"T" is for Tinsel

Our resident eco-radical takes on the holidays in his own inimitable style.

by Robert T. Nanninga
n the First Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, tons of stuff beneath a dead pine tree.
Ho, Ho, Ho, everybody break out the credit cards, it's Christmas time. First thing on the agenda is: purchase a tree. Here are your options. Number one, you can do what our neighbor did, and drag the "Oh so lifelike" artificial tree out of the attic, dust it off, slap some lights on it, and call it a holiday. Option two, you can hop into the station wagon and mosey on down to the local tree cemetery, and pick out the perfect corpse to inspire seasonal cheer. Regardless of where it was grown, locally, or from the Pacific Northwest, the tree is guaranteed to become a messy fire hazard. "'Tis the Season to be jolly."
Your third option is to buy a live tree, preferably an indigenous one that can be planted in your yard after the holidays. Living trees can also be kept on the patio for next year. In this era of rapid deforestation, it seems to me to be a waste of biomass to destroy oxygen producing life forms for a decorating frenzy that is otherwise pointless.
While we are on the subject of live trees, there is no reason to limit your selection to the conifer family. For the last two years our household was graced with the beauty of a living, flowering Surinam Cherry. Others go so far as to light a cactus with small Chili Pepper lights, truly a Southwestern Christmas. Considering that Jesus was born in the desert, it sort of makes sense to decorate a palm tree. Or there is the choice I'm making this year, to go treeless. Radical, I know, but what can I say, being the cutting edge kind of guy that I am. I feel trees are beautiful enough, and there is no need to smother them in twinkle lights and glass balls.
And what is the word on that fake snow stuff? I heard that once upon a time that wonderful contribution to the world was made with asbestos, because it was considered important to have a fire-resistant tree. Winter Wonderland or not, we all know what a drag it is to have your house burn down with all those fabulous gifts inside. Is there anybody who still thinks tinsel really looks like icicles? Tinsel is the perfect example of how holiday spirit has progressed into madness. For the mere pleasure of seeing a displaced tree sparkle like a cheesy disco, we waste precious natural resources on a toxic manufacturing process, for a non-recyclable product whose sole purpose is to hang around for a month before it makes its way to the local landfill. All in the name of Jesus' birthday. If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, go to Maine; it's lovely there this time of year.

as anybody noticed the hypocrisy? Year round, we are told to conserve energy, yet as soon as December 1st rolls around, otherwise clear-thinking people drape everything in colored lights. Somehow I don't think Mary and Joseph draped the manger in twinkle lights to celebrate Baby J's birth. Call me Scrooge, but not only are all those lights a waste of energy, they are also an annoying form of light pollution that also will eventually make their way into the landfill.
Speaking of landfills, where do you think all the gifts that your friends and loved ones can't live without end up? Not to mention the fate of all that packaging, wrapping paper, mangled bows and ribbons, greeting cards, party invitations, holiday plates, etc.
If the giving of gifts is to symbolize the offerings of the three wise men, it seems we should mark the occasion with Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. In ancient times all three were used in the magic of purification and protection. If that is the case, how did we get to the point of the mindless giving of senseless gifts? In a time when our planet needs protecting as well as intense purification, the true gift to give our children would be that of consuming less. Every bit of wrapping paper and gift boxes comes from trees. Plastic toys take more from our children than they give. Plastic production is responsible for tons of toxic emissions and runoff every year. Truly the ghost of Christmas past.
This year, when making your list, check it twice to make sure the gifts you plan to give are Earth friendly. Products made from recycled sources are a good start. Educational toys that promote environmental consciousness are a wonderful way to encourage learning and reverence for our planet. For older family members, you can surprise them with a membership in their local zoological society, purchase an acre of rainforest in their name, or give a gift that keeps on giving to your friends and community, membership in San Diego Earth Day.
When shopping for clothing, seek out organic, untreated fabrics. Give clothing that doesn't depend on current fashions, so that it can be worn in style for years to come. Fashion trends serve only the manufacturing industry and tend to be extremely wasteful.
Need I mention how I feel about leather and other animal products? Furs may be beautiful, but they serve the planet best when left au natural, on the hoof. Pearls, abalone, and coral are all mined from the seas. It's hard to imagine that there are still people on this planet who consider ivory an appropriate gift. When giving jewelry, go to antique and pawn shops. This is an excellent way to recycle the beauty and craftsmanship of the past. Remember, all new jewelry encourages the destructive influences of mineral extraction. Diamonds are a dirty business. This year, give a gift that doesn't exploit third world cultures. Now is the time to stop the wholesale consumption of the natural world.
When giving gifts this year, please take the time to consider the true cost of your purchases. We all need to make the effort to change the gift-giving tradition. Rather than wasting money and resources on unnecessary consumer goods, we can give of ourselves in a meaningful way. Time is the best gift you can give your children. Parents, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on toys your kids will soon tire of, how about spending that money taking the family camping for a week in some naturally beautiful setting? Gift giving should nourish your loved ones, not diminish their future.
I look forward to the day when we all take the lead of the Little Drummer Boy and arrive with nothing but the gift of music.
I would like to thank my readers for giving me the gift of their precious time. May all your Solstices be green. Blessed Be.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and active member of the Green and environmental community.