I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas
Spread glad tidings with sustainable gifts

Holiday gift-giving is a tradition that demands our shopping and our spending. This Yuletide quest can make any environmentalist queasy with thoughts of over-consumption, resource waste and funding mega-companies that outsource production to poorer countries. You may shudder to think of cargo ships and 18-wheelers hauling mass-produced, over-priced goods, to fill our stores at the expense of fuel and clean air.
A green-minded person, however, doesn't have to stiff their loved ones during a gift exchange. Pledge to make your holiday season more eco-friendly - weaving in the sustainable habits and carbon-saving practices that you've been honing all year long. Buying local - just as you did at the farmers' market in summer - and wrapping your presents with reusable materials, helps make the gift-giving traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa easier on the Earth.
For starters, gift giving doesn't require a trip to the mall. Scour craft bazaars, like those held at churches and community centers - often to benefit charities - and you'll find locally made items from beeswax candles to crocheted hats, pottery, decorations, soaps and handmade jewelry and toys. Local artisans sell their wares at such sales, and you're likely to find one-of-a-kind gifts for reasonable prices.
Seek out local businesses instead of chain stores - you'll often get superior service and a more unique selection for your efforts. One of my mainstay shopping stops is a local bird and wildlife store, where one of the owners usually helps me choose birdhouses, birdfeeders and wildlife books for gifts.
Independent gourmet food stores often sell locally produced goods. One I know sells a line of marinades, rubs and spice blends made by a small business within the region. You'll strike gold, too, with wines pressed at in-state vineyards.
Find antique treasures or retro renditions at second-hand shops, and you'll honor the second "R" of the recycling triangle (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Finally, don't underestimate the appeal of homemade sweets. A cloth-lined basket of peanut brittle, fudge or gingersnaps makes an inexpensive offering. Or find an online recipe for chocolate-covered pretzels and peanuts to melt the mouths of your recipients. Once you've got your locally made gift, keep thinking green: what you deliver your gift in can help make a sustainable statement, too. Wrapping paper's purpose is one-time use - crumple and toss - but a paper gift bag offers a greener choice, as it can be reused before you recycle it. Fold bags up gingerly after you receive your gift, and you'll get years of use out of it. Better yet, invest in a cloth gift bag - which lasts for decades - and simply slip your gift inside and draw the ribbons closed to make a tidy sack. Your friend will pass it on when he or she gives a gift in the future.
If you're set on wrapping, use cloth to wrap your present - red satin, festive plaid or rustic burlap. Cloth doesn't wrinkle with unwrapping like paper does, so fold it up for another use - a hot iron can relax any kinks from storage. To fasten cloth around your gift, use large hatpins with the ends tucked in (warn your friend so he or she doesn't get pricked) or secure with a stretchy elastic band. Tie a satin or other festive ribbon around your parcel - afterwards, refresh the ribbon with a warm iron, roll it up and use it again.
Cover a sturdy box and lid separately with the same pattern of wrapping paper, and you'll have another gift-giving container that you can reuse. Secure the lid with ribbon and a bow, so your intended can't peek.
Top off your green gift with fanciful flourishes: tuck a sprig of evergreen in your bow, or tie a pine cone on top for fanciful presentation.
Lastly, at your gift exchange, don't toss the tissue paper. If it's in fairly good condition, smooth it out and fold it up. Salvaging tissue paper saves it from the landfill, saves resources, saves production pollution and saves you money when wrapping in the future - and no one will notice a few creases.
When your recipients compliment your unique choices, let them know of your sustainable pledge to blend a green, sustainable approach into your holidays - and ask them to join in with you next year.

Carrie Madren writes about environmental issues, Chesapeake life and sustainable living. She lives in Olney, Maryland. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.