Holiday’s three Rs

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While we’re all making our lists and checking them twice, how about we stop for just a moment and think about what we’re actually doing?

Americans will spend, according to the National Federation of Retailers estimates, about $465.6 billion on the holidays this year. Considering that the California budget shortfall—the one that may trigger even more cuts to education and programs to aid the sick, elderly and the mentally ill—is only $13 billion, it might give some shoppers pause to think about the choices we’re making with our money.

But for those of us who are inclined toward the whole magic-of-Christmas-and-joy-of-the-season thing, thinking about what we’re doing with our celebrations doesn’t have to mean a holiday without fun, gifts, food and good cheer.

It just means applying the principles we claim to espouse year-round: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

A holiday with the “three Rs” can easily contain as much sparkle and fun as we’ve grown accustomed to in our ever-expanding consumer universe, but it also includes a mindfulness around sustainability issues that we’ve observed—thankfully, we might add—among the younger generation.

Let’s start with reducing the size of our gift list. That doesn’t mean we cut those trinkets for the kiddies entirely, but that we’ll shop—locally—for things that will bring lasting memories. We can also funnel some of that holiday cash into making memories with our youngest family members: a trip to the ice rink, to a holiday play or to see the Sacramento Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

What’s more, when we spend, we’ll make it count. We’ll be trading in shipping charges and mass-produced everyone’s-got-one goodies for local goods, especially the work of Sacramento-area artists and craftspeople. The work of our local artisans will only grow more precious with time and is far less likely to end up in a landfill than something machine-stamped out of plastic and shipped tens of thousands of miles.

Don’t forget the bounty of our local gardens and farms, which can be easily translated into gifts that reflect the place we call home.

As for the reuse portion of our mantra, we can start by seeing to it that the things we no longer use find a home among our neighbors. This is the perfect time of year to clear out old coats and sweaters and move them along to their next life. There’s also plenty of opportunity to refresh and reuse decorations—ah, yes, the ghosts of Christmas past!—with some new paint and glitter. Regifting doesn’t need to be cheap and shabby, especially in these times. Instead, it’s an invitation to add to the long life cycle of objects by passing them on—usually with a touch of yourself added.

And finally, we’ll recycle, which means more than going green with the tree and making sure it ends up in the right place when we’re done. Instead, let’s take all the good we’ve come across in this year will be recycled to those around us.