Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Enviro Blog: A sustainable, intangible Christmas with substance


imaginary friend by Donna Williams  So you feel sorry for the shopkeepers this Christmas if you don’t buy an A-Z of consumables.  But what you may not realise is that those shopkeepers usually sell goods which were DESIGNED not to last, designed to rip you off, to be upgraded, replaced, thrown into landfill, designed to eat a hole in your pocket, designed to give a quick thrill and promote a mentality of momentary enjoyment and long term dissatisfaction with life itself.

What’s more, the shopkeepers in main streets and malls have to sell 5 times more of this junk just to pay the multi-national conglomerates and mega-rich landlords the rental before they can pay back for the stock, pay the packaging, running costs, the staff and only then will they get to pay themselves.  This means they have to use product advertising and peer pressure to get you to buy temporary clutter which won’t last and much of which is helping kill the planet and deplete the last of its resources.

Many of the goods you buy this Christmas will be cheap imports, even sometimes made with child or indentured (slave) labour where those working have come into the cities off the land and earn barely enough then to feed themselves or get back home.  As the sales you provide expand sweatshops in Third World countries those factories spew pollution which contaminates the land these people’s water and food comes from (not to mention air).

If the shopkeeper’s shop fails they may fear going out of business, but instead some could migrate to online sales and local street markets where the cost of the same goods will usually be far far less than when they had to meet all those overheads and their shop assistants may develop their own entrepreneurial skills and either find or create some degree of employment elsewhere.  And it may be their addicted households have to get buy with only 1 TV or without the latest X-Box, but they just might spend their TIME doing something more enriching, more sustainable and begin to speak to each other again.

So what’s an intangible Christmas with substance?

Well, to start with, it doesn’t send slivers of dead tree around the globe in the form of Christmas cards, or if it does it at least buys those made from recycled card which could have the front picture removed and sent on further as a postcard or used as a wall picture at a later date – a card which lasts, or at least a card which can be recycled.  And what about e-cards?  And why buy them?  You can make your own with a lovingly selected image and some heart felt lines of text.  Scour You Tube for a tune and clip that you feel would touch the heart or bring a smile to the recipient and insert the link to it, and voila, you have just send an e-card.

It is a Christmas without wrapping paper.  Instead gives are in a nice and reuseable pillow case and tied with a re-useable ribbon that is later kept in ‘the wrapping drawer’.

It is a Christmas without GLUTTONY.  When we get one gift we don’t instantly compare it with the mountain of others we got.  We don’t instantly see the QUANTITY as the relative value.  We see the quality.  Better to have one quality gift which has had heart and thought.  That heart and thought should have been put into making it or buying it from a source and supplier which does not pollute or contribute to human misery, than have a mountain of throwaway replaceables which ultimately only lined the factory owner’s and landlord’s pockets.

And what about intangible gifts?

A poem, a song, an IOU for that shoulder rub, an IOU for an hour’s precious TIME.

They say it’s the thought that counts to THINK.

If you’re Christian do you really believe Jesus would have wanted you to glutton yourselves with more food than your own stomach can hold without stretching or making you feel ill?  Do you really feel Jesus would have felt so little toward the gazillion dead animals we stuff ourselves with at Christmas?  Do you really feel Jesus would have wanted you to buy an addict more cigarettes with which to kill themselves and kill animals, to buy sweat shop goods (Jesus loves the little children, huh?), to buy products which support powerful conglomerates which have so failed to ‘trickle down’ the wealth that everyday people are now carrying THEM?  Do you really feel Jesus would have felt so little for the water, the air, the earth that he’d have wanted you to strip more of its resources then toss them the next day, month, year straight into landfill?

And what about Santa?  Has the smile on this Coca Cola created icon stopped feeling genuine?  Does it look more like an advertising ploy than an entertainment let alone sentiment?  Does the sight of Santa bring joy to children now, or does it bring greed.  Is the first thought upon seeing Santa the thought ‘I NEED’ instead of who is truly going without this Christmas.  Maybe it’s time for Sanity Clause to replace Santa Claus.  Maybe its time for Christmas to replace Cashmas.  Maybe it’s time to think about sending people a buzz from Oxfam Unwrapped where they receive the warm fuzzies but the starving and destitute receive the means for sustainable self-sufficiency.  Maybe it’s time to accept that change starts out as growing pains and projected fears, but how many of us could look ourselves in the mirror with greater dignity if we were part of the solution not the problem.

As for me, I’m a Spiritual Atheist (a Humanist).  I don’t celebrate Christmas but feel that even if I were Christian, I wouldn’t celebrate it as much of society does because I don’t feel much of what happens at Christmas fits Christian principles at all.

We live in Australia.  It’s summer here in December.  I don’t need or want cards with snowmen or men in heavy red suits or raindeer and cosy glowing fires.  I’ll be worried about bush fires, eating salad, trying to stay cool in 40 degree heat (and Global Warming will take us up to 50).

We have a tree.  It’s a barren BRANCH (didn’t kill the tree it came from), whitewashed and covered in glitter (yeah, not sustainable) and we clip decorative butterflies and birds onto it (from local craft shops).  So it’s really a Summer Tree, a celebration of the season and the years end.

We send some cards, fewer each year.  I make sure they are reuseable and recyclable but otherwise I tend to send out a Christmas poem and pictures via email.

I ask people to send me no presents.   I do give some (yes, hypocrite).  And I don’t wrap those.  I simply put a re-useable ribbon around them or if I want to hide them I’ll put them in a nice pillow case and tie it and I tend to stick to singular gifts, putting quality before quantity, and I have no fear of giving things which are moving or practical, which are to be passed on or consumed right then (I don’t mind giving food as a gift).  I’m happy with gifts not being give to each other but gifts to the home itself, to the garden, to society.  I’m happy to give or receive IOUs for TIME or foot massages 😉 .  And because I have no expectations, I’m never disappointed at not getting X, Y, or Z.

I eat moderately and invite a few people to enjoy our hospitality, but mostly the atmosphere, a laid back one largely devoid of Christmas pressures and expectations.

If I’m given things I often wont open them in front of people, especially if they’re gawping and eager for me to do so.  If it was for your enjoyment, why the hell did you give it.  My emotions are something personal and watching you want X, Y or Z from my emotions doesn’t seem to be about me, it’s about you.  And if I give something, then similarly, it’s up to you when you explore it.  That’s a Simply Being Christmas.

Thanks for your time, your TIME, the most precious thing you have, next to the planet which sustains you.


Donna Williams

author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter