Reflecting on the Holidays

December 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

Let’s take a different approach.  Statistics about waste and consumption and energy and water this time of year are everywhere…you could spend your entire day Googling all of the various numbers to support green practices during the holidays.  That’s easy to do. 

But as we know, even if stats are generated from scientific polls, surveys and measurements by very smart people, doubts and contradictions will still surface in the hearts and minds of the skeptical.

Instead, what if we dare to put it in terms of pure intangibles – the kind of subjective, yet logical conclusions one can make, based on life experience, observation and gut instinct.  Of course, this is where different perspectives foster.  This is where it gets delicate: when personal opinions are vested in traditions and visions of what the holidays mean to the individual – what the holidays should be.

The reluctant might say this is a fork in the road: you must choose between the satisfaction of enjoying the holidays the traditional way, the way our culture deems it, and restricting yourself to a limited, disciplined green holidays – possibly resulting in less fulfillment.

However, those who embrace green can see synergy.  They can see fun and green.  They can see happiness and eco.  They can see the holidays and all of the beauty our world has to offer, making time spent with loved ones and sharing even more worthwhile.

The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.  Eco-conscious people still put up decorations, give gifts, cook, travel, and party as much as those with fewer green thoughts in their days.  There is a certainly a place for celebrating and being earth friendly at the same time.  At a minimum, it’s all about making reasonable choices where one can be mindful of unnecessary excess where even a skeptical person would have to agree with.

For instance, consider decorations.  Indeed, the season just wouldn’t be the same without the lights and colors and patterns associated.  If you are fan of the holidays, you are fan of the decorations – they go hand in hand.   Where can the green come into play?  At a high level of eco, the type of decorations you use could be extremely green – from organic to handmade to reused for generations.  At a more basic level, it must make sense to everyone to take care of decorations, storing them carefully, and handling them delicately so they last a long time.  Imagine not having to rebuy new ornaments or light strands every year – a win-win situation for the planet and the wallet.

Speaking of lights, most new ones people can buy now are LED, with good reason, for energy conservation.  And the old strands can be recycled as well, by taking them to a scrap metal or electronics drop-off site.  But, beyond those considerations, simply thinking about how we use them could be greener, yet still the same level of enjoyment.  It would make sense to most people that they do not need to be on all night, when very few would enjoy them.  They make pretty nifty timers nowadays, or even just manually unplugging before bed and before heading to work or school would make a difference.

Gift giving is another biggie.  The joy of giving someone a gift they will truly enjoy is an experience we all cherish, when we know the notion is sincerely appreciated and you have made someone else very happy.  Those are the goals we all aspire for and share.  It would lead one to conclude, then, that perhaps some of the most meaningful gifts are the most personal and hit a spot in someone’s heart rarely touched.  These need not be excessive trinkets or redundant clothing of which someone already owns plenty.  The most thoughtful gift may not be a thing at all, but an unforgettable experience for someone’s life enrichment – anything from a fancy restaurant to big game tickets to a shared trip to frontiers uncharted.

The holidays are a time of special occasions and special times with loved ones.  No statistics can measure the joy in one’s heart.  This green-minded practitioner would never want to take away from the majesty of those moments with preaching green in the name of sacrificing that joy.  But, what is obvious to me is that the holidays can be enjoyed with the same passion and vigor, yet also not be a terrible stress on the environment.  It takes mindfulness and adapting behaviors to match.  They needn’t be extreme, though the possibilities are vast, but can be the simplest of adaptations making the smallest differences, one person at a time.

Have a happy holidays!

– Dustin, Recycling Intern in Waukesha County

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