Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Gift-Giving Season on the Way

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, November 19 / 18

Zack Gross

It is amazing to see how far ahead of the calendar our stores are when it comes to seasonal buying or gift-giving.  Our children are barely out of school, and back-to-school supplies are already in the stores!  We are still suffering through hot summer days, and Halloween costumes are out on the racks!  And 2019 calendars and Christmasy gifts are on the shelves now and available for purchase.

The challenge for many is to find the gift that is appropriate for the particular person in mind.  Of course, people like me would also say that a challenge is finding gifts that help make our world cleaner, safer, kinder and smarter.

Cases in point:  on appropriate gifts.  I had the habit of giving a particular older relative a bag of fair trade coffee whenever I visited him.  What could be better than a consumable gift that everyone should want?  One day during a visit to his home, I opened his freezer to get out some food and lo and behold, there were every bag of coffee I had ever given him! 

How often do we give something to someone, when it is actually something that we would want to receive, but we project that on others?  So, as a result, items of gifted clothing remain hidden in closets, electric can-openers are put away in basements, and books of no interest end up dusty on a shelf.

 My wife recently celebrated a milestone in her life, so I bought her a counter-top composter.  Really, it is me who is wrestling with the fact that as I’ve aged into the seniors category, I’m not really keeping up with composting like I used to.  We’ll see how that works out!

A gift of cash recently to a grandchild elicited the response that she really didn’t want to go shopping as that just imposes the task of looking around and making decisions on her.  Why didn’t we just pick some things off the lengthy list she gave us, and get them for her ourselves?

So, then, what is it that the Earth wants us to get for its human inhabitants for Christmas this year?  Our excuse, if these ungrateful people balk at our generosity is:  the Earth told us to do it!

Back to the counter-top composter!  Just Google it and you will see lots of options.  Here’s a chance for the person of your choice to almost instantly desiccate (thus reducing the size of) and compost all kitchen wastes and put them directly onto their garden or even their houseplants!

Or how about the new Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s Indigenous People’s Atlas, a four-book set that sells for about $100 but seems to be discounted in numerous locations, looking at the history, culture and current situation of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.  Perfect for the student who has assignment to complete on the subject or for the citizen who wants to know more about a topic that is always in the news.

What I would like is a gift of labour.  As I get older, I appreciate more than ever getting help with so many of the more laborious aspects of life, be it the snow-shoveling, the garden preparation or harvest, the housecleaning and more.  I have a lot of energy, but it dissipates quickly.

Then, there are the causes I believe in and that hopefully others do, too.  A donation to these organizations will satisfy my desire to support them and maybe also have a positive reception from those in whose name I donate.  After all, as many people say, “We don’t need any more stuff”!  I hope they mean it!

Of course, not everyone wants a gift that stands for sustainability and social justice.  Some want the latest technology or a new set of clothing or lots of sweet and/or salty snacks.  It hasn’t dawned on them that our planet is demanding that we be more environmentally and socially oriented to stem the tide of poverty, inequality and climate change!

In these areas, there are options coming available, from fair trade clothing (easily found on-line or in select stores), to ethical confections, and even to “fair phones”, a new product not yet found here but available in Europe (hopefully, we are next!).

For the purist, one can celebrate Buy Nothing Day, which takes place Friday, November 23rd or Saturday, November 24th, depending on whether you live in North America, Britain or the Nordic Countries – a shopping day that you don’t need to plan for!  Just stay home! 

Buy Nothing Day was created by the magazine Adbusters, based in Vancouver, as a protest day against rampant consumerism.  As people focus on buying more and more “stuff
,” the planet groans under the weight of all the accumulating junk!

Anyway, however you shop (or don’t), take a moment to think about your impact on the Earth and on the people you care about.



Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s The Marquis Project and now co-ordinates outreach for Fair Trade Manitoba.

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