Obviously the holidays - and winter itself - are times when it is a lot more difficult to maintain or intervene on behalf of sustainability. We travel, need to stay warm, and whatever our traditions, usually add to our food availability! Most of our celebrations throughout the year are like this. But I don't intend to preach - the first paragraph was specifically about me and my family - I propose that whether we are conscious of sustainability issues or not, a trend is starting for different reasons in different populations - but, it is a trend toward sustainability. Our very typical, American family is no exception:
First, gifts: We have three young children - and so attend birthday parties. Including ours, we are seeing a trend toward the "no gifts" requests. Children do love to give gifts, as well, so we've seen variations - "she would love homemade cards," or "feel free to make something" - a parent actually called before my daughter's party and asked if they could make something. The little beaded chain is a favorite clipped to her backpack - and she knows her friend made it especially for her. It's not that folks don't want children to have the joy of receiving gifts, but a party is pretty big joy, and we are acknowledging that we have enough stuff. Also, there are always the grandparents - and I know of no ways to enforce no gifts from them.
But - the grandparents - well, they are doing some really sustainable things - and not for sustainability reasons. One set is getting the kids "experiences" for their birthdays. The other has decided on one activity-based bigger gift for each family (and a stocking) for Christmas, instead of a gluttony of smaller items. We are got our own zip-line this year and are ready to fly!
Speaking of Christmas, well, Santa brought a puppet theater that suspends from tension rods in a doorway, some locally-made wood baby toys, a pair of handmade stilts, handmade hats and scarves (not by me!), a new-to-us toy for each child, a new toy for each child, and books, toothbrush, and socks. (One set with dinosaurs, people, - these cause much toe wiggling and random kicking of the feet.)
And what did we give? We got caught up with the chalkboard theme - and had leftover paint and wood. So we cut the outlines of states folks live in from wood, painted the states (the older kids love maps right now), and attached a means to hang them. Only, Uncle Eric has lived in a lot of states, so he got a cat silhouette. Even the teacher gift was a chalkboard - a baseball field with his favorite team.
And we are planning for this upcoming year. After making the chalkboards, the kids are as excited to plan gifts as they are to plan next year's Halloween costumes - that is ridiculously excited. (In case you are wondering, we will be mythical creatures in October, 2014 which was decided in November, 2013.) Today we will finish our garden plans, taking inventory of our seeds, and place a seed order - not just to grow plants for our gardens, but for Mothers' Day gifts, end-of-the-year school gifts, and neighborly friendliness. (Last year, the men who delivered our new refrigerator took home some heirloom tomato starts and a large bag of mint runners (I warned them!)
We could live without gifts, but not food - and the same trend is holding: At Thanksgiving someone (not us) brought a kale salad. My cousins and I did not know what kale was when were children. Someone else brought a spinach-egg paleolithic diet dish. Both were locally-sourced. We brought homemade bread with local flour, eggs, and herbs. Another cousin brought farm-stand pumpkin butter. We had most of our traditional foods, too, but all at once, there was a local flavor not felt for a long time at our Thanksgiving pot-luck.
City friends visited last year, and we were having such a good time they stayed for supper - which we had not planned. It was spring, so we made what we always make if we haven't planned - a greens and peas frittata and a quick brown bread. They were reminded of the benefits of having veggies on hand that they went back to town and found a spot in a community garden.
They may be small things - but the motivation for living sustainably is creeping into our culture - and that is no little thing. It is not legislated or brought about by much hardship. Once it has a little more foothold in the culture, legislature will follow (or be pulled howling and screaming). ASPI is here with ideas and assistance and researching new possibilities for sustainability all the while.