done.

    @Small Footprints: You’ve really helped with perspective SF; thank you so much. I’ve found the ‘more is more’ thing really tough, but if one of my favourite Eco Queens was like that as a child, what’s not to love?!

  4. Lisa on November 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Even just the IDEA of an eco friendly xmas is awesome. our kiddos are still young and so they don’t know if what we get them is second-hand — given to us or purchased at a consignment store. we like to have a few things for everyone, but it’s very “xmas light” here. my husband and i used to give each other a “day” for xmas — i’d plan a day for him and he’d plan a day for me. that was before kiddos. but maybe we should bring that back! you are makin’ me think!

  5. Mrs Green on November 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    @Lisa: I love that children are just as pleased with pre loved items as they are new. I’m fortunate in that my ten year old loves to rummage around second hand stores; long may that last! I think planning a day is just wonderful; so thoughtful and with the added bonus of the possibility of so many beautiful memories – thanks for sharing!

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