Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Mall-Free Directory for Green Gifts

I'm staying out of the malls this season for three reasons:

1) They are busy, hot and people sometimes get a little pushy under those conditions. And I especially don't enjoy seeing the rows and rows of a full parking lot surrounding every entrance.

2) Malls are designed to encourage spending. The amount of crap that is purchased to celebrate this time of year is unneeded and excessive. The money that is spent on the excess could be diverted to areas that really need the money.

3) I like to support local businesses (AKA the little guy), and/or spend my hard-earned cash on people and things that will truly benefit from my dollar. Making ethical purchases will bring joy to you, the person receiving the gift and others affected by your donation or business.

So here is a quick list of sites that you can check out to make your gift giving this year a little bit easier, and shows that you care. You can always do some research for specific organisation supporting the type of things you think they would like. Or, look up in the phone book or ask around where's a good place to buy sustainable gifts in your town.

Green Gift Lists:
Planet Friendly: This site talks more than just gifts, they also disuses ways to celebrate with sustainability in mind as well.

A Tyee Ethical Gift Guide: This paper puts always out really good articles. You should check this site out for a list of sites, there are also some good links in the comments so be sure to look over those.

MCC: Mennonite Central Committee - Anyone who knows me, knows that the MCC Thrift Shop is like a second home for me. I think that this is one of my most cherish charitable organizations. Send a child in need a school kit or they also have some really good books to purchase off this site as well.

WWF Products:
Support WWF by purchasing your holiday gift cards from them, or they even have yoga pants or baseball caps.

WorldVision: Instead of buying stuff for people who have a lot of stuff, send some stuff to a family who really needs stuff. For example, you can give a family in Africa two bunnies, from which 20 bunnies will come within a year! Or, for $32 you can give someone a insecticide mosquito net.

Environmental Gifts:

Reusable Bags: buy someone special on your list a heavy duty shopping bag that can easily be folded to fit in a purse or even a pocket. They also have reusable bottles and lunch bags. I think this site is reasonable, affordable and reliable.

You can order stuff from this site for your loved ones or just for people you have to give to. I think this site has a lot of interesting stuff which I have never seen before. Check this out for that unique person you're looking to buy for.

TreeHugger Book list

Sunday, December 03, 2006

This Holiday Season, Show that You Care, Without the Flare

I know this goes without saying, but alas the holiday season is back again.

There are decorations everywhere to remind us of this. They’re the first sign that this time of spending is here. I actually witnessed Christmas decorations being put up in a Zeller’s on the night of Halloween. Next comes the bi-weekly heavy pile of flyers in your mail box showing all the sales and opportunities for you to spend and buy. The TV commercials and radio ads play upon our joyful spirits, all the while enticing our consumerist appetite. More of pretty much everything happens over the next few weeks compared to the rest of the year. More money is spent, more automobile trips are made and more garbage is created.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this time of year. But what I remember about the holidays are never the presents or decorations, I remember the good times spent with family and friends. The opportunity for merriment is very enjoyable. And believe it or not, this can all be just as wonderful for yourself, humanity and the environment without all the flare and excess.

When it comes to buying presents here are a few tips to help you show that you care. Avoid making purchases on “holiday junk” or items that will likely end up in the dump within a couple of years only to sit much longer than you’ll live. A prime example is all those dancing Santas that require four DD batteries. In fact, keep away from battery operated toys and gadgets wherever possible. Instead keep your eye open for ethical gifts, such as fair trade items or clothing made from sustainable clothing in socially just conditions. And don’t be self-conscious about getting someone a gift from a thrift or antique shop. Just because it’s used doesn’t mean it’s a bad gift. Reusing has been a fundamental aspect of the three R’s of environmentalism for as long as I can remember. Finally when you go shopping, don’t forget to bring your own bag, even for purchases other than groceries.

Or if you want to stay away from the craziness that is a shopping mall and save money, make the gifts yourself. It will show the person that you care. Last year I made sugar cookies and I decorated them with a stick drawing of the person I gave each cookie to. I have never been so surprised how a simple cookie can cause so many smiles.

Another idea for a good gift is to opt for service or material goods. Movie passes, theatre tickets, gift certificates for back massages, you get the idea. Services likely impact the earth much less than material goods and support the local economy. Or, consider donating money in someone’s name to a charity they would likely support. The great thing about this type of gift is that it can likely be taken care of via the internet; therefore no gas is wasted driving around.

So when it comes to unwrapping gifts, please make sure you divert all the excess paper from the landfill by recycling it. Or alternatively, don’t use any at all. Reuse those brightly coloured flyers, LCBO paper bags or old calendar pages. Or giving the wrapping a utilitarian purpose, such as a cloth lunch bag, pillow case, or picture box, is good too.

Paper can also be saved if you decide to send out e-cards instead of greeting cards. If you have to send some out, since grandma doesn’t know how to work a computer, buy cards made out of recycled paper or cards supporting various charity organisations. And when it comes to all the parties, go for cloths napkins, dish towels and china dishes instead of paper products. It will make for a way classier shindig anyway.

So this holiday season, maintain your sustainable lifestyle and strive to incorporate those values into your plans and purchases. This includes everything from decorating your potted tree that can be later planted outside, to your festive feast featuring local seasonal foods.