Hate what this season has become? It's the high holiday of capitalist consumer culture. Who can blame an eco Scrooge? It's hard not to resent a fete that churns out mounds of virgin paper wrapping and plastic trees. But keep the faith! There's no reason why this season of gift-giving can't be squeaky green! Fair trade shops like Ten Tousand Villages on Yonge or Danforth and Blue Moon on Danforth are crammed with great gift ideas like ornate teapots, jewellery, carvings, pillows, throws and trinkets, each with its own inspiring story. Plus they're made using sustainable materials and practices.
Or support the wonderful handmade crafts made a little closer to home! The Guild Shop on Cumberland is run by the not-for-profit Ontario Crafts Council that returns a much higher percentage of sales directly to the makers than most other galleries or shops. You'll find gorgeous silk scarves dyed with plants the artist grows herself ($40-$52), sculptures made from recycled steel ($15-$140) as well as jewellery, vases and magnets made from found metal parts.
Looking for a great stocking stuffer? Snow Lion on Danforth has an array of tasty organic biodynamic teas to match your gift receiver's needs - and they come in a lovely reusable tin (from $5.75/60g). Custom blends available.
Sticking to the organic theme, why not switch that regular bottle of wine you hand your holiday host to organic? See your local LCBO for examples.
Seeing as almost half of all batteries are purchased at this time of year, it's a good idea to include rechargable batteries (and a charger) when giving electronics.
If there's a true environmentalist in your life who'd rather give to the earth than take, take, take, why not give him or her a tree? Earthroots has adopt-a-tree-in-Temagami packages starting at $50, and Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief has plant-a-tree-in-Africa packages for any size donation. (You can also buy a cool plant-a-tree-in-Africa fleece or toque from www.cpar.ca, or Temagami posters at www.earthroots.ca). Or adopt an acre of wildlife habitat in someone's name through the Nature Conservancy ($35, www.natureconservancy.ca).
For that animal lover in the bunch, you can rescue a dog or cat from a research lab ($35/cat, $50/dog, www.projectjessie. ca or 416-462-9541) or sponsor an abandoned bunny ($25, www.rabbitrescue.ca or 905-951-8469). Wondering what to do about gift-wrap? There's no need to reach for that fresh-cut tree variety. Make your own from old road maps, cartoons, pictures, calendars or greeting cards. Or pick up some plain brown recycled kraft paper and tie a pine cone or holly onto it with twine (get hemp twine at Toronto Hemp Company on Yonge from $4.95). UNICEF sells festive fair trade gift wrap ($16.50, www.shopunicef.ca).
The org also carries lots of wonderful stuff for your tree. Namely, fairly traded ornaments from all over the world. Or pick up beautiful fair trade hand-crafted ornaments at Ten Thousand Villages. They have stars ($3-$8), globes ($5-$12), bells ($5), gingerbread men ($28) and angels ($1-$14), as well as streamers for your tree ($4). Blue Moon also has hand-carved fair trade ornaments made from non-endangered wood. Or if you have time, make your own! Star fruit and orange slices dried in the oven make lovely ornaments. But what of the tree itself? Many will tell you at least plastic trees last and save a perfectly healthy tree from the chop. Trouble is, artificial trees are made of nasty PVC plastic. Sure, they last up to 10 years, but they clog our landfills for centuries to come and leach while they're at it.
Real trees, on the other hand, are almost all harvested from tree farms. And for every tree chopped, another 10 are planted. Ikea, by the way, will donate a seedling to the Tree Canada Foundation for planting projects with every tree you buy there.
But here's the hitch - and it's a big one: the vast majority of Christmas trees are, sadly, sprayed. All sorts of chemicals, including nasty insecticides and rodenticides, are used to keep them looking pretty. While Christmas tree groves often provide habitats for all sorts of wildlife, these chems can cause serious harm.
The only organic Christmas tree grower we could find near Toronto is Laura's Trees. She sells pine ($20) and spruce ($25) trees that you can either chop down yourself or purchase pre-cut (45 minutes from T.O., 705-466-5790).
If you are getting a real tree, potted versions are great because they can be planted in your backyard when you're done. Just note that they require lots of TLC at first. Talk to a greenhouse for tips (or go to www.sheridannurseries.com/GardenSite/subGARDENTIP43mainframe.htm/). The main thing is not to let your tree dry out, and don't keep it inside for more than a week. If you go for the cut kind, note that the city turns all 75,000 it picks up each year into 1,000 tonnes of compost.
If you're the type who sends out greeting cards, maybe it's time to switch to paperless technology. www.e-card.com donates 5 per cent of profits to eco causes. No computer? Make sure you look for cards made of recycled paper with high post-consumer content.
Having a gift exchange with friends or co-workers? Make it "recyled." Everyone wraps up an old unwanted gift and participants can either draw from the unopened pile or steal someone else's.
But for the true Scrooge in the family, only an organic Xmas Resitance T (or tank or tote bag), subtitled "End compulsory consumption," will do. Check out www.cafepress.com/xmasresistance ($20.55 for the T).
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