De-Stuffing the Holidays

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Winter solstice

In keeping with the revelations of The Story of Stuff, maybe you’ve decided to transition to a non-gift holiday? ChangingThePresent floats a few ideas for weaning the greedy:

For the wine connoisseur: ($10) Clear landmines in Afghanistan with Roots of Peace and replace them with grapevines. • For the karaoke junky ($5) Help 50,000 people improve their reading skills by providing Same Language Subtitling (SLS) on Bollywood film songs on TV through PlanetRead. Your gift provides 30 minutes of weekly reading practice to 50,000 people, for one year. • For the friend who never comes to your show: ($5) A bag of concrete. This gift through KaBOOM! will provide an 80 lb bag of concrete which will be used to anchor a swingset, slide, or climbing structure for kids to play on. • And more

Grist also suggests interesting de-stuff alternatives—though their carbon offsets are questionable, as are carbon offsets in general:

Write I.O.U.s: Dust off your babysitting, pet-care, housecleaning, gardening, snow-shoveling, or haircutting skills—whatever you’ve got—and make someone’s day just a little bit easier. • Stop junk mail: Subscribe your gift recipient to a stop-the-junk-mail service like…

Stop junk mail: Subscribe your gift recipient to a stop-the-junk-mail service like 41 Pounds; they will do all the legwork and contact direct-mail marketers on your behalf. Catalog Choice is a free service that blocks catalogs, but it doesn’t deal with other types of junk mail. • Adopt a creature or an acre of rainforest in someone’s name. • Sign up for a CSA: Buying a Community Supported Agriculture share for your family supports local (and often organic) farms. You can search for a CSA program in your area at LocalHarvest. • Teach a skill: Perhaps your friend or relative would love to learn to cook, knit, or play some killer power chords on the guitar? • Make plans: Offer to plan a series of events or outings: cook and eat dinner together; buy tickets for a concert, play, sports event, film festival, or lecture series; go on a hike; or take a class. • Give a museum membership or donate to an environmental organization. Consider charity gift certificates. • Get crafty. If you absolutely must give a tangible gift, try coming up with something handmade. Possibilities include sewing winter hats or gloves, compiling a photo album, baking holiday goodies, putting together a book of poems or stories you’ve written, or burning a CD of your last musical performance. Make sure to check out these tips on eco-friendly gift wrapping. • Ply with eco-booze: What better way to liven up a family holiday (dys)function than passing around bottles of organic wine, vodka, Scotch, or beer? •

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

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