The gift of time: A charcoal drawing of my father for his Christmas gift a few years back. Photo: Oliver Berger

By Oliver Berger —

It’s that time of year again, when we see the leaves turn to awesome golden-yellows and fiery reds, when we see the first frosts layering the Earth with crisp, sharp crystals, and when we see our first snowflakes of the season as Mother Nature blankets the land with a pure, white covering.

All the garbage on the sides of the roads is no longer unsightly because it has disappeared under the fresh snow-blanket. All that built-up clutter in the backyard has now beautifully disappeared and needn’t be worried about until spring. With the shorter days and longer nights comes the urge to nest in our homes and semi-hibernate. We can now focus our time on the inside of the house.

Alas, with the shorter daylight, it is still a very busy time of year, especially with the recent and upcoming festivities. Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday, making of course, Christmas, the world’s highest grossing commercial holiday. When I hear the words “top grossing commercial holiday,” my brain instantly swarms with all the stuff people end up buying just for a few days of entertainment, along with all the packaging of short-term products that come with it: decorations, treats, gifts, costumes, parties, and all the extra trimmings. These extras can create a lot of waste.

Holidays are a beautiful time of year when we spend time with family, enjoy a few extra days off work, and, of course, enjoy the food. However, for some people the holidays equal over-consumption and extra sales and every time making money is involved, the environment takes a hit or makes a sacrifice. So this year, let’s put some consideration into our holidays and make a few changes in our normal routines that will better our efforts towards a sustainable lifestyle and planet.

Think about how long that next gift you buy will last for that special someone, or more specifically, what will happen to the present when they are done with it. Even if handed down once or twice, a plastic toy, or instance, will sit in a landfill or float in the ocean forever, whereas a wooden toy will decompose and naturally break down once it has reached its end of life. We can take advantage of all the great local artisans and craft-makers we have in our community and purchase something homemade or organic and most likely without packaging.  Or better yet, take advantage of all this time indoors and make something yourself!

One year, our family decided we were not going to spend massive amounts of money on each other, buying things we really didn’t need. Instead, we made the pact to make gifts ourselves.  I spent some time head down into some charcoals, and drew portraits of all my family members. My mother got extremely creative with her knitting hands and lavished everyone with toques and wrist warmers. My sister made photo collages spelling our names with pictures of nature and put them in hand-me-down frames. My dad, last minute of course, decided to put his phone down (which meant a lot to us then) and spent some quality time telling us stories of when we were little. One of our cousins came up with this grand idea to pot some of her expanding spider plant shoots into Share Shed planters and gift them to us as a symbol of the extension of her family.  It was amazing, actually, how happy we all were with these simple, homemade gifts from the heart, so much so we continue this tradition to this day. We recently added sustainable wrapping to our pact, and substitute wrapping paper for simple newspaper, old books, or cloth bags decorated with some hemp rope, buttons, or whatever our minds can create.

When it comes to decorations, there are many styles and ideas for sale out there; however, you know they might only last for one festive dinner party and then end up in the garbage bin after you’re guests have left. The nicest table setting I’ve ever seen for the Christmas holidays was just a collection of small tree branches, moss, pine cones scattered around, and a variety of nuts and oranges to munch on while you waited for the main course. Homemade wreaths are great too, and you cannot deny we are surrounded by enough materials in our forests to create, probably even sell, many of these. Surely if we stop consuming or buying these goofy, short-lived goods, manufactures will find more Earth-friendly alternatives.

Last but not least, the most waste-wise gift of all you can give, is time. It is the most valuable thing we have in life and the most generous gift to give to someone, always.  Offer some of yours this year.

Lest we forget.

Oliver has a 34-year degree in life, starting out in the Spokin Lake area, spending adolescence in Williams Lake, and then venturing throughout the world on a quest of always learning new things. Since working at the recycling facility in Williams Lake, his priorities include dedication to and education about waste management. 

Part of the family: A spider plant off-shoot flourishing years after being sentimentally gifted. Photo: Oliver Berger
Part of the family: A spider plant off-shoot flourishing years after being sentimentally gifted. Photo: Oliver Berger



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