Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

Holiday Time

November 30, 2013

menorah-mdNow that Thanksgiving has passed, we are now officially in the holiday season. In an extra special coincidence, Hanukkah also is occurring as I write this. So there are plenty of holidays to go around, and still more to come in December (Christmas, Kwanzaa) and a whole bunch of other ones around the world that center upon creating light in the darkness.

Lots of holidays, lots of stuff–too much stuff, actually. Fortunately, there are many “guides” and “tipsheets” oriented around a more environmentally sensitive holiday season. I liked the one in my wife’s All You Magazine in particular. This one was pretty cool because most of its tips were both pretty simple and widely applicable.

giftsOne example is something as simple as repurposing newspaper into customized wrapping paper. My wife had used this one in some of her classes. She also had our son put his handprints on used newspapers–and voila! personalized wrapping paper! Another benefit is that there is no question of whether this wrapping paper can be recycled.

faucet-mdAnother personal favorite of mine is tap water. As in serving tap water at holiday parties vs. bottled water. A huge amount of bottled water is basically processed municipal water transported hundreds of miles anyways—better to save the environmental impact to taking water from your own tap. And if you are still concerned about quality or taste, get a filter. This will be far less environmental impact than using bottled water.

For many people, the holidays are all about shopping. If you are not waiting until the last minute (and are shopping online), you can save both money and carbon emissions by choosing ground shipping vs air. Or, if you are in the store, many store cashiers accept images of coupons on your smartphone (or tablet)–thus avoiding the hassle and paper of regular coupons–the vast majority of which are not redeemed anyways. Actually, from a marketing point of view, a significant amount of coupons are only offered via mobile device. So if you have a smartphone or mobile device, it would behoove you to check the relevant app.

festive-lights-3-mdOne depressing feature of the holiday season is that it gets dark so early. This is why cultures all over the world have some kind of lights as part of the season. In the United States, many people put up holiday lights. (I’ve promised my son a drive to see some cool ones). While many strings of lights of lights are the older incandescents, LED technology has come a long way, especially in terms of cost. LED lights are significantly more efficient than incandescents.

I like the holiday lights. They really brighten up the darkness of the season. Another thing that brightens up the season for me is the personal aspect. Call me out of touch with the times, but I kind of like the idea of making the holiday about connections with people (and community), while minimizing gifts in the first place. Maybe that is the most sustainable option of all…

A New Year’s Gift To Myself–Part One

December 24, 2008

It is the holiday season, and it is the time for gift giving. This year, I have decided to give myself a gift. For my gift, I’ve decided to attempt to define sustainability for myself. What do I mean what I say I am interested in “sustainability”? Inquiring minds including mine might want to know (and not just those inquiring minds who read tabloid media). So I gave myself a deadline of Christmas day to create a personal definition of sustainability. This also allows a full week for my personalized definition to sink in before the New Year of 2009 begins for real. That way I can start with New Year looking for ways to implement my brand new definition.

It turns out that I actually need a personalized definition because there is no standard definition of sustainability. I guess a standard definition is one that everyone agrees on, kind of like red traffic lights mean stop.

A good place to start is the “triple bottom line” concept. The Triple Bottom Line concept is People, Planet, and Profit. A growing number of businesses are evaluating their ability to not just maximize their own profits. They are also measuring their impact upon the planet, and also on how they support their various stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, etc. That is a very good model, and if more businesses did that I think we would be much better off. There is more to life than money, and the triple bottom line idea reflects that. Ask any entrepreneur if they derive satisfaction from their business beyond the profit/loss number and I’ll bet that a great majority would respond with a resounding yes. If entrepreneurs can, why can’t their organizations also?

However, I also wanted a broader definition of sustainability. I found one in a surprising place—Whistler Canada—the home of one of the best ski resorts in the world. They have a Whistler 2020 sustainability plan, which I paraphrase from here:

The Earth is a system, and natural cycles are essential to the health of this system. Sustainability is about natural cycles running in perpetuity. We can help maintain these natural cycles by 1) reducing the amount of natural resources we need to extract from the Earth in the first place, 2) using less artificial substances and chemicals as we can, 3) preserving the open land and natural environment which is left, and 4) proactively attempting to refrain from exploiting the providers and suppliers of our goods and services. (Website: )

I like both of these perspectives individually. I also like the combination of the economic and human perspective (the triple bottom line) paired with the implicitly spiritual one (System Earth). So my gift to myself has become a way to not only incorporate environmental and community impacts into my buying and lifestyle decisions, but also to experience some potential for spiritual understanding while doing so. Who knew?

%d bloggers like this: