Posts Tagged ‘grumpy’

The Crankypants Guide to a Green Holiday

This is my idea of a Christmas tree. Photo credit: Humboldthead

Around this time of year, my Twitter feed explodes with things like, “Eco-friendly tree decorations!” and “Greenest stocking stuffers!” and “How to make eco-friendly tinsel out of Capri-Sun wrappers!” It’s all well-intentioned (or mostly; some of it is still trying to sell you stuff you don’t need and will never want), but at the same time, I have to wonder: how green can you really make the highest-impact, most wasteful holiday of the year by replacing things you don’t need with slightly lower impact versions of things you don’t need? 


Uh. Sorry. I think my Grinch is showing. But tongue firmly in cheek, I came up with a list of revised suggestions for a [more] eco-responsible[-ish] holiday. You know, for grouchpuss greenies. Extreme? Nah…

  • Be poor if you can possibly help it. (And if you can’t, I have to think that you’re not trying hard enough.) Poverty is the single best way to cut down on decorations, gift-giving, traveling, and impulsive holiday buys, like the bouncy inflatable Santa my neighbors down the street have. I’m finding that it also forces me to be more creative. Instead of buying stuff this year, I’m reusing, doing without, or coming up with creative workarounds and unusual presents (dress altering services, anyone?). Also, I hope you really, really like my pottery.
  • Stop traveling to see people you don’t like. Sharing DNA is not a good reason to spend your time or your carbon dioxide on people you can’t stand. I don’t recommend this as a networking strategy, but it works amazingly well if you want some extra time and peace for the holidays. And in the same vein:
  • Stop buying presents for people you don’t like. With regards to the people we don’t know well or like much, yet still feel obliged toward…can’t we just come to a non-gift agreement already? A plate of cookies and a card, maybe? A handshake to imply goodwill without the transfer of material goods?
  • Put off inessentials until the last minute. If you’ve waited till now to get up your Christmas lights, you might as well not do it at all because it’s so much effort for a two week show. I’ve had finals up until yesterday, so I’ve been putting off everything, with the end result that I am not likely to bake cookies, write cards, or make a mix CD this year. It’s okay. Every couple years is fine.
  • Try a non-meat-based holiday dinner. Taste-wise, Tofurky is somewhere between a rubber tire and a salt lick. But if you’re already feeling glutted (Thanksgiving was only a month ago) or guilty about the impact of your holiday ham, there are lots of tasty, meatless, or low-meat alternative holiday dinners. How about pumpkin and sage pot pies? A mushroom and tarragon pate? I have my eye on a couple of veggie holiday recipes to try this year.
  • Draw a line between doing things out of tradition and doing things that are meaningful to you. As the daughter of an angry ex-Catholic schoolgirl mother and a vaguely Confucian father, I can’t say that my family ever went all out for Christmas. But we did do the tree, the presents, the holiday ham. As a tree lover, I can’t bear the thought of cutting down a live tree just for decoration. As a tree hugger, I can’t see myself getting a fake tree. And as a vegetarian, I’m not about to go for the Christmas ham. So that leaves presents (but not many of them, because I’m poor), which I genuinely enjoy taking the time to choose or make, wrap, and give. Kevin and I also like to go for a drive in the redwoods on Christmas day, which isn’t very green, but has become a tradition that we’re willing to swap out others for.

My bottom line is the same as it usually is. Cut out the stuff that doesn’t actively, actually make you happy. Enjoy the stuff that does. And don’t let social expectations bully you into doing otherwise. Happy non-denominational winter holiday of choice!

I’m off school until the end of January, which is exciting because chemistry gobbled up all my brain bandwidth and left me gibbering about acid-base equilibria and stoichiometry and volumetric flasks. (You know this if you follow me on Twitter.) I have a few posts that I just haven’t had the brain space to write, so I’ll get those up and catch up with your blogs and resume normal functions until the next semester starts. Hope you’ve been well!

The Grumpy Green Approach to Holidays

 I no longer celebrate Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, or St. Patrick’s Day. Christmas is on the wane, and Easter (except for the bag of Cadbury mini eggs given to me that I ate guiltily, thinking about child labor) is on the chopping block this year. I haven’t deliberately cut out all these major American holidays. I’ve just lost interest. Opting out of a lot of mainstream American values has meant opting out of many of the holidays they inspired. Consider that:

  • I am not Christian
  • I am not sociable
  • I don’t partake in conspicuous consumption
  • I refuse to spend time with people I don’t like
  • I don’t eat animals
  • I don’t drink
  • I don’t have or want kids
That leaves, what, Groundhog’s Day and Blind Cat Appreciation Day? Factor in my naturally unexuberant personality, and grouchpuss turns out to be an unexpectedly low impact lifestyle.

I wonder how many people celebrate holidays that they don’t really enjoy or find much meaning in simply because they’re expected to. It’s a ritual to spend two hours swearing at your tangled Christmas lights. You hate the smell of eggs, but you dye them anyway for Easter. You force yourself to spend Thanksgiving with the evangelical cousins who make no attempt to conceal their belief that you are a witch. (True story.) You eat too much, buy too much stuff, stress too much, only to find that you get absolutely zero out of these occasions.

Not only that, but holiday traditions, especially the newish ones, are extraordinarily wasteful. I’ve been reading all week on how to ‘green’ your Easter, from the basket to the grass, eggs, chocolate, and basket fillers. My conclusion: it’s a lot of work to turn a holiday centered around consumption into one that’s centered around [somewhat] sustainable consumption. Is it worth it? If your kids really love this holiday, or if you find it personally meaningful and need the fake grass to keep it that way, OK. But wasteful holiday traditions that you don’t even enjoy strike me as being completely pointless, especially from an environmental perspective.

Celebration (or commemoration) doesn’t require a lot of accoutrements. Get the people you love together and enjoy your time with them. Done. No plastic streamers necessary.

Or you could stay at home and play with the cat, if you’re not the celebratory sort. The point is this: tradition shouldn’t bully us into being wasteful. Or doing things we don’t want, or wanting things we don’t actually want. Making more conscious choices about how we consume and why is ultimately a big part of the lower impact equation.

Do you celebrate traditional holidays? Are they worth an attempt to ‘green’ them up, or would you be just as happy to opt out of some of them?
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