Friday, December 9, 2011

Have Yourself A Sustainable Little Christmas

The other morning I boarded the bus to work and found my favorite seat.  The bus quickly became very crowded, as it usually does, and two women parked themselves right up against me.

Trying to avoid being hit by their designer handbags, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on their conversation.

One woman began to tell her friend about a colleague who had started a company that sold great sustainable gifts.

I immediately perked up and wasn't as offended by their bag nearly missing my head.

Her friend quickly interrupted her and said, "Now what exactly does 'sustainable' mean?"

I was horrified that this seemingly intelligent, well-dressed woman had no idea what 'sustainable' meant.  It’s not a hard word to understand.  But maybe it’s hard to know how to apply.  And then I thought, how many others don't know?

Webster’s defines sustainability as “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”

My definition is along the lines of “ Has this gift's production made sure a tree is gone forever?” or “How long will this stay in our landfill?”

Materials like bamboo, cork, hemp and organic cottons are great choices for sustainable items such as clothing, flooring, and accessories.

Talking about sustainability around the holiday season is super important.  Each year we spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on token, mass-produced gifts for family and friends.  But do we stop to think about the resources it took to make those things?

This year, I found myself doing more of my shopping on sites like Etsy and eBay, or visiting the local, artisan holiday market.  Buying used or hand-crafted items is a much better, unique solution and way more sustainable.

As you shop this holiday season, consider these two questions for each gift you're looking at:

1) Do I (they) really need it?
2) What did it have to go through to get to me/them?

Sustainability can also include gifts that aren't physical objects, like saving a tiger or adopting a manatee.  There's nothing more sustainable than making a donation to an organization in your loved one's name.

And when you sit down to wrap those great, sustainable gifts, try and use recycled or re-used gift wrap.  Or wrap it in something else like an organic cotton dish towel or pillow case. (I've gone from someone who used to be offended if gift wrapping wasn't nice to someone who's bothered if it's there at all!)

Our precious Mother Earth is sustainable, but only if we sustain it.  Let's make the holiday season The Most Sustainable Time of the Year.  Happy Sustainability!