Some might say I go too far. When compared to the average consumer, I may seen downright nutty. But I believe that decades ago—before mass consumer culture kicked in—I would have seemed fairly normal. Well, let’s say normal as far as my consumption patterns go… As I have said many times, I’m not extreme, our consumer culture is.
Call me Grinch but…
I have opted out of Halloween for a few years now
Yes, I am that cranky lady down the street who turns her lights off and doesn’t dole out candy. I have older kids (one grown and one teen) so I can easily opt out of this one. The kids in my neighborhood get so much candy as it is. I am doing parents a favor by not adding to it. I think it would be a good night to go ice skating—the rink will be empty. I’ll wear a funny hat 😉
Jack-o-lanterns waste so many pumpkins (and all the water and other resources that went into growing that pumpkin). We won’t carve one this year but I have carved many in the past. If you carve a pumpkin, you can at least eat the seeds. They taste so so good. Pick off the larger chunks of pumpkin but don’t wash off the seeds. Toss the seeds in olive oil and salt, spread them on a cookie sheet in a thin layer and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden. My younger daughter LOVES these. After Halloween, compost your pumpkin.
Halloween candy presents a big dilemma for a zero-waster. If you know your neighbors well, you can pass out homemade treats. If you don’t know them, your efforts will most assuredly go straight into the trash. Simple Gum comes packaged in cardboard.
You could also try to find foil-wrapped candy in the bulk section—at least these alternatives have no plastic wrapping. Bulk Barn in Canada carries bulk candy, with several choices wrapped in foil,
however until now, the chain hasn’t allowed shoppers to use their own containers and reusable bags. The company ran a pilot bring-your-own-container program in one Toronto store this past September and just announced this week that it will expand to 26 more stores in Canada beginning November 7th, with Quebec launching on December 8th. Keep it in mind for next Halloween if you live in the Great White North. Update: You can now bring your own clean containers!
I’ll make less food on Thanksgiving
My daughter MK returned to school in Canada this fall so she won’t be here for Thanksgiving. When she is home, she cooks the dinner. It’s her favorite day of the year. She goes hog-wild. Last year, she cooked four pies. She made the bread for the stuffing. She made chutney. She made gravy. She made cocktails. I ate until it hurt. And then I ate some more.
This year, with MK away, I plan on cooking a smaller dinner. I won’t cook a bird. (I know this is unthinkable for many people—I’m not suggesting everyone do as I do, I’m just throwing ideas out there.) My younger daughter C doesn’t like turkey, I can’t find a whole one plastic-free and we can’t eat 15 pounds of poultry anyway. C does love tourtière—a French-Canadian meat pie—so I’ll make her one of those. I’ll also make cranberry sauce or chutney if I can find loose cranberries (Rainbow has carried them in the past), a few vegetable sides, perhaps a nutloaf and a couple of pies. Yes, this is much less food than we usually eat at Thanksgiving…
I buy nothing on Black Friday
I dislike crowds and I dislike shopping. Before the dawn of consumer culture, shopping was a chore reserved for servants or those who couldn’t afford servants. Instead of shopping on Black Friday, I’ll celebrate Buy Nothing Day by staying home and avoiding the crowds, eating leftovers, watching movies and maybe knitting something.
In what I regard as a hopeful sign (and not merely clever marketing), REI again this year will close all 149 stores on Black Friday and give its employees a paid day off. Last year, seven states offered free admission to their state parks on Black Friday. I haven’t found any information about this for 2016 but Thanksgiving is still a month away, so maybe parks will offer free admission this year as well.
I don’t send Christmas cards
I know this has really annoyed some friends and family in the past. I stopped sending them after I had kids—the task simply fell off the never-ending to-do list. Some of you love to send these, some of you don’t. Don’t feel guilty either way.
I don’t put up a Christmas tree
I haven’t bought a Christmas tree for a few years. For many people who partake in the holiday season, this goes too far. My mom finds my treeless state utterly horrifying. I’m not suggesting everyone do this. I’m just explaining what I do. Back when I did get a tree—if we were home for Christmas—I bought a small one and decorated it with strings of popcorn, homemade cookie ornaments and whatever decorations I had amassed over the years.
Update 11/26/18: This year I’m attempting to rent a potted tree that the nursery will then replant after the holidays.
I’ll have a potluck on New Year’s Eve
I’m not exactly a party animal. I can’t remember the last time I went out for New Year’s Eve. In my intentional community, the other moms and I and our kids often celebrate holidays together with a potluck. Everyone brings a dish or something to drink or both. It’s convenient, fun and no one has to worry about driving home after imbibing my mead.
Other events to scale down
Made-up holidays. Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Grandparent’s Day. St Patrick’s Day. They’re more like marketing opportunities for business than holidays. If you want to and can (Mom may not like it), scale back on some of these too.
Birthdays. You don’t have to throw an elaborate party for your kids every year. Invite a couple of their friends for a sleep over, bake a cake and watch a movie. Ditch the goody bags. No one likes these bags full of plastic junk. If someone hands you one, politely say no thank you. Truly, this tradition must die.
Weddings. People always look horrified when I tell them this but I got married in Las Vegas. It was pretty simple. I would probably have had a mental breakdown had I attempted to plan a wedding. At The Little White Chapel, we didn’t go through the 24-hour drive-up wedding window or have an Elvis impersonator marry us and I do regret that a little bit. I wore a very nice dress and opted for a wedding band, not a diamond. I told John never to buy me a diamond—blood or otherwise.
According to the Knot’s most recent wedding survey, people have lost their minds. Couples in the US spend an average of over $31,000 on their weddings. In Europe, couples spend much less on weddings—about $5,500 US.
Happy scaling back 😉