Monday, December 27
This time of year is the hardest time for me to keep with our ideas of less-is-more, packaging concerns, and the general not-over-doing of just about everything.
We had my husbands family at our house for a Christmas party and gifts were exchanged in numbers not seen since the year I was little and Dad got a big holiday bonus. It was mostly due to the fact that the little guy is almost 2 and he now understands the concept of presents. And everyone in the family wants to shop for him, give him toys, and watch his rip the wrapping apart in absolute joy. It is fun to watch him go at it, he gets so excited and emits such a pure form of happiness that I think most of us have long since lost.
The aftermath was startling. Wrapping paper everywhere, packaging from many, many toys in the form of cardboard boxes, zip ties, wire twist things, cellophane, and the remnants of bows, tags, and Christmas cookies.
My 'holiday blinders' had been on basically since Black Friday. I can not stand to be out and about on that day. It combines everything I can not tolerate into the perfect storm of aggravation. Crowds, noise, traffic congestion, short tempers and foul moods. Overcrowded stores with the heat turned up to sauna-like conditions which seems to give people the go-ahead to wear tank tops in November. It is consumer over indulgence to the extreme. People literally trampling each other to death to get cheap plastic junk.
My blinders go up and I block it out. I know there is nothing I can do to change it. All the homesteading efforts in the world on my part will not change the vast majority at this time of year. And I know I am guilty of a little bit myself. When my blinders go up, I partially become one of them - I buy gifts for people, I forget to bring reusable bags to the store, I don't pay as much attention to the amount of packaging things come in or where it is made. I do try to make an effort but the holidays get under your skin. All the advertisements and sales and cookie trays pull me in and I want to be part of it all. I want to get gifts for people that they will love and I spend too much money and time doing it.
My guilty pleasure: This year, I put up some very old Christmas lights that my Grandma gave me from the 50's (?). Big colored bulbs on thick cord wires with non-polarized plugs. Can you even guess how much electric these babies consume? The heat they give off melts the snow under the little tree that I put them on in the side yard. I love the way they look and the box they came in rocks beyond all belief. They re not efficient, LED or probably even compliant with today's electrical code. Our electric bill went up - way up - this past month. Partly because we are not making nearly as much power from the solar panels, but also partly from my nostalgic cold war era light display.
Again, it's the blinders. I know it is not the best idea, but for a few weeks, I just look away. And yes, I do feel the guilt. More so this year than other years since I have been reading and learning so much about the environment, homesteading, conservation and sustainability. This season of excess should send me running for the hills but I just can't help myself.
The little guy got a ton of plastic toys in an absurd amount of unnecessary packaging. We sent out and received enough Christmas cards to keep the post office in business another year without raising the price of stamps. I ordered a soccer jersey from Singapore for my brothers gift, had it sent to my house in New York and then mailed it back out, wrapped in non-biodegradable paper to his home in Nevada. Normally I would be concerned with where the jersey was made, the amount of fuel it took to transport it across the Pacific Ocean and the continental US (twice), the paper that would be in the landfill forever and the packing peanuts that would keep the paper company over the years.
Paper plates, too much tv, and a river of high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars flowing through my system.
Piles of garbage on the curbs, non-recycled Christmas trees, styrofoam packaging - Americans throw away 25% more trash from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Why did I ever get into all this caring about stuff? I want my ignorant lifestyle back. I want to have an out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy back. "Just throw it away -the garbage man will come and it will magically vanish into thin air."
But I just can't go back. As much as I sometimes want to. I have learned too much about what all the chemicals and bad habits do to our planet. But the holidays are so hard. If I took my holiday blinders off, I think I would literally explode. So I wait until after Christmas, take off the blinders, and live with my holiday guilt, vowing to make up for it as the new year plays out.
I know there are plenty of alternatives: green wrapping paper, composting your tree, using regular plates instead of paper ones (which we did!), trying to limit driving, recycling everything you can. We all know these things, and all the websites give these tips. And we do them, but it just doesn't seem to be enough for me. I could list so many ideas, alternatives and resources here and come off as a green-goodie-two-shoes - "stop trashing the planet!". It just seems too much, the constant analyzing of food chemicals added to the stress of the holidays that we all feel - homesteaders or not. I was going to post a graphic illustrating the cycle of holiday waste and how horrible we are as human beings. I just can't take that high road when I myself have been low-roading it the past few weeks. I get depressed when I think of all the people who just pile it by the curb and wait for the magical "poof". Lets all enjoy a holiday picture of one of my cats instead:
Is it possible to be totally "green" all the time? Do any of you fellow sustainability-minded, homesteaders out there have your days of "two steps back?" I mean, I tried this year - I made presents for many people on my list (but also supplemented it with a second gift from the store), and I recycled as much of the packaging as possible.
Is there a pendulum which allows us to swing into the "consumer zone" for bits at a time? Even though I feel the blinder quilt, is it wrong of me to still bring them out with the Christmas lights next year?