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The Planet

The Planet
December 1998 Volume 5, Number 10


Don't Buy, Simplify

by Sarah Fallon

The Macy's down the street from the Sierra Club headquarters was already displaying a bank of tinsel-soaked trees a week into October. I pass the window on my bus ride every day, and every day, the guilt nags at me: Will I have time to buy all the presents I'm expected to? Will everyone like what they get? Will I be able to pay my January credit-card bill? I've got plenty of time to be guilted into spending more than I can afford, which, of course, is what Macy's wants. I can recycle wrapping paper and reuse ribbons, but if I end up consuming hundreds of dollars of stuff, those small economies will go unnoticed in the environmental scheme of things.

The Center for a New American Dream is taking on the October tinsel and commercial good cheer in its slim brochure: Simplify the Holidays. The Center's goal is to replace end-of-year frenzied shopping with a simpler celebration of the holidays.

A few suggestions for gifts that take time, not money:

    home-made dinners delivered to the recipient's house


    car washing

    organizing an outing to a museum or park

    offering a particular talent such as photography, gardening or financial planning

    setting up a monthly lunch with an elderly friend or relative

    And there are some nifty gifts you can make at home:

    baskets of jam, cookies, flavored olive oils

    painted wooden blocks or a sandbox for a child

    a little book of favorite recipes

    a nicely framed photograph you've taken.

Sometimes, the best gifts keep on giving . . . and they don't require batteries:

    sign someone up for lessons in a sport, a language, or a musical instrument

    offer to teach a skill you possess like swing dancing, knitting, building furniture or changing a car alternator.

And remember that Sierra Club memberships make great gifts too, for your friends and for the environment.

No doubt Planet readers religiously recycle wrapping paper and ribbon, buy minimally packaged products, and patronize small businesses. But if you're not sure you've got all the trappings of a pared-down holiday memorized, call the Center at (877) 891-3683 or e-mail them at". They'll send you a free copy of their brochure. It's also available on their Web site at Now if only they'd come take down those Macy's trees.

Go on to the next article, "Club Beat"

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