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The Story of Stuff

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas, part 4.

By
Alyssa Martino

 

I swear there are still some of you looking for a gift on Christmas Eve. There's one in every family. Not to worry! Make-It-Green Girl is here to help you find the perfect Christmas (or after-Christmas) gift for your friends and family on this episode of Make it Green Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for an Earth Friendly Life.

The Story of Stuff

In America, we like stuff. We're told that buying more stuff is an American value. It's certainly been the cornerstone of our economy for the past quarter century as more and more factories and jobs head overseas. What's left for Americans to do except buy stuff?

At last this mindset seems to have landed us in trouble as a banking crisis turns our consumer economy on its side, and people start saving instead of spending. The world economy is no better off, so even those goods we purchase from overseas are becoming more expensive as people start buying less.

"The Story of Stuff," a short film produced by Free Range Studios chronicles the problems of the consumerist mentality. It provides a really brilliant explanation of the link between American consumer culture and many of our modern problems, including environmental degradation, depletion of resources, and even affluenza and depression. Host Annie Leonard takes us through a compelling argument for remodeling our whole lives to use less stuff and lessen our impact on the environment.

Donation Giving

Here are a few ideas for gifts to your eco-concious friends that take no packaging, no manufacturing, and can actually help the environment. A popular alternative to gift giving is the donation gift. Various websites and charities have set up gifts where you can donate to a charity the recipient cares about in their name.

It's not just money either; sponsor a child's education through Children International. Donate a goat to a needy family in Rwanda through The Rainforest Site. Buy some carbon offset credits through Bonneville Environmental Foundation for your gift recipient, which are usually put towards tree plantings or other carbon-saving or sequestering activities to balance out the daily activities we do to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

You can even buy traditional merchandise through mainstream sellers who pledge to give money to charities a percentage of their profits through a website called GoodShop.com.

Eco gifts

If you need some traditional gift, in a box with a bow, try these ideas to get you started. Eco-friendly gifts could can help save resources, like a low-flow, hand-held shower head for a girlfriend.

Or, try sharing your eco-knowledge with others with a gift of books or films that speak to environmental values, like many of the ones I've mentioned throughout the show. Thomas L. Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and William McDonough and Michael Braungart's Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things are a great place to start.

If you're buying for someone more inexplicable, try a gift card. But save the plastic -- send an email gift certificate instead. It'll arrive immediately, so there's no shipping or driving to worry about. I'm notoriously hard to buy for, so I always end up with a small stack of gift cards at the end of the Christmas season.

Ditch the Presents!

Lastly, I've tried three years in a row now to ditch the presents entirely in my family. Someone always cheats, though, inevitably citing A Christmas Carol's Ebeneezer Scrooge, or The Grinch who Stole Christmas.

But if you can swing it, try to go on an outing with the family instead of buying presents, play a great board game instead of opening gifts, and have a potluck dinner with friends instead of a gift exchange.

For those who grow up with faiths other than Christianity, or without the American religion of holiday excess, foregoing gifts is a familiar alternative to the sometimes insane pressures of a consumerist Christmas.

Many of the traditions of Christmas originate with pagan nature-worship. So whatever you do for the winter holidays, make it special without making a footprint. Celebrate mother nature, without harming her.

References

Children International

The Rainforest Site

GoodShop.com

Heifer International

Bonneville Environmental Foundation

The Story of Stuff

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart's

 
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