"Give the future, not presents."
I know, most of your Christmas shopping is already done, but I just learned about the Christmas Climate Strike, where you buy no gifts for Christmas or any other year-end holiday season.
The reasons for boycotting gifts, according to the organizers:
Economic protests and boycotts help demonstrate the power of the people. Christmas, Hanukkah and other end-of-year holidays are all rooted in traditions of spending quality time with friends and family, not buying presents. Reject the crass commercialism invented by Madison Avenue and embrace the genuine spirit of the season.
- This is an ancillary action to the climate strikes.
- Economic boycotts and the resulting loss of revenue get attention from policy makers and big business alike.
- Christmas and other holiday traditions are mostly marketing ploys, manufactured to get you to spend more money.
- Gift giving is inefficient and wasteful, with a majority of gifts being unappreciated, returned, re-gifted, or un-redeemed.
- An extra 2 billion pounds (900 million kgs) of waste is generated in the US during the holiday season.
- Let’s create new, less wasteful traditions based on spending quality time instead of money.
They do not even mention the biggest elephant in the room, if you are striking for climate: the direct and upfront emissions of making those presents and delivering them. In his book, How bad are are the bananas, Mike Berners-Lee tried to calculate the carbon footprint of Christmas. The big sources of waste are "unwanted presents, wasted food, avoidable travel, Christmas lights, and cards."
To go low-carbon he suggests staying at home, using LED Christmas lights, Skype instead of cards, and cut back on the presents to where only the children get them and there is a strict cost limit. Don't cook too much and eat all the leftovers.
The problem with the cost limit is that cheap gifts are made of plastic, and shipped from China. If you look at the upfront emissions issue, it's clear that we should be buying local wooden toys, making our presents or buying used, wrapped in simple papers that are recyclable. (My mom used to use newspaper!) Katherine has some really climate-friendly ideas in 10 strategies for smart gift-giving this year.
The Christmas Strike people have some better ideas, including presents of time (free night of babysitting!) or donations to non-profits fighting climate change. Also:
White elephant gift giving
Everyone brings a wrapped, unmarked gift, but it has to be something from your home that you already own. It can be just about anything you can package – old books, DVDs, clothes, cat toys, tools, pictures – anything! You take turns either picking a gift from the table, or stealing someone else’s opened gift, and then they pick again. My grandfather loved tricking us with big, fancy boxes, just to find an old spatula or galoshes inside. My mom got something I was trying to regift that she had given to me. My brother got someone’s old wig. I once re-gifted a watch I got from a bank promotion which was a big hit and stolen numerous times!
There is even a website devoted to this, completely covered with ads for shopping.
Unless you are like me and start worrying about presents on Christmas Eve, it may be too late to participate in the Christmas Gift Strike this year. But it is a good idea; it's clear that if we are serious about reducing our carbon footprints, it has to permeate every part of our lives, including our holidays.