My wife and I were driving around looking at holiday displays throughout various areas of Durham the other day. I was very encouraged to see more and more LED projection displays being used, because they are by far and away the most sustainable of the electronic decoration options. However, it pained me to admit that most of the homes that were using these displays weren’t the homes that seemed the most decorative and inviting.
This got me going down a rabbit hole of contemplation. I know that the right thing to do is to embrace LED lighting displays. It is the responsible direction to advocate for. And yet, they look like shit. There. I’ve said it. It’s like many other “alternatives” that are advertised as being just as good as the original, when they aren’t. I remember being told that carob chip cookies were as good as chocolate chip ones. They weren’t, and anyone who insists that they are needs to get their taste buds examined. I am highly lactose intolerant. So much so that when I was a child, I would get nosebleeds if I consumed dairy products. My parents got me soy milk as an alternative, and were quite upset when I wouldn’t drink it, until my mother tried it for herself, and realized that it was liquified sawdust that marinated in goat feces. It wasn’t nearly as good as the original. Neither are LED projection displays, no matter how badly I want them to be.
This is not a post trying to compel people to act sustainably throughout the holiday season. It can be exhausting to lecture society throughout every stage of the year, but it is especially challenging during holiday seasons. While it may be annoying to be bombarded by sustainability messaging nonstop, believe me that it is equally demotivating to be the party pooper 24/7. While the articles pointing out the harm that holiday excess causes are well intentioned, they just serve to foster resentment towards the authors, many of whom make Debbie Downer seem like the life of the party.
Yes, we tend to overdo it during the holidays. Additionally, a lot of Western habits and traditions don’t seem to make a lot of sense if we really stop to think about it. Why do we chop down evergreen trees and put them in our living rooms? Is this really an essential ingredient towards people being just a little bit nicer to each other between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? I don’t really know and I’m not inclined to go on a tangent discussing that possibility. All that I want to point out is that there are enough people out there that will happily lecture you on how you can do things a little bit better during this holiday season if you love the planet.
Normally, I would be firmly included in that population, providing some tips or info on some changes that you could make that really wouldn’t make things worse for you. I would rationalize this by telling myself that if we all make small changes individually, we can make some profound changes collectively. I can justify this because, for the most part, I firmly believe this to be true. However, constantly acting in the most sustainable way is exhausting. It’s almost impossible, because just being on this planet means we are consuming resources in some way or another. Surely we can allow ourselves moments to just enjoy something that gives us pleasure. For many people, decorating their homes to celebrate a special time of year does precisely that. For others, it is wrapping meaningful gifts in wrapping paper to give to their loved ones. Still others delight in sending their holiday wishes and family updates via paper cards through the mail.
Perhaps we can address the impact of these actions at another time, but in the midst of the holiday season, it would only dampen the holiday spirit. Does an e-card replace the magic of opening a Christmas card and putting up the picture of a family that is special to you on your refrigerator? Nope, it doesn’t. Are there potentially better ways of doing this? Perhaps, and I can’t wait to explore them. But, for the moment, it seems sometimes we’re just nitpicky for the sake of being nitpicky and that gets tiring really quickly.
In conclusion, my holiday request of you is to think sustainably most of the year. If you have done so, then you’ve earned a well-deserved “cheat day” to enjoy the things that make this season so special for you and your loved ones. We didn’t get into this situation overnight, and constantly being vigilant in our actions without a break isn’t going to solve this problem, so please do what makes you happy. Although I might not love your brightly colored lights, I promise not to make my expressions of displeasure louder than those feeble images those god awful LED projectors display. Happy holidays!