Alternative Checklist: How Much is Enough?



Each day that passes, the evidence mounts up that it is time for our society to start giving back more than we take from our planet and her people. Our taking (buying, having, discarding) appetite has always hurt Earth and those we trampled. We are now reaping what we have sown, and the impact of our gout is both physical and spiritual.

It is almost painful to recall that for thousands of years great and small people of wisdom have declared that the “good life” could not be bought with money and things. Economist E.F. Schumacher, in Small Is Beautiful, expanded this idea to include freedom and peace: “Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.”

“Creative deprivation” for children makes good sense for adults as well. It keeps the senses and mind free of material goods that overwhelm us, in order to have room to experience creative uses of the imagination.

Declaring yourself in the camp of those committed to creative simplicity will happen when you admit that there are limits in life which you have violated. Jettisoning the excess baggage for new ways is a process both liberating and painful and it continues until we die. Fruits come from the daily labor of nurturing the lifestyle which is life-giving. And, as in any garden, there are always weeds and bugs to contend with.

Following is an alternate celebration checklist to stretch your imagination toward specific actions:

Cut out the junk food.
Give yourself.
Make gifts.
Thank your friend’s parents for her/his life.
Emphasize the uniqueness of the person.
   Your wedding
Create your own wedding celebration.
Ask friends to help with food for the reception.
Request gift money be sent to one of your favorite people- and Earth-oriented projects.
Avoid buying new clothes.
Make your own invitations.
Write your own vows.
   Other’s weddings
Give homemade, self-help craft shop, or recycled gifts.
Give yourself (paint their apartment, for example).
Donate to the couple’s favorite cause.
Give those wedding gifts you never used.
Offer to take photographs, prepare food, or clean up.
   Your funeral
Donate organs to the living.
Donate your body to a medical school.
Have your body cremated.
Be buried in plain pine box.
Ask that donations be made to a cause or charity in lieu of flowers.
   Other’s funerals
Contribute memorials instead of flowers
Start a dialogue in your congregation and community about funeral reform.
Start a memorial society.
Give the surviving parent, friend, or child a blank book for journaling.
The age-old tradition of cooking and baking still holds; prepare some food.
Donate a book to a library, school, synagogue in memory of the deceased.
   Your graduation
Organize an alternate graduation and donate cap and gown, class ring and invitation money to a project.
Encourage family and friends to give to a project in lieu of a gift.
   Other’s graduation
Give the graduate a membership to an environmental group.
Give a good book or a magazine subscription.
Make a personal gift.
Contribute to person’s favorite cause.
   Valentine’s Day
Do not buy candy and commercial cards.
Make homemade alternatives.
Contribute to a prison reform project, or programs to help ex-offenders.
Encourage your neighborhood school to organize an alternative Valentine program on prison reform.
   Birth of your child
Make your own announcements.
Encourage contributions to projects which help less fortunate children.
   Birth of anothers’ child
Offer to help the new parents – be specific.
Give the mom herbal bubble bath.
Give babysitting certificates; parents can call you when they need a break.
Write a prayer, make a quilt, knit or crochet a gift.
Give a book.
Write a letter to the baby, telling how you felt when you first saw him or her.
Plan a meatless dinner.
Give a donation to hunger and First Nations projects.
Organize an alternative Thanksgiving campaign.
   Passover and Easter
Plan meatless meals.
Don’t buy candy.
Don’t buy new clothes.
Contribute to human welfare.
Plan an alternative children’s celebration.
Give fruit or homemade cookies.
Organize collection for hunger project.
Plan a block party.
Give your “treat” money to a hunger project and tell children about your decision.
   Hanukkah and Christmas
Drastically reduce spending.
Make gifts.
Give yourself: your time, talent, skill.
Shop at self-help craft outlets.
Give a gift certificate for environmental or justice work.
Organize an alternate Christmas or Hanukkah in your congregation.
Establish family tradition of giving “unspent” income to people- and Earth-oriented projects.
Create new family traditions which are person-oriented.

©Alternatives for Simple Living. Used by permission.
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