True confession: I don’t do crafts. I’m not really a DIY person who makes scrapbooks or crafts or Mason jars full of pretty, colorful stacks of beans as gifts for my friends. I’m much more practical in my gift giving. I like to think about what someone might really want but not necessarily buy or do for themselves. And I usually try to keep it in my own budget. Gift giving can be a tough thing for a lot of people, especially those of us who don’t want to spend hard money on things that aren’t necessary or seem frivolous.
So here, I offer some fun and practical solutions to giving in the spirit of being green for the holidays. But first, let’s define “green” as follows:
- Local (less carbon footprint in both purchasing and manufacturing, and the money I spend on it stays in my community)
- Recycled or reused
- Practical and fun
- Less of a burden on our Mother Earth; that is, more conscious and responsible
These are tried-and-true things I’ve done:
- Throw a holiday party. Instead of exchanging gifts with friends and family, throw a party to celebrate your family and friends together. Try to buy everything for the party locally: food decorations and little gift bags of goodies to give your guests to take home. You can find fun things at second-hand stores, desserts at local candy and chocolate shops and interesting centerpieces made from local art. Get creative. Have fun with it. Play a round of appreciation, where each person chooses another’s name from a hat and writes down a few things they appreciate about that person.
- Make something. I already confessed I’m not a maker; I’m a writer. Therefore, I’ve written poetry for people, found a fun frame and made it a wall-art piece, personalized just for them. Or I find inspiring poems or quotes and frame them as gifts. Do the thing you love to do, and turn it into a gift from your heart.
- Donate to a nonprofit of your friends’ or family members’ choice. Ask them, if they had $50, where would they donate it? Do it for them in their honor, and send them a nice handmade or locally made card to tell them.
- Buy books. I love to browse my local, independent, new- and used bookstores for topic titles my friends and family might enjoy. A bundle of gently used books wrapped in a fun way will make a great gift for the reader types. I like that bookstores often have locally made gifts to go with my book purchases, too. Hand-made local cards, photography and journals are always great gifts.
- Buy food. I am a self-professed foodie. I like to share my local farmers’ market and local-product finds with people. I will often put together local-product gift bags for friends and family to taste and try things I want to share. New Mexico is rich with local products that come from all over the state. Check out your farmers’ market, local grocery store and co-op, and visit Delicious New Mexico for more ideas. There are dozens of holiday craft and food shows, too, and you’re sure to find some delicious treats there. Don’t forget sweet treats, pet treats, and body-care products, all handmade with local love.
- Buy something arty. You can’t throw a rock without hitting an arty store or locally made craft store in my town. Check them out for locally made things like earrings, scarves, clothes, hats, paintings—you name it. The Railyard Market on Sundays in Albuquerque is a great shopping spot. And, in Santa Fe, the Artisan Market at the Farmers’ Market Pavilion offers endless, locally made art choices.
- Give the gift of wellness. Give massage gift cards, yoga classes, gym passes, or a three-class pass to their favorite fitness spot. Or give them the chance to try something new they might have suggested wanting to try. Climbing? River trip? Ski lesson? And offer to go with them because falling down together is way more fun.
- Are you a great cook? Make some great dinners or soups to freeze, and give them to busy friends or friends who have a cooking phobia or eat out a lot. Put a little note on each dinner with a reminder that food is love.
- Give local gift certificates. These are an endless well of possibilities. Local restaurants, retailers, outdoor stores, you name it; they all have gift certificates in this day and age. Even local coffee shops have gift certificates. And if you think it’s too much to run around to each place, think about it the next time you are at your favorite restaurant or buying your clothes or coffee somewhere; grab a gift card while you’re at it, and put your friend’s name on it until the holidays.
- Give the gift of an experience. Make a cute card that says you’ll take them for dinner, movie, hike, swim—something fun that you can do together. Give it an expiration date, so they use it within a few months, and don’t forget or you’ll look cheap!
Most importantly, think about your own shopping and conscious consumer habits, and give gifts that you would want to share. Look for products that have a social mission, too. I like to find things that are benefiting women’s cooperatives in other countries where they make a fair wage for their beautiful products. I like to find things that have a story behind the product, too. Get creative, shop local, and have a very merry, happy holiday!
Vicki Pozzebon is the owner of Prospera Partners, a consulting company practicing bold localism. She is a BALLE Fellow and the author of the forthcoming book For the Love of Local: Confessions from the Heart of Community. Read her blog, The Local Voice, at www.prosperapartners.org and follow her on Twitter: @vickipozzebon