Few things made me roll my eyes more than the media reports of a woman who pepper sprayed her fellow shoppers in what is now a toss up between self-defense and defensive shopping. I find it hard to imagine why on earth one would ever put themselves in the situation where the ritual of gift shopping for loved ones becomes a life or death struggle and race to the cash register. This is not sustainable in any sense of the holiday spirit.

Whether this is your first or twelfth year imagining a stress-free and more simple season of giving, perhaps you’ll find inspiration in the 2011 Simplify the Holidays Challenge from the Center for the New American Dream. Maybe the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) gift guide will strike your fancy. My own list of eco-friendly gifts for any occasion may tickle your mind and help you zero in on the right experiential, tangible, or donation-like offerings for the important people on your list. If you “shop” using these lists, I bet you can avoid crowds and long lines while keeping a happy grin on your face.

As you ponder your list and check it twice, perhaps you might consider this notion from a recent article on GreenBiz.com:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with buying stuff — without consumption, we’d have no jobs or economy — but our goal should be to buy stuff with the lowest possible environmental footprint, stuff that is produced and transported using renewable energy and stuff that, when it’s no longer useful or needed, can be turned into something else.

Moving smoothly then to the topic of things that can be turned into something else, I am constantly amazed by those who use their creative magic using society’s refuse. Yes, that would be trash.

Despite being a non-TV watching kid now, I happily admit that I was of the first generation to grow up with TV friends like Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch. Back then it was hard to understand his love of trash which he jubilantly sang about while showing off treasured pieces from his personal collection. Who could have imagined that a life surrounded by trash could be so entertaining? And how about a life surrounded by trash as inspiring? If you’re intrigued by the notion of fabulous trash-centric cinema to keep you warm on these cold winter nights, I’ve got a couple to recommend for your viewing pleasure:

WALL-E – If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean when I say “awwww”. If you yet to view this Pixar classic, do yourself a favor and watch it! You’ll experience a landscape awash in society’s trash after mankind has left it all behind.From the comfort of your favorite movie-watching seat, you’ll befriend an adorable little robot named WALL-E who collects the garbage and along the way, strikes up a little romance.

Waste Land – This is a deeply inspiring and humbling documentary about a few of my favorite things – community, recycling, reuse, collaboration, resilience, optimism, creativity and photography – and it amazes me to no end! This is the first and only DVD I own because it resonated to my core. Truly! Warning: Tissues are a must when viewing this film for all the good happy reasons that can make you cry!

So as you salt the organic popcorn, pull up a blanket, and queue up some trashy films, remember that there is beauty to be found in everything – especially the places from which we often avert our eyes.