Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Greener Holiday - Simple Living Blog Carnival

Welcome to the April edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - Going Green cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about going green and environmentally friendly living. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

Every holiday, we parents are inundated with toys and candy to buy for our kids. Since we've given up artificial food coloring and one of my kids has food allergies, it's often easiest to stay away from candy related holiday gifts. This puts us firmly in the toys, books, and clothing categories of holiday gifts for our kids.

This spring season, while searching for what we wanted to put in their Easter baskets, I found a lot of plastic junk. I'm not talking about real toys, that they might actually play with for an extended period of time, I'm talking about toys that break within the first 5 minutes of play. Toys that were made in China for less than a penny a piece, that were shipped around the world to the USA, that were shipped to your store or to Oriental Trading, only to be bought and played with for approximately 3 seconds before they ended up in the trash can, en route to the landfill.

We decided to very intentional with our Easter baskets this year. We bought each kid a book, a small toy that they had asked for (one of which was plastic and ended up breaking, so maybe the joke is on me), and a small chocolate bunny. We knew that the grandparents were planning to send Easter gifts. We knew that they kids already have tons of toys that we don't play with enough. We are starting to buck the trend of "more" and instead embrace simplicity.

Somehow, from kind, generous, and well-meaning friends, we still ended up with some of the "penny" style plastic toys (wind-up bunnies, chicks, etc). Guess what? They are ALL in the trash now. Not because we wanted to toss them (though I do hate the clutter), but because they broke almost immediately. Some were broken before it came out of the bag. So into the landfills they go, because how can you recycle a plastic toy?

I wonder if we can collectively shift our thinking when it comes to holiday gifts for children. The trend, it seems, for each holiday is to race to have the most in an Easter basket, or a Christmas stocking, or even a Valentine's Day gift. We are sending the message to our kids that more is always better. Just like this commercial for AT&T:

I can't tell you how much this commercial irritates me. The perspective that more is better is supposedly so ubiquitous that there could be no other answer, right?

Wrong. In fact, when we factor in the real cost of that penny toy from China ~ the human labor that went into making it, the pollution from the factory, the fuel to ship it, the space it takes up in the landfill, more is absolutely worse.

So what are busy parents to do? Are there better non-junk options for holiday gifts? Here are a few tips to help avoid the holiday junk fest:

  • Think Useful: Gifts should be things that your kids can use either to play with long term or wear or read. If there's a chance it will end up in the trash in under 6 months, skip it. I found some amazing ideas for a Clutter-free Easter from A Slob Comes Clean. I realize we are too late for this year, but the ideas are inexpensive and they work for birthdays and other holidays as well. 
  • Avoid Cheap "Filler" Gifts: You know those mini-aisles in the front of Target with all kinds of holiday and kid related junk? Avoid that. Avoid Oriental Trading. Avoid the Dollar Store. Instead of buying 10 $1 items, choose one real toy that is $10. 
  • If You Don't Want It, Don't Give It: This applies more to party favors for birthday parties. My inclination in the past would have been to give a plastic junk from Oriental Trading. Now that we are trying to live more intentionally, I realize that nobody wants that stuff, it goes directly into the trash after a day or two. So instead choose something that your guests will be able to use in the future. Art supplies are always a good choice. 

Every holiday, we fight the urge to make sure our children have enough gifts, enough candy, enough stuff. It's hard to remember that it's not the junk food or the extra stuff that makes the holiday special. It's time with family that makes memories. It's the one toy that they really wanted, instead of 15 that they didn't.

How do you simplify the holidays?

  Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating eco-friendly living solutions into their everyday lives. We hope you will join us next month, as the Simply Living Blog Carnival focuses on Daily Lives!
  • Green Renovating: A Lot, A Little, Not So Much - Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the many things that have an impact on eco-friendly renovating
  • Growing Native in My Flower Beds - Destany at They Are All of Me takes the guilt out of her flower habit by switching from high maintenance flowers to native plants which not only lessens her gardening load, but also benefits the local wild life.
  • Baby Steps - Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares how her family became more sustainable, one step at a time.
  • A Greener Holiday - Sara from Family Organic discusses the overwhelming amount of "stuff" that comes with every holiday and talks about how to simplify instead.
  • Forcibly Green--Obligatory Organic - Survivor at Surviving Mexico talks about her family's evolution from passive to active green and sustainable living.
  • Giving It Away - Juliet Kemp of Twisting Vines writes about the role of Freecycle, the giant karmic lending library, in her simple and green living.
  • Simply Sustainable - Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses her family's attempts to live in harmony with the earth by living simply and more sustainably.
  • How Does Your Yarden Grow - Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassafras writes about an ongoing permaculture project, converting her grass lawn into a mower-free paradise.
  • Green? - Is it about ticking the boxes? sustainablemum shares her thoughts on what being green means in her life.
  • Using Cloth Products To Reduce Household Waste - Angela from Earth Mama's World shares how her family replaced many disposable household products with cloth to reduce their household waste.
  • Going Green in Baby Steps - Joella of Fine and Fair shares some small, easy steps to gradually reduce your environmental impact.
  • Are You Ready To Play Outside?! - Alex from AN Portraits writes about gardening, and playing in the dirt, and how it's O.K. to get dirty, play in the dirt, play with worms, for both adults and kids.
  • Lavender and Tea Tree Oil Laundry Booster - At Natural Parents Network, Megan from The Boho Mama shares an all-natural way to freshen laundry.


  1. Great post. As parents, we do have a lot of influence, not only over the attitude we show our children, but of a lot of the stuff that comes in. How can adult s complain about the number of toys children have when they are the ones purchasing them? Making memorable holidays need not center around "stuff." The experiences are much more memorable. When we do buy things (or usually make things), we try to make certain they are good quality items which will be wanted, played with, and used, or that they are consumable products such as art supplies.

  2. It has been interesting to read about different Easter traditions in the last few weeks, an Easter Basket is not one I have come across! I really agree with all that you have written, children are so often the target of marketing departments these days in ways that I find abhorrent. They are targeting their parents who probably feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children as they are out earning money to pay for all the things they 'must have' which they can't afford so they work more and so the spiral goes on. Holidays for me are about spending time as a family, quality time enjoying each others company.

    1. How funny! Easter baskets are definitely an American tradition. Lots of fun. When I was a kid my parents would hide it and I'd have to find it. :D

  3. It was a sugar shell, filled with some kind of magical whipped cream with an additional sphere of white chocolate inside and berry sauce. As a garnish, a sprinkling of 24 karat gold! it was fantastic :)

  4. That is a great deal - thanks for sharing!
    This is quite interesting.. Definitely good thought. :)
    Gap Year Holiday