The social and economic pressure to approach the December holidays as a breathless buying spree is enormous. But so is the environmental toll from the millions and millions of well-intentioned gifts that are manufactured, used and thrown away. This program explores other ways of showing our affection to the people we care about, from handmade gifts, to “coupons” for personal favors (like cooking a meal for a loved one or helping them with computer needs), to giving charity in their name. Lifting our holiday celebration from the orgy of merchandising, we may deepen the quality of family connection at this special time of year. It also may bring us closer to the original intent and meaning of these festive occasions.
Well, I’m very fortunate that my family is not a big consumer-manic family and so what we do for the gift-giving is everybody draws one name and you give one gift and we have a limit of twenty-five dollars. So I have to buy one gift maximum of twenty-five dollars and that’s it. I can completely ignore all the junk mail that comes advertising things, I can ignore the long lines at the store. I’ve just opted out of the whole consumer frenzy.”
—Annie Leonard, author, The Story of Stuff
Give the gift of time. It’s not that hard. One year I gave my wife gourmet dinners once a month. Other times you say, “We’re going to ride the subways together.” Or, “You’ve got Saturday mornings off for the next month. Don’t worry about the house. Don’t worry about the kids. I’ll take responsibility for them.” Find a way that you can either use your time, or give somebody back some time that they haven’t had. And this is an extraordinarily precious gift, because we don’t have enough of it, usually.”
—Patrick O’Reilly, advocate of “alternative giving”