Posted by: David McKay | December 29, 2011

My Plastic Christmas

I went home for the holidays.  I am not too big on the whole Christmas thing, and certainly not on the idea of spending money and buying stuff.

I have a large family — lots of brothers and sisters and nieces and a nephew.  And my parents.  Nothing I say in this post in any way detracts from the love I have for them.

They all, on some level or another, understand that I do not like plastic.

And with a baby on the way, my desire to eliminate plastic from my life — from our lives — has increased.

So it was with real pleasure that out of the very few gifts received, the one that gave me the most pleasure was a wooden yellow duck with wheels.  There was even a smudge mark on one side where an eye would be that caused me to ask my sister where she got it.  She said, “It came from a friend.”  Yes!  An all-wooden toy, and a used one at that!  So sweet.

It turned out that I needed that duck to hold onto during the ensuing present opening moments.  It seemed as if the room suddenly became full of plastic.  Every gift was plastic.  If it was not plastic, it was wrapped in plastic.  The culminating gift — from one niece to another — was a blow-up pool with a couple of arches that was filled with dozens of balls — all made out of plastic.  It had that “new plastic” smell to it when it was opened.

I am pretty sure that that smell is toxic.  I found this from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice website: new plastic smell.  Read the part about the “108 volatile organic compounds.”  Anything with the word “volatile” in its title does not sound good to me.

I had to leave the house.  I did.  And I think they knew why I had to get out of there.

The sister who gave us the wooden duck was the mother of the child who received the plastic ball pool.  She was excited to get it.

I try not to rant; I try to live and let live; I try not to judge — the whole “stones and glass houses” thing.  And I certainly do not want to offend.

Okay, what the hell, here’s a little tiny rant:

It’s just that this world we all live “on,” rather than “in” is turning into a wasteland.  I want to raise the alarm.  I do not want to be a part of something so painful as the dying of a planet.  That is the slippery slope we are all on right now and it scares the hell out of me.  Sure, sure, the planet will survive us, but at what cost?  The extinction of thousands of species, the destruction of entire ecosystems, the end of diversity, our youth lost in a haze of instant gratification to the detriment of other nations and cultures…

Maybe next year will be different, though.

Next year, I will be wishing for a Plastic-Free Christmas…

I think by then that perhaps our yellow wooden duck might have some ducklings.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year.

Responsibility is not convenient — it’s necessary.

Rethink.  Refuse.  Reduce.  Reuse.  Reimagine.






  1. Merry Christmas, David and family!

    I had a very similar experience! I only have 1 brother, but a big Italian family with lots of cousins. We have always celebrated at my grandparents’ house, but now that it is only my grandfather and he downsized to living in a trailer, we had Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house. We had casual food – sandwiches, pasta salad, chips – on plastic plates that were made to look like real china and plastic utensils that were silver and made to look like real silverware. I had no appetite the second I saw the plates and made it known to everyone in my family of 5 that we would be taking every plate and plastic utensil home for reuse. I tried to do it quietly, but apparently the sight of me wiping crumbs off of the plates with a napkin and packing them into my reusable bag while I passed out the reusable bottles I had packed from home was not lost on my uncle, who then told my aunt and word quickly got around that I must have been stressed out about the plastic. Just when I thought I was recovering from that, my aunt started to pass out 3 gifts per child – dollar store gifts that were plastic from start to finish. I could literally feel the heat in my face, but I managed to stay calm and breathe. Will try to blog about this, as nobody in my aunt’s family reads my blog – not a topic that interests them, obviously…:)

    Ahhhhhh……also dreaming of a plastic-free Christmas for next year, but thinking I might have to adopt a new family for that one to come true! 😉

    Happy New Year!!!!

    p.s. – I ‘liked’ your FB page – and really ‘love’ it!! You are very talented!!! Your lanterns are awesome!!!

    • Thanks, Kate! You’re invited next year to our house! We’ll have all sorts of wooden toys and #10 Can Lanterns!

  2. Hear Hear David. I am happy you ranted for a moment. It’s necessary to remind us of our complacency.
    Another idea: A whole year of buying strictly made in the USA. Nothing, absolutely nothing, made in China. What do you think? That would be an undertaking AND would facilitate the cause against single use plastics.

    I hope we are all around together in years to come to celebrate our childrens rants about the planet as they live “on” it.

    Much love this holiday season,

    • What? No hecho in China? Crazy idea. I try to buy things that are not made in China as it is, not that I buy much as it is. I try to be conscious where everything comes from and the possible hidden costs in how it is produced and transported.

      Happy New Year to you and yours!

  3. I am the sister that gave the lovingly used wooden duck and received the “yes, I was happy about it” plastic ball set. No offense is taken, I know you love me. Yes, I admire your efforts and will continue to try and support them. It’s certainly in all of our best interest. PS, there is a wonderful wooden frog here that is waiting for you someday. It has a sting and the legs move when it is pulled along the floor. I’m just not ready to part with it yet!

  4. Hey Dave,

    I have a wooden high chair that has your name on it, or your baby’s, when you are ready for it. Kyra should be out of it by the time your little one is ready. It did come with a plastic tray, which I just took off. Jumped for joy when I did. Not so much because of the plastic, but Kyra can now join us at the table. To reiterate what Ann said keep up your efforts.

    Dave’s other sister,

    I did like the reader’s idea about just buying in the USA for Xmas. I’ll keep it in mind for next year.

  5. So we’ve been having some discussions here in the NC McKay house about your post, David. I think in general we agree that it’s uncalled for to portray us as ignorant and insensitive to the plastic cause.

    How well do you really know us, David? Did you consider how your words would impact the people that shared Christmas with you? Do you think your niece is a bad person for gifting a fun, thoughtful plastic present to her cousin? That’s how it comes across. Do you think we aren’t more conscious of our choices because of you? You are an English major so I can only assume the words you write are written with a purpose and a goal in mind. That goal, I think, does not involve caring for the feelings of your family. I can guarantee that you’d be better served treating us as allies in your cause rather than the portrait of your enemy.

    To further our concerns, are you portraying your family to Liza as a bunch of insensitive plastic mongers? Were our gifts to you not thoughtful and considerate of your needs and desires? I think everyone went out of their way to make Christmas a positive experience. Apparently it was not good enough.

    Did you know that Amanda, Alex, and I composted during our Vermont summer? Did you know we reused the plastic bread bags until they were unhealthy? We shopped at the farmers market, walked instead of drove, recycled, and in general endeavored to be thoughtful in our choices. Didn’t know that? Hmm.

    I am beginning to equate your plastic focus with religious fervor. Is that how you view it? Do you respect the religious “nuts” you’ve encountered over the years? As the saying goes, “Do you think you’ll catch more flies with honey or vinegar?”

  6. I agree with you on the whole plastic & waste thing. My extended family is …. far from where I sit on my thoughts on the world. I try to do my part, knowing there is something I can always do better, to help the earth & society. This involves recycling, being conscious, honesty, etc. But my extended family is far from me which made my Christmas very difficult.

    This year, while i was in the mood myself, the thought if dealing with cheap plastic wal-mart toys especially for Luna freaked me out. I allow Luna to have plastic but only in the form of used toys. My thought is that at least she is reusing a toy, even if plastic, saving it from a landfill at the moment. I bought her used peppa pig toys, what she wanted, but purchased used.

    My family received girls from me that were either homemade or selected as good used items. One of my nephews received a beautiful set of wooden seahorse maracas (so cute) that I had found somewhere. But I got complaints over my “choice to recycle such gifts”.

    However, as I opened Luna’s presents from others such as a princess snuggie (which just feels flamable), dora bathtub castle, and barbies, I felt this inside desire just to throw them away. I still want too. I just cannot stand new—- cheap—–plastic——-crap. I dont even shop at wal-mart!

    Anyhoo, with my family I am criticized for my choices as being bad. When I see my decision as the better choice. Currently, I have taken processed foods out of the house and am making food from scratch, using low packaging, local, and whole foods. Reaction from my family has been, “I feel bad for your children.”

    When my little family (me, justin, and our 3 kids) invested in ourselves by joining the gym, they started rumors that we should not be allowed to afford the gym membership. When I said that our home when smoke free, and with those savings we pay for the gym membership. While they continued to obsessively smoke their cigarettes they tell other family members we are lying smokers (there is really no smoking here)

    I find juggling my lifestyle with my family to be hard. So hard that at this moment my sisters family (who lives right next door) refuses to talk to us. If you have a family who accepts you….. and your lifestyle they are total keepers. I know if I left Christmas upset about plastic everyone would have been in my face yelling at me.

    Anyhoo, that ducky sounds awesome! love the ducky!!! I want to see a picture of the ducky! And any wooden toys I have I from Luna I will so save for your wee one. Because obviously they are not as good as wal mart toys so my neices and nephews wont get to play with them, lol

    Nice post! Sam

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: