By Jonny Finity
Every year when I was a kid, we used to get two stockings on Christmas. One at home, filled by my mom, and one at my grandparents’ house in the afternoon. And every year, as soon as we crossed the threshold into Nana and Grampa’s ranch home, my brother, sister and I would sprint to the fireplace and tear at our stockings, furiously scattering toys, candy, and knick-knacks across the floor until we got to the one thing we were really looking forward to, the ONE THING we looked forward to the most, buried down in the toe of the stocking.
Each of us got our very own can of ripe black olives.
We loved black olives. But the thing I remember most, the thing that stayed with me through all these years was the anticipation! We looked forward to that can of olives as much as anything, and it’s still one of my fondest memories of the holidays with my family. It was an experience far more valuable than the two dollars Nana spent on a can of oily fruit.
According to the EPA, Americans generate a disproportionate amount of household waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. We don’t need to give in to the consumer culture that sells us more things, cheap things, things individually wrapped for convenience. Here are three ideas to help make the holidays less wasteful—and more meaningful, instead.
Give an experience. Studies have shown over and over that people get more happiness from experiences than things. We look forward to the experience, enjoy it while it’s happening, and think back fondly on it after it’s over.
Whether you splurge on a performance at the theatre, a nice dinner (at a restaurant that composts, of course!), or lessons for a favorite activity, this is one gift that appeals to young and old alike. Include a brochure or color printout from the business’s website to give the recipient a visual impression of the event. They make great stocking stuffers! Just like black olives.
Give the gift of less trash. If you want to give someone a thing, why not choose something that will do some good? A cookbook for leftovers (better yet, a cooking class for leftovers). A reusable coffee mug. A food dehydrator. Battery recharger. Cloth napkins. A stainless steel food scrap pail. A compost bin. Reusable produce bags. Black olives! (Okay, that’s a stretch.) Give your friends and loved ones something that says you care about them—and the environment we live in.
Buy less trash. I know, this seems like an obvious one. But really, most of the trash that we produce at home is packaging material that we don’t often notice or think about. We often see it as just part of the product it contains. And we’re paying for it! Next time you’re in the grocery store, think about the landfill when you walk down the aisle and look at all of the pretty colors. All of that pretty packaging has to go somewhere.
Buy items in packaging that’s recyclable (like black olives!). Buy in bulk, with your own containers. Bring reusable bags. Buy durable items; they often require less packaging, because they’re less fragile.
Another way to avoid trash is often to buy local. Shipping items across the country requires a lot of packaging – some of which may be recyclable, but much of which is just going to wind up in the landfill. (Not to mention that whole carbon emissions thing…) If you can buy a similar item that’s made locally, chances are it requires a lot less packaging to get to you.
Here’s to you finding your own black olives – a waste-free gift that somebody will remember forever.
Jonny Finity grew up celebrating holidays in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia and found his way up to Vermont after almost a decade abroad in Kenya, South Korea, and Malaysia. He is the Marketing & Communications Manager for Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD).