It’s not even the first of December and already we’ve got our Christmas tree up. My family’s enthusiasm for the festive season runs hot between November and January; beginning with our traditional cultural celebrations of Thanksgiving (American) until Three Kings Day (Puerto Rican). It’s a good month and a half of spirited get-togethers and family celebrations filled with happy decorations, indulgent food, and heartfelt gifts.
With that said, as someone who cares deeply for our environment, questions about consumption certainly are never far from my mind at this time of year. And with my new role supporting businesses in Investors in the Environment (iiE), quantifying resource consumption is now a daily exercise.
From Christmas cards (e-cards or paper?) to trees (real or fake?), there is a lot to consider when you’re trying to act sustainably whilst also satisfying cherished traditions. How much is too much, and just how do you set the balance?
Having small children, good Christmas atmosphere is essential. So a Christmas tree was important to us this year. We went with a small local supplier in our neighbourhood selling UK grown trees then promptly decorated it with strings of LED (low energy) fairy lights. Christmas cards, however, are less important to us this year (who has the time!?), so aside from sending cards to grandparents not on email, we’ll be sending e-cards and making a donation to our favourite charity instead.
As far as gifts are concerned, I’ve been hard at work chipping away at little projects for friends and family. Not only are handmade gifts lovely and personal, but the making process helps slow me down in the evenings when the expectations of the season start getting out of control. I took a course on willow weaving at the Green Backyard last summer and am using some of those skills to make what I hope will be interpreted as beautiful works of art, rather than just wonky sticks stuck together!
As I get older, I feel I’m slowly learning that it’s all about the process, rather than the end result – and this feeling certainly extends to the Christmas season when we often work ourselves in a frenzy to do what we think is expected. I’m hoping this comes through in my well-meaning but less than perfect gifts.
No matter what variation on the theme we’ve got going this year, the best bits are just the time spent together – during our whole month and a half of Christmas!
April Sotomayor is the Senior Advisor / Business Support Officer at iiE, the green accreditation scheme for organisations.