Dreaming of a Green Christmas

by Karla Stange
It's inevitable. Every Christmas, you receive a gift you don't want or need. A fuzzy chartreuse sweater three sizes too small. Another kitchen chopper/steamer/juicer gadget that is used once, then forgotten. Or one of those ties in the shape of a fish. Of course, you smile politely and say it's just what you wanted, but the day after Christmas, it gets stuffed into the closet with all the rest of your I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this-but-I-can't -throw -it-away pile.
This year you can do something different. You can give and receive gifts that protect and enrich the environment. You've probably heard your mother say "Well, it's the thought that counts, honey!" This simple sentiment rings true if you remember that a gift is meant to be a symbol of gratitude and love. But the physical object often winds up in our stuffed closets.
So this year, make an effort to choose useful, environmentally-friendly or "green" gifts that symbolize both your love for the person and your respect for Planet Earth.
There are two ways to locate green gifts for the holidays: you can search the aisles of your regular stores, which now carry an increasing variety of earth-friendly products; or you can shop at several small stores in San Diego County that specialize in recycled, organic and non-toxic products.
As an example of what you can find in these specialized stores, here is a sample of four local shops that are doing their part to educate the public about environmental issues through their products.

Karla Stange is an editor for the Times-Advocate in Escondido, an environmental reporter and a free-lance writer. Raised in Hemet, CA, she moved to San Diego 6 years ago and lives in Golden Hills.
[For another take on holiday consumerism, check out Bob Nanninga's article]

Mother Nature

his new company, created by Liisa Daniels, has just published a catalog called Mother Nature, which offers a variety of organic cotton clothing, children's books and toys, recycled art and jewelry and non-toxic household products.
"The idea for this project came to me while I was pregnant with my daughter, Kylie. There was this amazing flow of creativity, and I felt like I was nurturing and giving birth to ideas along with the child inside me," Daniels said. She combined a background in marketing and child education with a love for nature, and a new company was born.
In choosing items, Daniels attended product conventions and brought her daughter and friends along. "I think I'm a good consumer, and I have an intuitive sense of what people will like or need. Also, I watched Kylie to see which toys she wanted to play with, and which items my friends were drawn to." Daniels said she feels all of her products work to educate and inspire consumers to buy products less damaging to our fragile environment.
Launching any business can be risky and stressful, but Daniels says, "There have been all kind of problems along the way, and many times I wondered 'What the heck am I doing?' But I really believe in myself and the fact that what I'm doing can make a difference."
The following items are a selection from the catalog. To receive a copy of Mother Nature, call (619) 483-8883. .


orrey Neel opened her Encinitas store because she was frustrated searching for environmentally-conscious products in San Diego County. She thought of an idea for her store when the City of Encinitas began an organized recycling program. "I thought, 'What are they doing with all the newspapers and plastic people are dumping off?' My idea was to sell useful or artistic products out of all that waste," Neel said.
The store opened in August of 1991, mostly selling biodegradable cleaning solutions to people who brought in their empty plastic bottles. The business grew into offering 100% recycled products and useful objects like organic cotton rugs, towels and clothing. The store now offers a wide variety of items that would make great gifts, like a collection of natural baby products, non-toxic pet care items, hemp products and a unique collection of recycled art frames and books.
Neel says her biggest challenge as a business owner is that a small budget for marketing limits her ability to inform consumers. "People don't know these [environmentally-friendly] products exist. They don't know that they have a choice between these products and stuff that is really toxic and harmful," Neel said.
"Small companies like this are the wave of the future," Neel continues. "And it's important that as they grow, they don't 'grow out' of the ethical concerns about protecting the environment simply to make a profit."
Neel also believes that by buying products from these kind of small companies, you are also making a choice as a consumer to support environmentally-minded businesses. "You're not just buying a product, you're also encouraging a socially-committed business and helping it grow."
The following items are available EnvironGentle, located at 246 N. Highway 101 in Encinitas. For information, call (619) 753-7420.

Terra Nova Imports

aurel Buerk, the owner of Terra Nova Imports, wanted to open a store that reflected her interests. She wanted to combine her love of different cultures with an eco-friendly social consciousness in a store with a museum-like display.
Almost all the items at Terra Nova Imports have tags that describe where the item came from, how it was made and how the product benefits the environment. Reading all these tags is an educational experience - much like walking through a museum.
Laurel encourages a cooperative effort with people of different cultures by encouraging artistic expression through recycled and non-toxic material. One such item is a Brazilian box made of vines. Through cooperation with the Brazillian Family Assistance Service, a program was developed to put street kids in school and teach them a craft. As they are learning how to make exquisite vine boxes, they are guaranteed food and shelter.
Another example of a cooperative effort is with the store's selection of Haitian "drum art," a folk art created by the people of Haiti using empty juice drums recycled from Florida. The drums are cut, shaped into whimsical designs and painted with vivid colors.
The store carries an inventory of unique housewares, gifts and home accessories that changes often. Expect excellent customer service at Terra Nova Imports, including special orders of various items. The following list of gifts are at Terra Nova Imports, located at 257 N. El Camino Real, Ste. F in Encinitas. For information, call (619) 944-2948.

Earth Support

honda Hilland and Ken Hedman became involved in environmental issues while they were students in San Luis Obispo. Rhonda became accustomed to buying and using environmentally-friendly and non-toxic products, and when she moved to San Diego, she realized these products were very difficult to find.
Rhonda decided to open Earth Support, a store dedicated to organic, recycled and eco-friendly products, and make these items available to San Diegans.
Ken recently joined Rhonda as the manager of the store. "We're here to help inform people that there are alternatives to chemical products. Many people just don't know about all the poisonous stuff in the things they buy," Ken said.
There is a growing environmentally-aware market, however. "The more educated people become, the more they'll want these products," said Ken.
The following products are at Earth Support, located at 4655 Park Ave. in University Heights. For information, call (619) 297-7451.

The Green Store

he Green Store was opened on Earth Day, 1989, by Colleen Dietzel and Kip Krueger. Both were active in the environmental and peace communities and wanted to create a vehicle to spread the word. "I belonged to a lot of groups," says Colleen, "and I wanted to share it. It's hard to get the information out; most stores won't put a poster in their window."
The Green Store was opened as an information clearinghouse and "public library" of environmental publications and information - a function it still serves today. To help support their nonprofit efforts, they sell a modest selection of eco-friendly and environmental/peace/social justice message products,
The Green Store is located at 2232 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. in Ocean Beach. The following are some of the products they stock. For more infomation, call (619) 225-1083.

Gifts from the Green Mainstream

ith a little extra effort, you can find many other green gifts for Christmas at mainstream stores. Sometimes it helps to ask a knowledgeable salesperson which items he or she recommends. Often you may have to roam through the aisles on your own in the search for environmentally friendly gifts. When you do find items like the ones listed below, be sure to tell a friend! Making green product choices is an important step towards living a healthy life in a protected environment.

Knowledge is power: book choices

We found these books at Bookstar; check them out ast your local bookstore.

A better body - naturally

Body care products make excellent practical gifts, and many organic, non-animal tested ones are available. These items were found at Bath & Body Works.

Use your imagination: toys & games

These gifts for the children on your list are located at the Imagination store.

Nature at its best

Products that celebrate nature encourage care for the environment. These can be purchased at The Discovery Store.

Green thumb gifts

Shopping for the green thumbs on your list can be easy. In addition to items found at your local nursery, we found these items at Cost Plus.

Home sweet home: water and energy-saving gifts

These products are good for the environment and will save money all year round. These may be found at Home Depot or your local household supply store.

Food for thought

Everyone eats, making these gourmet food items a natural. These items are stocked at Boneys.

How does your garden grow?

More green gifts for your gardening friends. We found these at Nurseryland.