Thursday, November 20, 2014

Four Ways to be Sustainable for the Holidays

Somehow or other, the holidays are creeping up on us already.  I don't feel particularly prepared.  I haven't even finished with my garden -- I still have a potted Red Pear tomato that keeps setting and ripening fruit out in the sunroom, and I keep believing it's still summer.

Well, until I try to get the mail in a pair of flip-flops and wind up courting frost bite.

Sustainable and frugal living columns are always a bit difficult to write around the holidays, because there's the temptation to head straight into "no one needs all that stuff" territory.

But this is not a minimalism blog (as anyone who has ever seen our basement can attest).  For me, how much "stuff" you need to celebrate the holiday of your choice is entirely up to you.  I just want you to be able to do so comfortably and with your own sustainability desires met.

So, my top five ideas for how to celebrate sustainably:

1.  Set spending limits.
Whether this has been a great year financially or you are feeling a little strapped, start now by making a budget and dividing the money you currently have on hand for the holidays among your gift recipients in a way you feel is fair.  Maybe that means that you spend the majority of your funds on your spouse and/or children and limit your participation in gift exchanges for a group.  Maybe it means you have the ability to buy something for everyone.  Just make your plan and then stick with it.

2.  Be generous with your goodwill.
Regardless of what holiday you celebrate or how much or little you have to spend, this is the time of year to tell as many people as possible what they mean to you.  One good idea is sending a New Years card instead of a Christmas/holiday one, and to take the time to write a special note to each recipient.  Yes, that's a lot of work, but your good wishes will come right when the celebrations die down and people need to know what they mean to you.

3.  Give gifts that match the recipient made with values that match yours.
It is oh-so-tempting to make that contribution to your own favorite charity in place of giving a gift.  But, if your recipient does not share your particular views (and it's harder to be sure than you think), you are just putting the person on a mailing list they don't want to be on and annoying them for the next twelve month.  Instead, match the gift to the recipient, but try to make sure the gift's production matches your values.  For example, I recently interviewed a local shop owner who sells chocolate that is manufactured without any labor that can be traced to human trafficking, not an easy thing to avoid with that kind of agriculture.  What a great gift that would be for my fellow chocolate lovers!

4.  Shop local.
One of the most sustainable things you can do is patronize local businesses, especially locally-owned ones.  You will cut down on transportation and overhead costs while helping a small businessperson and making sure money stays in your own community.  If you don't choose to shop local; shop local somewhere else -- pick your favorite vacation spot or hometown, and funnel some money into those businesses.  We occasionally order things from Key West businesses just because we want to see those same storefronts open when we next visit.

How do you make your holidays sustainable?  
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1 comment :

  1. All year long I save up rebates or cards with rebates or buy cheaply using coupons so that at Christmas I rarely spend money. For instance, I have spent about $2 on about $51 of Physicans Formula cosmetics for my daughter. I bought Energizer batteries and got $10 WM gift cards. I can spend the cards on groceries and divert grocery money to gifts in other stores. Money earned from Mystery Shopping and taking surveys goes to Christmas gifts. One of my secret shopper jobs also give me free shipping on packages, so it all works out to a no-spend holiday.