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‘Tis the Season to be ??? : River Valley edition : Tuesday, 25 February 2020 00:19 EST : a service of The Public Press
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Gift Alternatives for the Holidays

     by The Editors of Green Living Journal

I am a legendary gift giver in my family. That's not necessarily a good thing. I practically invented the practice of re-gifting (getting a secondary use from something previously given as a gift.) I can go through my desk drawer at any given time and find enough gew-gaws to make up a great stocking.

My kids had a different word for it. What I call "legendary" they'd call "cheap." What I would call "green" and "thrifty," they would call "cheap."

Last year my two boys, now twenty-something and thirty-something, came up from the big city with their sleek and chic girl friends. Not wanting to drop the family tradition I gave one couple, with the help of the Oxfam organization, a goat to be donated in their name to a family in Ethiopia. The other couple "received" a heaping load of composted manure, again donated on their behalf to a needy family somewhere in the Third World.quiet zone

Although intended as a feel-good present, these presents didn't feel especially good. No offense to Oxfam, but there is no visceral pleasure in giving a little card that symbolizes a load of manure. How much of the "good stuff" actually makes it to a real person? The gift was good for a short chuckle, but ultimately proved as ephemeral as if I had given a wish for rainbow. (This is not to be interpreted as a comment on Oxfam. For all I know, they delivered reliably on their promise ... the operative phrase being "for all I know.")

Fifteen years ago I "gave" my two boys and the cousins with whom they spent summers, empty time capsules (chrome-painted cookie tins) to fill with small treasures and put away until the distant year of 2010. The cousins have now scattered like the seeds of August. One is a CPA in Phoenix; one a rock and roll star in Brooklyn; two professionally inhabit the ether otherwise known as the Internet. They have seen each other only sporadically since the days when their days were filled with wiffle balls and food fights.
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And this is the year to open the "time capsules," so broadly characterized as "lame" and "cheap" at the time they were filled. Will they, in fact, prove lame, or will they re-ignite priceless forgotten memories? We'll know soon, but from this vantage these gifts hold more promise than the manure in Africa.

We turned to our Green Living community both for more alternative gift ideas, but also to get a sense of the tenor of the times. Here, presented with the same randomness as gifts around the base of the tree or beneath the Menorah or on the Kwanza banquet table are gift suggestions and thoughts for the upcoming year:

'Tis the Season to Clean out the Closet, or at least the Pantry

I volunteer once a month at the Thrift Shop that benefits our local hospital. Your donations have a triple benefit: your closet gets cleaned, the hospital benefits financially, and someone locally gets a bargain that they could never afford at the local mall. Our Thrift Shop is someplace you can go with a ten dollar bill, buy three presents, and come out with enough change for a coffee.

While you are at it, clean out your pantry as well. I don't know anyone who hasn't purchased a few food items that seemed like good ideas at the time, but that never seem to find their ways onto the dinner menu. Take these to the local Food Shelf. Donations are down due the economy, and demand is higher than ever.

Sandy Leveque, Marketing and Public Relations Consultant

(Sandy's photos have appeared frequently on Green Living covers) - SM

'Tis the season for Feasts!

Food is always a welcome gift. Giving a share from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm provides your loved one with fresh, delicious food while supporting the local economy and preserving the open landscape. Or consider a donation in your loved one's name to an organization such as the Vermont Farm Share program which subsidizes CSA shares for low-income residents - so that the benefits of local food can be available to everyone, regardless of income.

Caitlin Gildrien, Outreach Coordinator, NOFA Vermont. More info at nofavt.org

'Tis the Season to be PRACTICAL

If it's an object that you have to wrap, wrap it in a towel, dish cloth, handkerchief, blanket, tarp, whatever, but in something reusable. A gift of time, donation, or service to the community in someone's name goes a long way and keeps it local too. Support a local artisan or crafter. I like finding fun things that require no batteries and can be used outdoors, like a kite or new canoe paddle for example. Kites come in all age and skill levels. So do garden tools, bird feeders and gift memberships or visits to local museums. Regardless of what level we give or receive, I believe it's important to keep in mind that there are others with much less. Gratefulness and generosity go hand in hand.

Ben Goldberg, Phoenix Composting Toilets

'Tis the Season to think Straw Bale.

The January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, causing the deaths of 230,000 and leaving 1.4 million homeless, was an enormous tragedy for the people of Haiti. But it also has yielded an enormous opportunity for Haiti to rebuild, restore, and revitalize itself in ways not possible before. In the building realm there is the opportunity, and truly the necessity, to rebuild in ways that are appropriate and sustainable culturally, economically and environmentally.

Although the prospect of rebuilding from rubble is so daunting, within this tragedy comes a hopeful response from individual Haitian citizens themselves. It is a call for community led, sustainable earthquake-safe homes; built by Haitians, for Haitians from their own resources. In response to this call, Builders Without Borders and Grassroots United in collaboration with the Sheltering Pine Institute have designed a simple, locally sustainable building solution for Haiti using straw bale construction techniques.

The proposed initiative is now about to enter its first phase, with a demonstration project in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on land provided by Grassroots United. In subsequent phases, we envision the project growing as Haitians learn the techniques of straw bale construction, new talents that will sustain further local building endeavors.

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $30,571. With the pledge of $10,000 in funding from Builders Without Borders, we are now seeking additional donations to complete the project's initial funding needs. We welcome individual, corporate and foundation donations, which may be made payable to The Sheltering Pine Institute, a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit institution. Such donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

Katherine S. Nickel, Executive Director (email)

'Tis the Season to Get Geek

The hardest thing in the world to throw is yesterday's technology. That 50# laptop, huge monitor, and bag of wires and connections maybe have been state of the art when you bought them, but now they are gathering dust in the basement. Moreover, they want a small fortune at the local landfill to dispose of them.

Donate them to Goodwill instead. Not only will they come out to the car to pick up your items, they will give you a receipt for a nice tax deduction ... much better than paying the guy at the landfill to throw it in the dumpster.

'Tis the Season to give it to the worms"

Wooden Worm Bins, Worm Castings & Composting Worms are unusual holiday gifts that "keep on giving" & are as GREEN as can be! "The Wacky Worm Sisters" at Down to Earth Worm Farm.

Lynette Courtney

Other suggestions:

Especially good as "family" presents are peanut feeders for woodpeckers & nuthatches give hours of entertainment for kids, the elderly & any bird lover.

Gift certificates for a Garden Consultations or Winter Landscaping for novice gardeners, new home owners or anyone who would like to understand the natural/garden environment that surrounds their home or business. Learn about your soil, drainage issues, sun exposure of different areas & whether the plants in those spots are happy where they're planted or what changes might be made. (see article this issue). newleafdesignsnursery.com

'Tis the Season to Take the "High" Road

High Mowing Organic Seeds is again offering our Organic Seed Packet Collections for holiday gift-giving. There are four collections to choose from: Kitchen Herbs (5 packets), Garden Starter (10 packets), Heirloom Vegetables (10 packets), and the White House Garden (18 packets). The packets come in an attractive, recyclable gift package and are the perfect present for new and experienced gardeners alike! Each packet in the collection has a lovely photo of the variety and detailed planting instructions. And, there is free shipping on each collection ordered! Visit our website with more information.

Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager

'Tis the Season to be imaginative!

How about a handmade item or food, in a nice reusable container or dish. Suggested by Dora Coates, Dovecote Design - "dreams to drawings,"

'Tis the season to be WISE!"

As a big reader who's an author and in the book business, I always think books are the best gift. To state the obvious, good books expand our minds and hearts. And of course, I recommend supporting your local independent bookstore, but if you do buy books online, I recommend buying through BargainBookMole.org which finds the lowest prices online for used and new books and donates 5% of affiliate fees received -- the service is always free for buyers -- to non-profits including environmental groups. In addition to a website search, www.BargainBookMole.org has free browser add-ons for Firefox and Internet Explorer which are the easiest and fastest way to search for discounted priced books online.

Marshall Glickman, founder Green Living; owner Green Living Books, who adds "our Brattleboro warehouse is also open for retail sales: 802-257-6900."

'Tis the season to be ENTHUSIASTIC !

About 30 years ago I attended a conference called "Taking The Future Into Our Own Hands." We spoke about local economies of people caring for their neighbors and communities. Growing food and providing a full measure of services for each other. One thoughtful and far-thinking woman observed - I hope we don't run out of farmland before we do oil, and don't have enough to pasture the draft horses we'll need. 30 years ago! We were awakening then to a redefined future. Now it's a reality. I'm excited to see the maturity and success of local food initiatives in the Valley and elsewhere, but especially, recently in Northampton. Also the local trade and barter initiatives and "Common Good" banking, and all the materials re-use efforts here and elsewhere, such as the ReStore and ReNew, and the upcoming ReBay in Northampton. I feel enthusiastic and most grateful about what we now have in our own hands.

Ben Goldberg, Ben's Bins

'Tis the season to put your money to work!

Ideally at your local co-ops. Or, alternatively donate or invest in a community organization such at the Co-op Fund of New England that helps such groups thrive everywhere.

Rebecca Dunn, CFNE

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