photo: pictured: Rolly Pup
As we check off the days on the calendar left till Christmas, and our sense of obligation heightens to panic, that Precious Moments figurine starts looking like a really meaningful gift. In this time of consumer frenzy, the Green Thumb asks you to stop, breathe and think: Is this do-dad something Aunt Judy actually wants, or will she just don a well-practiced expression of delight and display the thing only when you visit?
Less stuff, more love
Some of the most thoughtful gifts don't require dumpster-bound wrapping paper and won't clutter up a perfectly elegant mantle. Experience gifts, like tickets to concerts, plays or sporting events, can be the most exciting presents under the tree or in the inbox. I myself will be asking Santa for a 10-class card to my local yoga and/or dance studio (hint, hint). And if you don't have the cash to secure Bears tickets this season, think about giving a gift of your time, be it making dinner or practicing your dilettante shiatsu massage skills. Sharing your time and talents remains the most thoughtful gift you can give.
We all know you're going to buy some stuff, and, if you're anything like me, you'll acquire as much of it online as humanly possible. Well, congratulate your lazy self for saving gas on that trip to the store—in addition to dodging the depressing mayhem of flying elbows, top-40 Christmas covers and chaotic sales tables. Here are a few particularly green-minded online retailers:
Taraluna is a family-owned online retailer featuring a wide array of fair trade and organic gifts, from toys to house wares to bath products to chocolate. Taraluna provides background on the artists behind the products, be it handmade jewelry from West Africa or Ambrosia White Plum tea from the south of India. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from its Peacekeeper cosmetics line go toward women's health advocacy and human rights issues.
North Star Toys produces beautifully hewn, traditional wooden toys for all ages. The nostalgic design and sturdy construction hark back to the days when kids played with handcrafted toys they could chew on, sleep next to and lose under the couch—and pass along to their own children someday. The North Star shop is entirely wind- and solar-powered, and it even donates scraps to schools for art projects.
Nat and Helens is a Chicago-based online purveyor of baby clothing and toys made from organic and sustainable materials. Find beautiful gifts for babies, moms and moms-to-be, from all-natural diaper creams to bamboo baby Moses baskets.
Browsing the shelves of independently owned boutiques can be every bit as pleasurable as rabbit-punching your way through the mobs at Wal-Mart is unpleasant—another plus for supporting your local entrepreneur. And local shops tend to have the most interesting gifts, particularly when you're stumped for ideas. Here are a couple favorites:
Renegade Handmade started (and continues) as a street festival, but now operates year-round in its Division street storefront. The work of over 200 artists, local and nationwide, convenes under this roof, so I find it's best to go without expectations and with plenty of time to browse. A few things you're sure to find: handbags, toys, jewelry and screen-printed baby onesies so cute and clever, you might try to squeeze into yourself.
Natural Fitness' yoga and fitness supplies are sold at yoga studios and Whole Foods all over the city. The Chicago-based business is committed to green practices: All its office and packaging supplies are recycled; the web host company supporting their site is solar powered; and they'll plant a tree for every product sold. What better way to support the health of your loved ones and the planet?
Other greenie gift ideas:
Give the gift of giving
The Network for Good sells charity gift cards in amounts from $10-$100, and partners with Charity Navigator to help recipients decide which cause to support.
Still need more ideas?
Find discounts on gifts from green businesses with the Co-op America Holiday Green Gift Catalog.
It took a move from the regimented lawnscapes of the suburbs to the congestion of a major metropolis for Sharon to look twice at what she puts in the trash, down the sink and into her own body. She reports fortnightly on her endeavors to change "greening" from calculated deviation to a practicable way of life. You can contact her here.