Curbing Consumption: what we can do

Starbucks just released their seasonal red cups, a sign that corporate America is ratcheting up for the coming weeks of commercialism. I’ve also been gearing up for the holidays, but not as joyously. While red is commonly associated with Christmastime, I often find myself wrapped in shades of blue. Not because I’m still shell-shocked from images of the electoral college, but because the holidays are often a time of tribulation and contestation, rather than celebration. Feelings of lost childhood, inevitable family feuds, seasonal depression swirls into the mix–it’s not an easy time. My solution to all of this is endless mugs of liquored up hot chocolate, and so by January 1st when it all ends (though does it ever end, really?), I’ve been worn down to a rattled, hungover mess.

Not too dissimilar to the way I’ve been feeling this week, come to think of it. I’ve been awake more hours than not, recently, and my brain has been “on” constantly, worrying about what lies ahead, about my friends and neighbors and landlord and planet. I don’t know any solutions to the epic problems we face right now in the wake of Trump’s election and speculative appointments. However, I am making an effort to listen to those most afflicted, to ramp up my empathy and my capacity to love. Though we may be entering the season of merriment, it is only this way for some. I am reminded, this year especially, of the inequalities reinforced by consumerist holidays like Christmas, as well as the pressures of cold, wet months, which burden some members of my community more than others. With this in mind, I am making an effort to scale back on my consumerism this year. If you’re looking for alternatives to gift-giving & receiving this year, here’s a short list of ways you can be more intentional throughout the holiday season.

  1. Consider forgoing gifts altogether, and instead make donations to trusted organizations and causes, such as Planned Parenthood or Standing Rock, in name of your family or friends (or Mike Pence, if you’re feeling cheeky). Ask your family and friends to do the same for you.
  2. Give the gift of time to loved ones. Extend invitations to people who might not have a place to go. Open your home to strangers or acquaintances for a meal, if you are able to do so. Volunteer at a blood drive, soup kitchen, library, or nursing home. If you are a university student and can’t go home for the holiday, use the time as an opportunity to get out in the community since many student run organizations shut down for the school breaks.
  3. In that vein, donate blood. The holidays are a high-need time for blood transfusions; you can save up to three lives with one donation. Make it a date and go with a friend. Look up locations near you, here.
  4. Support the Injustice Boycott, a plan to combat police brutality and systemic racism. Sean King, who first conceived of the Boycott, hopes that it will work in conjunction with national protests, but his aim is to “pivot from awareness to change.” The official plans for the Boycott will be released December 5.
  5. Give “Black Friday” a new meaning if you are attached to material gifts. Shop from black-owned companies, such as those supported by the Buy Black Movement. Are any local retailers near you owned by women or minorities? Consider shopping there instead of corporate-owned stores. If you enjoy buying books, buy them from a local book shop or order from an independently run website, such as Powell’s. Additionally, indoctrinate your family and friends with the authorial perspectives of PoC such as Angela Davis, Louise Erdich, Chimamanda Adiche, Melissa Zobel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, or Junot Diaz.

If you have more suggestions, send them my way. And should you end up at Starbucks for a peppermint mocha, consider the environment, and bring your own cup.

And your musical note–and a happy one, at that. Because you, reader, are the best thing that’s happened to me. Aw, yes, cute, now go do something. Ray LaMontagne, You Are The Best Thing


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