Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the gift of stuff

It’s that time of year again – Ecclesiax craft workshop time. Last year, Sarah and I came up with this brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) to lead craft workshops that would empower people to make sustainable Christmas gifts (check my posts from last November for the neat little gift-giving guide we put together). We had fairly good feedback, so are trying to come up with a roster to run another session this year.

This has led me to examine how successful we were last year – because just because it’s a craft doesn’t mean it’s sustainable. The overall goal of this gift-giving philosophy should be to make crafts that are using recycled materials, or in some other way leave less of an environmental footprint than buying stuff. If you are going to Michael’s and buying a plain picture frame or box to decorate, how’s that lighter on the earth than buying one that is pre-decorated?

As I’ve been trying to sort through this sustainable craft conundrum, I’ve been amassing stuff for the upcoming garage sale. I couldn’t help but notice that a large percentage of what we’re passing on was, at one point, a gift. So here’s the rub: I love gifts. I love giving gifts and I love receiving gifts. However, our culture of gift-giving ends up with people having more stuff in their lives than they possibly know what to do with. I have definitely been a giver who has either a) thought I was giving the perfect gift, but I was wrong; or b) was so right that it was perfect that the recipient already had one, and I was giving them a double.

I also struggle with imposing my tastes on other people – what’s the good of giving someone a homemade recycled whatever if it’s just going to sit there and they’re not going to use it? Wouldn’t it be better to give them a store-bought plastic whatever else that they really want? I also like practical gifts - but I know that some people don't want to receive a frying pan for Christmas.

So, I don't know what to do. I would like to give something that is homemade, useful, and that the person will love, but it doesn't always happen. So, I am trying to give less gifts, and think about what I am giving and the person I am giving it to - but let me warn you that your baby will receive a quilt from me whether it needs it or not . . . and you better like it.

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