Grinch ChristmasT’is the season of good cheer and cold nights. T’is the season of caroling and twinkling lights. T’is the season to buy, buy, buy.

As much as I enjoy the season, I find myself recoiling from the wanton consumption of the holidays. It’s not like people already don’t have enough things.

Yet all attempts to suppress buying more are swept aside in the spirit of “giving” and to opt out is to face scorn or worse, labeled “cheap.”

A recent article in the NY Times echoed this sentiment in Jolly and Green, With an Agenda:

The holidays have always been an emotionally combustible time for families, bringing together a sometimes volatile mix of siblings, crotchety grandparents and ill-behaved children. But in recent years, a new figure has joined the celebration, to complicate the proceedings even further: the green evangelist of the family – the impassioned activist bent on eradicating the wasteful materialism of the holidays.

I’m lucky, as my family switched over to a “Secret Santa” model years ago (where each of us only buys a gift for one other family member). But to those of you caught in the throes of buying for family, friends, and coworkers, coming up with the cash and conscience to pull it off is difficult.

How to bring others to see the green light? Educate them. A large reason over-consumption can exist unchecked is because most of us are so far apart from the consequences.

Witness an excellent new film The Story of Stuff:

So now that you’ve enlightened your friends and family to the destruction of excess, they’re wondering what to do instead. Years of buying everything has left most of us with an inability to imagine the myriad of creative gifts we can make with time and our hands.

Here’s a few ideas from

  • Compile a recipe book
  • Shoot a homemade film
  • Donate to a charity in their name
  • Creat a custom calendar
  • Paint a picture
  • …the ideas are endless

So go ahead, act against the grain. You may be teased, scorned, mocked on the surface, but underneath, your actions make a difference. They plant that subtle seed of change, which may take a few years to peek its head out of the dirt, but with enough repetition, the results will appear.

And soon you may be on the receiving end of a pretty cool custom calendar.

What are some ideas you’ve come up with for Christmas gifts? Share in the comments!

Ian MacKenzie is editor of Brave New Traveler. Aside from writing, he spends his time exploring the fundamental nature of existence and wishing he did more backpacking.