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The holidays are a challenge for the eco-conscious consumer. Gifts that our children want may not be aligned with our tendencies. It is difficult to make eco-friendly choices 100 percent of the time, because of the society we live in.
The rule in our household is that around the holidays, our children donate the toys they no longer play with. We buy our children each one item that they truly want and the rest comes in the form of experiences, art supplies and handmade gifts. They do not complain. They know our eco-code of ethics and they do not question the guidelines we live by. It is fascinating to watch them learn from the examples we show them.
For us, it is all about balance. We don’t want to hide them from mainstream for fear that they will rebel and go in the opposite direction we wish for them. We give them plenty of choices, plenty of room for self-discovery, plenty of time in nature, and plenty of snuggle time watching family movies (that usually have an eco-theme, such as Louie Schwartzberg’s Moving Art Series).
Gift-giving could certainly become more eco-friendly if we approached it differently. Below are some alternatives to buying gifts in big box stores:
Alternatives to Buying Gifts
1. Hugs and gratitude. Expressing gratitude and love is far more valuable than material things.
2. Experiences. Present a coupon good for a picnic in the park, a hike, a camping trip, a trip to the museum, or a membership to a museum.
3. Host a gift-making party with your family or friends. Draw names and make a gift for the person’s name you received. Host an evening of painting or crafting at your home or rent out a local art studio for the evening.
4. Make your own gifts from recycled or homegrown materials. Some gift ideas are baked goods, canned goods, herbs and spices, homegrown herbal tea, jams, jellies, meals in a jar, hot cocoa mix, artwork, jewelry, treasure chests, picture frames, ornaments, lip balm, bath salts, soap, etc. Find more DIY gift ideas here.
5. Gratitude Circles. Instead of gift giving, talk your friends or family in to having a gratitude circle where your presence is your present. No gifts necessary; bring a potluck dish to share and a good attitude. Each person goes around the circle thanking each other for their friendship and telling each person what they love about them.
6. Gifts from Nature. Give the gift that keeps on giving; give a fruit tree or perennial fruit plant, a houseplant that purifies the air, perennial divisions of your favorite flower, pollinator garden seeds, a bee habitat, mushroom spores to inoculate, heirloom seeds, a garden in a box, a medicinal herb plant, or have your friends go for a hike and gift each other with things from nature (as long as the natural area permits).
7. Service gifts. If you are a carpenter, a nanny, a gardener, a mechanic, a writer, a marketing pro- offer your services to friends and family. Coupon books are a great way to give this gift.
8. Craft fairs. Local craft and artisan fairs are abundant this time of year. Support artisans in your local community.
9. ETSY. Buy handmade gifts from artisans all over the world.
10. Shop locally. local artisan foods, gift certificates to local mom and pop shops or csa subscriptions make excellent gifts.
Alternatives to Wrapping Paper
1. Recycled wrapping paper from last year
2. Recycled gift bags from last year
3. Cloth bags
4. Cloth napkins
5. Use clothing such as scarves or a hat to wrap a gift
6. Seed catalogs
7. Old Book Pages (that may have been broken our torn over time)
11. Recycled envelopes for small gifts
12. Recycled paper (you can decorate with paint or stamps)
Crystal Stevens is the assistant head farmer at La Vista CSA Farm in Godfrey, Ill., where she manages the greenhouse, designs and updates the website, writes for the newsletter and handles communication between shareholders and the farm. She cofounded the Missouri Forest Alliance with her friend and long-time environmental activist, Jim Scheff. Read all of Crystal's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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