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Buy Nothing Christmas

David Callahan

Lots of us hate Christmas shopping, so it's nice to have some moral support for these Grinch-like sentiments from an organized campaign called Buy Nothing Christmas. This group has lots of ideas about how to celebrate Christmas without a pile of Chinese-made presents that, chances are, the recipents don't even want.

Buy Nothing Christmas suggest creating a hand-made gift, or baking food, or giving a present to a child in the developing world who really needs new stuff, or writing a poem for someone, or regifting something you already have, or donating your own time in the form of a babysitting coupon (love that one!), and so on. The BNC website lists 63 different alternatives to the traditional consumerist present.

But this campaign, which is orchestrated by Mennonites, also provides an out to those who must buy a few presents:

We are all going to have to buy some things. When you do buy things, we encourage you to remember principles like buying locally, fairly-traded, environmentally friendly packaging, recycling or re-using, buying things that last, and so on. The main aim of this campaign is not to save money (although that can be a side benefit), it's not to slow down the pace of Christmas (although that can be a side benefit), it is to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth. So, even though you might buy a few things at Christmas, it's important to think in these global economic terms.

Of course, this group's goals go beyond just challenging the over-consumptive lifestyle. It also wants to challenge our form of capitalism, which depends so heavily on consumering spending. That's a goal worth supporting, given that the United States has devoted too much of it's resources lately to private consumption -- like putting in that new kitchen -- and not enough to investing in the long-term foundations of wealth creation and national well-being.

Our homes have become bigger, our cars more well-equipped, and our Christmas presents more lavish, but our educational system lags behind other countries, we are losing the race to build a clean energy economy, our infrastructure is falling apart, and about a third of households don't earn enough money to live comfortably. 

Okay, maybe that's all too much to heap on the calculus of what presents to buy this Christmas. But it definitely needs to be part of ourhinking.