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As a kid, I was as eager for Christmas presents as anyone, soaking in the giddy anticipation of that wonderful time of the year. Things were tight, as our parents raised five kids on a single blue-collar income. Our parents weren’t the kind to entertain myths about Santa Claus, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for waking up to stockings filled with useful things, oversized apples and oranges, and to finally discover what treasures were waiting under the tree.
Given limited family finances, I grew up with a sense of thrift and a pragmatic approach to stuff . I fell in love with Goodwill’s three-dollar price points on designer jeans, aft er a couple years of trying to pursue my pre-teen fashion dreams on a babysitter’s budget.
Eventually, I slid into consumerism with a comfortable, post-collegiate salary. My fiancé and I acquiesced to rituals about accumulating unneeded things from relatives.
Now, as the mother of a tween — and an entrepreneur focused on raising awareness about the relationship of climate change to our appetite for newly manufactured goods — I am a vocal advocate for thinking critically about our traditions.
Fully 30 percent of our carbon emissions are generated as a direct result of our demand for newly manufactured stuff. That is more than our transit emissions, more than our housing emissions, more than double our food-related emissions. I believe it is time to consider that gifts of new things are perhaps less blessing than curse.
I am a strong proponent of the slow movement. That means consciously opting out of the speediest, easiest, most expedient option in favor of choosing connection, community, and intention.
The slow movement is about developing new habits and establishing new routines: riding a bike to work, or figuring out public transportation.
It’s about choosing to prepare food from less processed sources, rather than defaulting to pre-packaged boxes — both for improved nutrition and because these choices generally involve less single-use packaging that spends most of its lifecycle in a landfill.
Slow living involves thinking about values and priorities — do we really need it by tomorrow, if at all? Shipping by airmail produces nearly 10 times the emissions of ground transport.
Slow is about connecting to roots — taking pride in self-sufficiency and community, teaching and learning the skills that were common knowledge among our grandparents. It is about making, repairing, growing, canning, freezing, mending, and hemming. It is about taking in and letting out, embellishing and refashioning.
All of these give opportunities to take well-deserved pride in our contributions to sustainable communities.
The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives us only 12 years to respond meaningfully to avoid extinction-level climate disruption. This holiday season is a powerful opportunity to reconsider what we really want for our loved ones.
Julie Kearns founded Junket: Tossed and Found, which is transforming into a community space in a new location to encourage creativity and re-use with collaborators at Better Futures. Find her @juliejunket and @shopjunket