Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Greening Your Christmas

We're heading into the season of gifting. Of buying a lot of stuff that people often don't need and sometimes don't want. Things made from resources we could be preserving using money we don't have in abundance. So let's talk about how we can still give gifts that we can feel good about giving that the receivers will feel great about getting.

I am not saying never to buy a gift. In fact, I am going to give you some ideas of things to buy, but I hope to give you some ideas of things that can still help the receiver live a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. I am sure there are lots of great things out there I am not going to mention because of space or because I don't know about them--that's what the comment area is for. Feel free to chime in.

First of all, consider buying local first. I admit, I shop a LOT at Amazon.com and a few specialty internet stores. Mostly because I haven't found a source for many of the off-the-wall things I want in the local area. If I could find them, I would buy them here. Hint, hint!

Encourage DIY by purchasing books, magazines, equipment and supplies in areas that your person has indicated they would like to learn how to do themselves. For example, this past year I have been getting into making cheese. Last year, one of my kids bought me a book about making cheese because I was interested in learning. Throughout this past year, I have been purchasing small things for some of the simpler cheeses, but there are still some related equipment (a cheese press comes to mind) that could still be helpful. If you don't know the person is going to stick with their interest, start with something inexpensive and basic--you can always revisit next year if they discover a passion for it and you aren't out much if they decide it's not for them after all. Small tools for making/fixing things, for gardening, or for cooking would all be welcome to the person who wants to become more self-sufficient or know what is going into their food/personal care products/cleaning supplies. And consider regifting. One of the neatest kitchen gadgets I have is a ceramic mortar and pestle I found for 50 cents at a garage sale and if someone came up with a nice cast iron skillet, I wouldn't turn it down, even if it was rusty--they can be reconditioned.

Encourage better health by purchasing lessons, memberships at health facilities, workout clothing, shoes, etc. I would be careful about purchasing a gym membership, unless the person has said, "I wish I could afford a membership; I would love to be able to go to xxxx gym." But what about yoga lessons? Zumba classes? I'll bet Breathe Yoga Studio would set you up with a gift like this. Again, kitchen items that encourage a person to cook from scratch and gardening tools/seeds would also go in this area.

Encourage rest and relaxation by purchasing items to help them enjoy a hobby--books, magazines, equipment and supplies. You may not know exactly what they might need; if not, how about a gift certificate at a store that carries items related to that hobby? My husband gave me a gift certificate to Wild Birds Unlimited--whoo hoo! What about entertainment? Tickets to a concert, play, sporting event, etc.  There are all kinds of special events coming up around the holiday: The Nutcracker (both the traditional version and a modern version), The Cirque de la Symphonie concert on December 14, A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life at Backdoor Theater, and probably a half dozen other special events I haven't listed. Or, the Wichita Theatre season tickets for 2014 are on sale now for a truly excellent gift that will last for months as are season tickets to Backdoor Theater. Last  year I bought my husband (and me) a pair of season tickets to the Nighthawks games. My husband and I had a great time rooting on this local team. Know someone who likes to eat out? Gift certificates at their favorite restaurants come in handy. If you know they often bring home leftovers, help them bring those leftovers home without those horrible styrofoam containers. To-go ware (or similar) will help stop that.

Encourage lifelong learning by paying the registration for a class at Vernon College or the Parks and Recreation department. Although there are a lot of free on-line classes, you might consider purchasing a specialized course in a subject they are interested in. I purchased a course for my son from The Great Courses in an area he has an interest. My husband bought a course on bird behavior from Cornell University for my birthday last year.

Help someone do something they otherwise couldn't/wouldn't do or just something nice. Paint a room, change the oil on their car, cook them a meal, etc. Maybe do something more than once. Did you ever give or receive the little cards with promises to do something the person could redeem when they needed them?

Encourage a connection with nature by purchasing books, magazines, and videos about nature (I reviewed a few great choices in my last post.) Help them bring nature to their yard with bird feeders, bird and bat houses, trees, shrubs and flowers (yes, even with the drought). Help them get out and enjoy nature: hiking boots, walking stick, binoculars, day or back pack, etc. What about fishing gear (if we ever get any water back in the lakes), magnifying lenses, etc.? Maybe a registration at a nature-related event.

Give something you made yourself. It takes more time to make something than to give something (and often costs less also.) Mixes for cookies, dips, etc. People pay a fortune for a dip mix that costs less than a quarter to make yourself. My mom made me not one, but several tea cozies last year. I was griping that it was ridiculous to pay $25 for basically a quilt to fit over a teapot. She looked up a picture and whipped out several in an afternoon. I kept a couple and gave some to others. My husband made my son a gaming table and made us a dining room table and chairs. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Donate to a charity you know is important to them in their name. My parents send a small check to Wild Bird Rescue every once in awhile because they know the organization is one I spend a lot of time volunteering for.

Now that you have thought of some gift ideas, let's talk about some of the other rituals that go along with the holidays. Here are some ideas to make your holiday more sustainable:

  - Give less "Stuff." We talked about that above.
  - Focus on the sustainability of what we do give. Less plastic, less packaging, high quality to last longer.
  - Decorate a living tree and plant it when you are done. Wichita Valley Nursery has living Christmas trees that are hardy for this area.
  - Reduce, reuse, recycle. I have a hard time throwing things away. The kids have always enjoyed the tradition of opening Christmas gifts wrapped in old cereal boxes or other boxes that have been reused year after year. I still have ribbon and bows that have graced packages since they were small children (and they are in the vicinity of 30 now). I don't throw bows away until they cannot be used again. This year I am purchasing some fabric and making gift bags that can be reused for many, many years. If you are better at sewing or more creative than I am, you could probably make these from scratch.
  - Focus on what's important about the holiday: family and friends. It is more important to make memories that will last. How many of the gifts you've received over the years can you really remember? Probably only a handful. But you probably have many memories of playing games, watching movies or football games, eating and laughing. You probably have some traditions that are very meaningful to your family.

I wish you a happy holiday season with many fond memories.

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