Here are some ways you can care for the earth as well as your family and friends.
by Rhonda Hill
he holiday season is here. Businesses are gearing up for their busiest time of the year. Many stores make 75 percent of their yearly revenue during this time, while others may operate only for the season and take the rest of the year off. This is a time of increased burden on the planet. More natural resources are taken over a shorter period time. Fossil fuels are burned at a much higher rate, people are traveling and food consumption is increased. Commercials bombard us. Billboards, junk mail, and ads everywhere are saying "buy!, buy!, buy!".
Is this the true meaning of celebration? Is this what these traditions were intended to be when they were started? I think not. But the truth is, we can create whatever we want. We don't have to get caught up in it all. In fact, we have a tremendous power to heal and change things right now. If we choose to engage in the gift-giving traditions, we can use our gifts to heal the planet, strengthen the local economy and send a powerful message for change.
You might think it sounds too simple. The truth is, it is very simple. Every dollar we spend is going to support the companies and individuals responsible for creating those services, products and distribution media. The dollar is a powerful tool for voting. We can use it wisely if we choose to not support the toxic, polluting industries (like non-organic cotton) that are a drain on our economy and the environment. If we support companies that are creating positive change instead, all the better. The following are a few recommendations.
For decoration ideas, you can wrap packages in old fabrics, maps, posters, newspapers, magazines or junk mail, secured with hemp or jute twine. Package gifts in reusable bags, pillow cases, baskets or recycled boxes. Make your own awesome wrapping paper by decorating paper bags with fallen leaves, twigs, and flowers from outside, or purchase 100 percent post-consumer recycled wrapping paper at Earth Connections or Environgentle. Decorate your home with popcorn and cranberry strands, squash, fruits, fallen twigs, pine needles, seeds - whatever you can find in your yard or on the sidewalk. Going with friends to look for materials can be a fine adventure.
For celebration ideas, have a gift exchange where everything must be handmade. Send 100 percent post-consumer recycled holiday cards, email, or give phone greetings. Use reusable plates, flatware, glasses, and linen for parties in your home, and away from home. Keep a spare set of plates, flatware, and glasses in your car, in case your forget to bring them. If you do remember, then you will have an extra set for a friend
Recycling cans, glass, cardboard, paper and plastic is especially important during this time since such a huge amount of waste is generated. Purchase minimally packaged foods and bake goodies from fresh ingredients. Compost your food scraps.
Try to minimize energy usage. Be sure to turn off lights when rooms are not in use. Minimize holiday lighting by using beeswax candles when you can. (They make a beautiful light source, smell wonderful, and are longer lasting than paraffin candles.)
Purchase organic foods: they are an immense benefit to the planet, they taste better and have a longer shelf life. Attend farmers' markets for fun and discounts. Bring your own bags when shopping at the mall or market. Use non-toxic household cleaners, detergents, furniture polish, window cleaners, laundry products, drain openers, and non-aerosol air sprays.
For gift ideas, you might want to consider holiday clothes made from organically grown fabrics. Items include sleepwear, bedding and towels. Hemp products are the strongest and most durable around. Backpacks, hip-packs, hats, wallets, jewelry, jeans, shirts, coffee filters, checkbook holders, luggage, paper and cards made from hemp all make excellent gifts. Natural incense, sage and sweetgrass add a nice touch to the holiday atmosphere.
Books are fabulous gifts - especially ones on the environment, health, nature, and vegetarianism. A pre-paid registration for an interesting class or workshop is a fine gift and a great surprise. Organic and recycled children's toys, educational eco-toys, and organic cotton children's clothes, as well as non-toxic body and bath products, are great for the kids. An elegant hemp or organic cotton holiday dress is a nice way to look great, and celebrate the earth. Membership in an environmental organization, peaceful music, gift certificates for massage, reflexology, chiropractic and related services, and membership to a gym are all healthy gift alternatives. A book on macrame and a roll of hemp twine are great gifts for teenagers.
Many of the products listed above can be purchased at Earth Connections in Grossmont Center (589-7563), or Environgentle in Encinitas (753-7420). The Magical Child in Carlsbad (729-7334) has organic cotton children's clothes, as well as toys, maternity wear, and nursing clothes. For organic foods, shop at OB People's Natural Foods Market in Ocean Beach (224-1387), or have the Natural Gourmet (271-5329) prepare organic foods for you. For bulk organic grains, nuts, and more, call Goldmine Natural Foods (296-8536), and if you like breads, Christina's Daily Bread in Encinitas (634-0057) offers organic ingredients. Premium organically produced wine is available from Frey Vinyards (800-760-3739), and Earth's Choice (231-4040) provides fine organically-grown coffee.
Remember that the holidays are not about giving and receiving things, but about giving and receiving love. Gifts that are beneficial for the earth increase the love, the true intent behind gift giving. Love and blessings to everyone this holiday season, and to our dear, sweet earth.
Rhonda Hill is the owner and proprietress of Earth Connections
and an active member of the Green party.