During the holidays, it’s fun to reminisce about our childhood and simpler times. I believe it’s this Back to Basics approach that has spurred a passion toward the Modern Homesteading movement. Today, we have the privilege of a true ‘City to Country’ girl as our guest author.
Web designer, Modern Homesteading blogger, and my friend, Victoria Gazeley, is here to graciously share with us her tips for a Green Christmas.
A Modern Homesteading Christmas
When you live in a rural area, your personal Christmas gift list tends to be a lot different than when you live in the city.
Since moving onto our 6 acres two years ago, my gift list has changed a lot. Last year, it included an Ecofan for the woodstove, a wood carving kit so I can carve our driveway address sign, and Le Creuset cookware (OK, that last one was on the list when I lived in a townhouse, too!). Is the list luxurious? No (except maybe the Le Creuset). Practical? Absolutely. It’s a far cry from the spa certificates and high end clothing I had on my list in the past, but the satisfaction I get from receiving those gifts has stayed with me to this day. And the gifts I’ve been given won’t end up as fodder for our landfill. I’ll have them for a very, very long time. That makes me feel good.
But what about my list for others? Does green gift giving mean granola-crunchy, boring, guilt-inducing presents? Absolutely not. I’m here to tell you that green gifts can be just as fun as the toxic, wasteful kind – maybe even more so, because you can feel good giving them. They can be practical, useful, and best of all, well loved. And when they’re at their best, they’ll change the lives of those who receive them.
Green Gift Giving Criteria
- Is the gift ‘fair trade’?
- Is it made from natural, organic, or recycled materials?
- If it’s not made from natural materials, is it made with recyclability in mind?
- If it’s made from natural materials, is it finished with safe, non-toxic finishes (i.e., beeswax and/or naturally pigmented, non-oil-based paints)?
- Is it made or supplied locally?
- Is it recyclable in my community?
- Is it of heirloom quality?
- Is it a gift of service that isn’t a ‘thing’ that will be thrown away eventually?
- Is the gift something the person will use a lot?
- Is the gift something the person will LOVE?
Obviously, some of these things sort of cancel others out (i.e., a Fair Trade gift likely won’t be made locally, but both are good criteria to keep in mind). And while the list is a bit long, it does become second nature after awhile. Over the years, I’ve found these criteria have served me well in picking gifts that are low on the environmental impact scale. So where do you find such things? Well, not generally at your local department store. You need to buy from sellers who have done the research for you.
Green Gift Resources
- Lehman’s - Lehman’s started as a tiny hardware store employing 3 members of one family and is now the world’s largest purveyor of historical technology. They ship old-fashioned, non-electric merchandise all over the world to a diverse customer base of missionaries and doctors working in developing countries, homesteaders and environmentalists living in remote areas, people with unreliable electricity living on islands and mountains, second home owners, hunters, fishers and cabin dwellers, the ‘chronically nostalgic,’ and even Hollywood set designers looking for historically accurate period pieces. The owner’s goal was, and still is, to provide authentic, historical products to those seeking a simpler life. It’s like a candy store for anyone who wants to reduce their reliance on electric appliances! I personally use the Pressure Handwasher, and the Lehman’s wringer. I’ve purchased a number of items from Lehman’s over the last couple of years and have always been really happy with the customer service. For some nostalgic fun, check out the non-electric lighting options, hand cranked items, and non-powered laundry appliances. If you’re at all interested in being even a little more self-sufficient, you could seriously spend hours poking around this website. It’s my one stop shop for all things ‘homesteading’.
- Real Goods - I remember the ‘old’ Real Goods catalog, which returned in the 1990s after disappearing during the excesses of the 1980s. This is the granddaddy (or grandmommy!) of all ‘green gifts’ catalogs. EVERYTHING you could imagine for the ‘green’ home – from recycled door mats (in use at our cold storage door) and non-electric woodstove fans (currently whirring away on top of our woodstove), to composting toilets, tankless water heaters, and decor items, they’ve got it all. Maybe not the most romantic of Christmas presents, but there’s nothing romantic about huge electric and water bills!
- Etsy - Etsy is a treasure trove of hand-made eco-gift items that will fit absolutely anyone on your gift list. Gorgeous clothing, stunning, one-of-a-kind jewellery, decor items and whimsical bits and pieces that might be useless, but would look awesome in your loved one’s home! You’ll find a large percentage of the items on Etsy are ‘green’ – recycled materials, natural materials, hand made in North America… Plan to spend at least an hour (or two or three) looking around!
- Rawganique – Organic cotton and hemp clothing and gorgeous organic home decor, bedding and linens. I’ve ordered from Rawganique many, many times over the last few years and love their products and customer service.
A few of our favourite sources for the young ones on your list:
- Natural Pod - Located here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Natural Pod has a lovely inventory or gorgeous children’s toys, craft items and games. The owners are lovely and stand behind their products – natural materials, safe finishes, and lots of ‘made in North America’ items. No plastic in sight!
- Bella Luna Toys - Bella Luna Toys is a beautiful place to purchase quality, natural-material gifts for the children on your list. The toys are inspired by Waldorf education, and invite open-ended play that nurtures a child’s imagination. Bella Luna is “committed to offering unique natural toys and products for children and families that are safe, healthy and encourage imaginative play. You will find no battery-operated or plastic toys here, the kind that will be played with for a short time before ending up in a landfill.”
- A Toy Garden – A Toy Garden is another lovely source of natural children’s toys.
- Family Pastimes - Family Pastimes designs and manufactures cooperative games (all made in Canada).
Some other ideas:
- Spa gift certificates.
- Subscriptions to the local gym, national nature conservancy or favourite magazine.
- Knitting or crafting lessons.
- Music or dance classes.
- Concert tickets.
- A weekend away at a fancy B&B.
- A subscription to create a family history book – teamfamilyonline.com
- Business training – arealchange.com
- Get a blog built for someone with a gift to share with the world.
- Use your imagination!
Green gift giving doesn’t have to be boring – or difficult! And it can change a life if you pick the right one (think about how you can fulfill someone’s dream, even in a small way). The ideas and resources listed here will set you on your way – the only danger is that you’ll get so engrossed in all the options that you won’t order in time for Christmas… ;o)
Victoria Gazeley lives in a restored heritage homestead cabin on a 6 acre rural property less than an hour by ferry from Vancouver, British Columbia. In her work life, she is the owner of a small website design firm, helping small businesses build successful, easy to manage websites that get results. When she’s not working with clients and developing her homestead, you can find her out exploring and traveling with her family and friends, researching and planning her future non-profit organization/foundation, and contributing her many years of communications experience back to her community. After more than 20 years of city living in apartments and townhouses, she’s finally found her place in the woods. And she can’t imagine it any other way.