Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2 Days Until Christmas

And this is a post I meant to write weeks ago.

The topic is shopping. Some people are born to shop, have the means, and have been acquiring gifts for 12/25/09 since 12/26/08. For those of you who do not fit into this category, here are some ideas to consider.

Most of us do not need more random “stuff,” but almost everyone appreciates receiving a thoughtful token during this season, whether it is a special gift from a loved one or a “thank you” in recognition of extra effort for a job well done.

The societal pressures of this season are immense, with both the expectation to have a “great holiday” and to bestow the same on others. My guess is that most of you readers are opting in and hoping to spread a little cheer to others.

How does a “green” person do this? Here are some suggestions:

1. Think carefully about the person you plan to gift. Is there anything you can give them that might make their life better? Several elders on my list will be getting Yaktrax this year in the hope that they will not slip on the ice when they venture out this winter. An Ove Glove is another good choice.

2. Does the person have a special hobby or interest? Consider a book. Here are two suggestions for cooks you may know: Simply in Season, a compilation of recipes by Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind, published by the Mennonite Central Committee, or The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. A new option for a foodie on your list is Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire in the original book format or as a DVD of the recent PBS program.

3. Support your local merchants. Particularly in these tough times, the smaller merchants are struggling. Check out the new stores in your neighborhood. And if they offer services as well, consider a gift certificate. A bike store like New Haven’s devil’s gear offers tune-ups, a yarn store – knitting lessons.

4. Perhaps you need a small gift. Bake your own cookies and package them in a reusable basket or holiday tin. Or you might consider gifting coffee, chocolate or tea. But look for the “Fair Trade” label before you buy. Fair Trade is an organized movement that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. You can find such items at some local merchants or at 10,000 Villages if you are lucky enough to have such a store in your city. Or online at equalexchange and other vendors.

5. Support the holiday sales of your local arts groups. In New Haven we have the Creative Arts Workshop’s Celebration of American Crafts, where you can choose gifts by over 300 artists from around the country while supporting the school’s largest fundraiser. Or patronize the gift shop of your local museum.

6. If you know someone who loves old things, check out your local secondhand shops or antiques stores. You know what they say, “One person’s junk is another’s treasure.”

7. Give a night out to someone who would appreciate it: a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or theater, or musical performance, or dinner and a movie…you get the idea.

8. It is getting late, so if the person is far away, you might need to consider shopping online. Check out for the green person in your life.

9. Offer a service if the person lives nearby: babysitting, snow shoveling, a meal of soup once a month…

10. For the person who has everything, consider a gift in their name to a group that “does good.” Some of my favorites: Doctors without Borders, Greenpeace, Heifer International, Oxfam International, and World Wildlife Fund.

Time’s running out for me. Gotta go. Good luck with your shopping.

And happy holidays.

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