Susie Cagle

Trying to think more, um, sustainably about the holidays this year? So, it seems, is everyone else. It’s hardly an innovation that 2012 can claim to own — in fact, it has become a holiday tradition in its own right.

It’s what was on the mind of Grist Senior Editor Greg Hanscom, when, confronted with the prospect of another Black Friday post-turkey shopping spree, he penned an open letter to his family and friends. “Please get my kids nothing for Christmas,” he begged. Posted here at Grist, Greg’s plea for a saner approach to a less stuff-y holiday fired up many of our readers’ imaginations, caught the eye of some of our friends in TV-land, and led us to declare it, officially, our Grist theme for December: For the holidays this year, make it anything but stuff. Shift the gift!

Of course we can’t claim that any of this is truly new. Long before someone had the bright idea of transmuting “gift” into a verb, many of us were scratching our heads looking for ways to dematerialize the annual solstice celebrations. I’m sure we’re eventually going to discover a cave-wall drawing recording the moment at which some hapless neolithic family, surveying the dwindling space in its communal burrow, let out the cry of “TOO MUCH STUFF!”

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Still: Ideas have moments, and surely this is this year’s merry meme. We are years into a grueling recession that has only improved around the edges. We are reeling from a storm that battered large chunks of the East Coast. We see with deepening clarity that our system hasn’t yet embraced the changes needed to deflect the curve of climate change.

We won’t let that stop us from enjoying the holidays. But the last thing we need is to do so by gathering piles of stuff that we don’t really need and may not even want.

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Celebration without accumulation! Or, as we intend to chant, with our human mics cranked up as loud as we know how, “Shift the gift!”