My favorite Christmas was on a farm in southern Illinois. The farmhouse where we lived was a 900 square foot, two bedroom, one bathroom brick home, with a hand-dug well, a cistern to collect rain water, and a septic system that would overflow if we used it too much. There were only one or two electrical outlets in each room, which meant we couldn’t turn on too many lights. We had one telephone, one TV, and one computer for our family of five. If we tried to cheat and put in a power cord to accommodate, say, the lights on a Christmas tree, we’d blow a fuse.
We were naturally green because we didn’t have a choice. The way our house was structured, we simply couldn’t use too much of anything. We had enough and no more. And, you know what? That was fine. In fact, it was great. Our kids had a ball there, even without all of the latest, greatest electronic gadgets. We grew closer as a family because the living space was such that we had to spend time together.
Now, we live in the OC in a 3,000 square foot home with more bedrooms and bathrooms than I care to count. We have phones and TVs and computers, and we can turn on our Christmas lights anytime we want. We never have to think about the fuse box or about a septic system or anything else. And maybe that’s part of the problem: When everything is this easy, we tend to take things for granted and keep using more. There are no natural barriers to consuming too much energy or water, so we simply don’t live within our environmental means. We don’t even think about it.
But this year, I’m going to think. I’m going to look at the way we’re celebrating Christmas and find a way to do it with more care and less waste. For me, being green this season isn’t just about buying energy efficient LED Christmas lights or recycling my Christmas tree or even donating to an environmental cause. It’s about having enough and no more. It’s about having a little less than we want so we can really savor what we get, instead of having so much we don’t even notice.
So I’m not going to buy everything or do everything this Christmas, which most likely means my family isn’t going to have as much stuff as we usually do. But I am going to think of one thing we can do together to make that day memorable. Maybe, instead of going ice skating in the back forty like we did at Christmas on the farm, we’ll have a bonfire by the beach, California style. Who knows? But I’m sure it’ll be fine. In fact, it’ll be great.