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Earth-friendly Christmas

By Sister Kathy Schmittgens
Homemade nativity sets by Sister Lucille Coughlin

This is an opportune time of the year to consciously remember the first commitment of our province Laudato Si’ Year 2 Action Plan: To reduce, reuse and recycle, being mindful of our consumption patterns. This is rarely more important than now, as we enter the Christmas shopping season.

We do want to show those we love how precious they are to us. However, it is extremely easy to succumb to the millions of ads attempting to lure us into purchasing unsustainable gifts for our loved ones. As I examine myself, I realize that often I am tempted to buy some cute little trinket that could end up being just more “stuff” which someone else needs to manage. Instead of those easy choices, perhaps this year, we can all take a fresh look at how to show our love.

Can we mindfully make this a season for “Responsible Gifting”? Questions we might like to ask ourselves:

  • Is the gift I am tempted to buy made of plastic, destined for centuries in a landfill?
  • Is it useful?
  • Is it a gift that the recipient will treasure for a long time?
  • Is it beneficial or harmful to Mother Earth?
Sister Joan Andert's indoor snowball fight craft

I started looking online for “sustainable gifting.” Lost in all the websites and overwhelming ideas jumping out at me from my Google search, I found “zero waste” gifts, handmade gifts, gifts that are donations to earth-friendly causes, sustainable gifts for just about everyone on my Christmas list. I also located multiple ideas on the website, Sustainable Jungle. And I actually paid for a book called Sustainable Gifting by Michelle Mackintosh, (not too sure that was a sustainable choice)!

For those of us who do not feel able or do not have the time to make gifts, what about choosing those that other talented SSND, associates or other crafters have made? For example, Sister Joan Andert noted an “Indoor Snowball Fight” on Amazon that sells between 17 and 30 dollars. Rather than purchasing one, she built a set using sustainable materials that cost a lot less. Sister Lucille Coughlin makes beautiful manger sets from recyclable materials and fabric scraps. In addition, many of our sisters make cards, jewelry, aprons, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, table runners—you name it! We could easily select a beautiful, fitting gift that is a product of their creativity. Receiving a gift, handcrafted by someone, would mean a lot to our loved ones.

As an easy alternative, we could try creating a jar of ingredients needed to make cookies or marinara sauce or a tea variety or soul phrases to boost someone’s spirit on a down day. These are gifts that could be treasured throughout the year. Or how about putting together a small book of favorite family recipes to give to the next generation?

Gift giving would also be an opportunity to introduce products to friends and family which are more sustainable and unfamiliar to them such as laundry sheets (versus purchasing liquid in a plastic container) or compostable supplies or other earth-friendly products which might inspire them to continue purchasing gifts beneficial to our environment.

In these ways, you are caring for our “Common Home” (Pope Francis term for Laudato Si’). You are gifting your loved ones, Mother Earth and yourself by mindfully altering cultural consumption patterns.


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