A Low-Carbon Christmas

In Chapter Six of Laudato Si, our Holy Father speaks of consumerism:

Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. 

As we enter this Advent season and prepare for Christmas, perhaps it’s a good time to stop to think about consumerism and the carbon footprint of our gifts. Consider what makes for a good gift, not just from the perspective of the giver and the recipient, but also from the perspective of its carbon footprint and its impact on the poor?

We are all being bombarded with ads, tweets, posts, and articles pushing us to buy things in the runup to Christmas. How many of these gifts are of the throw-away variety that will end up in landfills during 2020 or that come with high-carbon ticket prices? How earth-friendly is that gadget, over-processed and obesity-contributing food product, or toy you picked up for your friend, coworker, child, parent, sibling, husband or wife? Not very, in most cases.

What then should you give instead? Here are some ideas that are better for the planet, you, and the recipient of your generosity:

  • The gift of a donation made in the name of your recipient to a local or national or international charity has the dual benefit of a low footprint and helping those in need.
  • A hand-made wreath made from rosemary branches and other plants from your garden or a garden store.
  • Breakfast in a mason jar made from rolled oats or other whole grains, seeds, and dried fruits. Just add water and let sit overnight in the fridge for a healthy breakfast in the morning.
  • The gift of baby-sitting, house-sitting, or dog walking might be nice for a busy person or couple.
  • The gift of a home-cooked meal, a book of rides to the grocery store or church, or perhaps a house cleaning might be perfect for an older person living alone.
  • An annual membership for a podcast that focuses on the recipient’s favorite hobby or healthy living.
  • Previously-owned (used) items have a smaller environmental impact that new items. How about a used bike for a kid or even an adult who wants to exercise more?
  • Go local when possible. A book from your local bookstore (e.g., Phinney Books or Couth Buzzard) or used clothing from a local consignment shop has a better footprint than a purchase from that big box store or that giant Internet company that sells everything.
  • The gift of a massage from a local massage therapist.
  • Membership in a local gym for a month.

And consider making home-made cards and wrapping paper from paper scraps or newspaper to package your earth-friendly gifts. 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.

Paul Litwin

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