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GREENINGS (DECEMBER 2016): A green, meaningful Christmas

December 20th, 2016 · No Comments

Five alternatives to store-bought gifts

By Terri Chu

When I was a child, Christmas was a magical time. But as I grew older and became more environmentally aware, the holiday quickly became one of my least favourite times of year. Now I can’t even step into a mall during the holidays: just the mere sight of so many useless gifts meant as a token, ultimately destined for the landfill, makes me grieve for the planet.

“It’s important to me to teach my daughter that gift giving is about the person, the thought and effort, and not just about having something to unwrap.”

In an attempt to reduce our environmental footprint this Christmas, my husband and I have agreed that our gifts will fall under one of five categories: handmade, edible, experiences, heirlooms, or charitable donations. (Getting the extended family to come on board is a different challenge altogether, a fight I’ve been advised not to wage.)

Handmade (Look, I made you a scarf!)

A handmade gift, in my opinion, gives the gift added importance. There’s something about dedicating hours to a project that simply forking over a few bucks for a cheap dollar-store mug doesn’t give you. It’s important to me to teach my daughter that gift giving is about the person, the thought and effort, and not just about having something to unwrap.

Edible (I baked you this delicious cake!)

In the lieu of something handmade, I turn to something edible. (The assumption here is that it isn’t packaged in plastics forever to grace this earth.) For the times when I cave and end up getting takeaway or prepackaged food, I save the containers for a second life as a gifting vessel for homemade treats.

Experiences (I would like to take you to this concert)

Someone once told me my children will remember me more for the time I spend with them than for the things I buy for them.

Heirlooms (These earrings belonged to your grandmother, cherish them)

There will always be things that get passed down through the generations. There are items that meant a lot to our parents, and to us, that we will want our children to cherish. Material gifts have such a short shelf life (do toys even last six months?); it’s nice to see gifts that can last generations. If we treated material gifts as possessions meant to last, our oceans would certainly be less toxic to marine life.

Donation (I am contributing in your name to this important cause)

This Christmas, however, my girl is getting a different gift. In her name, I will be making a donation to the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council. I can’t think of another environmental battle in my lifetime that has had greater significance than this one. Water protectors are out there, in sub zero temperatures reportedly getting sprayed with water cannons, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades. Their only crime is protecting water on lands that were historically theirs.

Every engineering student is told in school that all pipelines will rupture. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when, and how well controlled the resulting spill will be. If the Dakota Access Pipeline gets built and a resulting spill contaminates this water supply, life for most of us will go on, but just not there. The lands will be uninhabitable. The people will be forced to move, and it will happen again and again until there is no more land that is safe to live off.

The era is of big oil is drawing to a close and I see this as a gift to my daughter’s future. How ever you choose to celebrate Christmas, I hope you celebrate with the future in mind.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.



Force the focus (November 2016)

The school of the future (July 2016)

Taking action on climate change (June 2016)

Cloth diapers have gone from burden of the poor to luxury of the rich in one generation (May 2016)

Provide help or stand aside (April 2016)

Don’t fall prey to marketing (March 2016)



Tags: Annex · Life