How are your festive preparations going?
Are you the sort of person who spends months dashing about shopping, organising and decorating the house for whatever festivities you are celebrating? Are you preparing to welcome family and friends into your home? Will you be rushing out to lots of parties? Or will you be having a peaceful time over the next few weeks, watching the madness from the safety of your armchair?
And, most importantly, have you bought everyone a present?
What? You haven’t? But didn’t you know that you can only express your love by presenting everyone with a physical item? I doesn’t matter whether they actually want the thing you have bought for them. What matters is that you gave them something… even if it is a plastic fish in a Santa hat that sings Jingle Bells, or an inflatable Eiffel Tower, or a box of inedible shortbread in the shape of a fir tree. Even if it is something that will be (at best) amusing when they open the gift and will almost certainly be in landfill after week or two or consigned to a cupboard until the next spring clean. Even if it is something made in a sweatshop by someone who is little more than a slave. Even if it does deplete the earth’s limited resources. Just remember… the important thing is that you spent some money… that you gave a gift…
Me? Don’t expect a gift from me at this time of year. Don’t expect to find me trawling the shops for that hard-to-find toy or searching the internet for a gift for my mother (who firmly tells me that she has everything she wants). It’s not that I don’t care for you (or her), in fact it’s that I do care for you and her and for other human beings and for the planet.
Before you buy that box of Christmas crackers with the silly jokes, paper hats and plastic prizes, or the amusing Christmas jumper that will be worn once, or the new set of ornaments for the tree because this year’s theme is silver and pink, whilst last year’s was green and red, you might like to consider this:
Guess what percentage of total material flow through [the] system is still in product or use 6 months after their sale in North America. Fifty percent? Twenty? NO. One percent. One! In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months. Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff.
I don’t know about you, but I find that figure shocking. However, we can all do something about it. And we can start by not buying things that we KNOW will get thrown away almost immediately.
At this time of giving and generosity, why not think about the recipient rather than the act of giving? If someone tells you that there is nothing they want for Christmas, they are probably telling you that they don’t want any more stuff… so give them the gift of time… it never goes out of fashion and it never enters land fill. Go out for afternoon tea, for a walk, go to the pub, cook them dinner, do some chores for them, have a chat… spend some quality time together. And if you do want to give a physical gift, make it a good one… something that will last, something they will love, something that won’t be discarded as soon as the wrapping paper is off. Think about the gift… and if you can’t find something that they will love, don’t buy anything right now…. give them an IOU… you know they are likely to get more joy from a gift at another time of the year than at a time when they have a whole heap in front of them.
We practice random acts of giving… our friends and relatives do receive gifts, but not at specific times. And sometimes they receive gifts or help or time in quick succession and sometimes not for ages. We send or do things as we become inspired. This means that one lucky person will get a parcel soon because Mr Snail and I are making a gift together, but not because it’s Christmas, just because we had an idea and thought of something fun to make that one particular person would enjoy.
As for Christmas day Chez Snail… we will be gift-free and are planning a picnic in the limery!