Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new. But many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. You can give more while spending less.
• Not all gifts have to be store-bought.
You can give more while spending less by giving gifts that are personal and unique. While young children may favor the bright, shiny store-bought item, most adults appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. Here's a page with some great ideas for meaningful holiday gifts that aren't found on store shelves: Tips for sustainable giving
• Simplify the 'gift-go-round'.
Feeling overwhelmed by a gift list that's just too long? Here's an idea to help shorten your list and simplify the family gift-giving ritual. We tried this in our own family last year and it was appreciated by all.
Before the holiday season begins (Thanksgiving is a good time because the extended family is often together), put the names of all adult family members on separate slips of paper and put the slips in a hat. Take turns picking one name per adult - the name you pick is your gift recipient. Keep your chosen pick a secret, to help maintain an element of surprise.
Your gift list for the adults in your family has just been shortened to one! You can now focus on a special gift for the person whose name you picked, without the difficulty and expense of finding just the right gift for everyone.If the family's not together on Thanksgiving, ask Grandma or someone else in the family to pick the names from the hat for everyone, by proxy. It works just as well. An agreed on spending limit will also help everyone from feeling they have to go overboard with a fabulous gift for the person whose name they chose.
Buy Smart - think 'green'
• look for locally made giftsMany gifts in today's marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known.
• choose gifts made from recycled sources
Many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials. Here are some examples for you to consider: Gifts from recycled materials
• give 'battery-free' gifts
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. Here are a few examples of gifts that have less of an impact on the environment: Naturally-powered toys• avoid children's toys that promote violence
There is too much violence in the world, and the new wave of video games for children is disturbing. Remember the theme of Christmas is "Peace on Earth". There are many toys and games that are fun, and nurture childrens' creativity and sense of active play. Here are some examples: Educational toys and games
• 're-gifting' is OK
There's much discussion these days about the etiquette behind the trend to 're-gift', that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What's to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don't need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don't need is wasteful.
"A great way to teach children the spirit of giving (and simplifying) during the holidays is to ask them to pick 3 toys that they don't play with very much, and donate them to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter etc. I saw children bring toys in to the shelter I worked at year after year - it was a wonderful experience for everyone!" ........Lauren, New Hampshire
Connect with Nature
Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual, earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! It will also get you outdoors for a few hours to build an appetite for the big dinner.
Annual Christmas Day Bird Count
Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There's always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends.
Compare the results from former years and you'll become experts on your local bird population and migration habits. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.
For more information, see our page Annual Bird Count
Family nature hike
A peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued more than the score of the football game. Plan your walk before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime.Nature restoration activity
Planting a small tree together symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the 'taking' of the Christmas tree. An hour spent cleaning up or enhancing a natural area also enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.
Decorate a tree for the birdsPlace seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. To attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed, wild bird mixed seed and nyger seed bells. This is a great activity for kids, and offers an important food source for birds during the winter...