Thrifty, Green & Simple Christmas Gifts

Jonathan Gregory, my sweetest Christmas gift (along with his sister!)

News of the economic crisis is getting worse every day. Unemployment numbers are skyrocketing. No doubt this is going to be a tight (if not totally difficult) Christmas for many folks around the country. Even those who are blessed with stable employment would be wise to scale back and simplify this Christmas.

No matter what the motivation, simplicity is always a welcome notion for me. Malls overwhelm me. I can't even go into the neighborhood Big Box store this time of year without totally feeling panicked and emotionally drained. The subtle glorification of plastic and kitch wears on me even more than normal this time of year.

In case anyone else out there is feeling overwhelmed by commercialism and haste, I thought I would share some tips for a more simplified Christmas; one which will allow room to celebrate the true meaning of the season and enjoy priceless time with the gifts we have already in our lives!

1) Consider Handmaking Gifts: For those of you who are crafty, this is a no-brainer. But there are many ways to share homemade gifts.

One of our favorite gifts from year to year is an amazing homemade salsa made by dear couple friends of ours. There's nothing like it! Last year I made a homemade, gourmet
hot cocoa mix with real fair-trade chocolate, Rapadura, and organic milk powder.

What about some simple handmade toy blocks for the children out of scrap lumber? Other ideas include the obvious (scarves, hats, legwarmers, quilts, afghans, cross-stitch, purses, earrings). If you're a writer, what about a framed poem? My brother is good at editing videos and has made some hilarious DVDs. A family slide show set to music is a great gift to send out-of-town relatives and friends!

When it comes to unique handmade items, Google is your friend as well as You Tube. If you want to make it, You Tube has probably got someone showing you how! Another neat site I stumbled upon is Instructables which shows pictures and step-by-step instructions on how to do just about anything!

One of my favorite web resources for Gifts in a Jar is
this website. I enjoy the challenge of tweaking the recipes and making them more nourishing! More on that in a future post.

2) Recycled Gifts
No, I don't [necessarily] mean re-gifting. Recycled gifts include those purchased cheaply at garage sales, vintage/antique shops, or other second-hand stores. The neat thing about most second hand stores is that the businesses are non-profit organizations that support a worthy cause. For those of you locals, Second Edition is the resale shop for the Cedar Mill Community Library. This store is hands down the cleanest, and more high-quality resale for the lowest price around.

Plato's Closet is a for-profit company that encourages recycling by purchasing your old clothes and selling them. These clothes are all high quality name brands at a fraction of the cost. This is a great option for anyone who has a teenager or young adult on their list to shop for!

Even though this is more common for white elephant gift exchanges, sometimes simply looking through your own garage can turn up treasures that you didn't remember you had.

Another neat store in Portland, called SCRAP is a non-profit that sells mostly excess office and school supplies and other very unique and highly recyclable items including fabric scraps. This place is cheap, too. Most items are sold by the pound!!! Full of artistic inspiration, this place is awesome! If you aren't in Portland, try to locate a similar type of program in your area.

3) Support Sustainable Businesses

If handmade or recycled isn't your schtick, please consider purchasing your gifts from green & sustainable businesses. The EcoMetro guide (which services East Bay, CA, Seattle area, Portland, and Eugene/Springfield) is a priceless resource for all things green and sustainable in the cities they service. Search for local, sustainable businesses on their site. If your city is not represented by EcoMetro, consider contacting them putting your city on the EcoMetro map!

Some of my other favorite ways support small and sustainable businesses are by shopping at:

  • Ten Thousand Villages supports sustainable business in third world countries by selling the beautiful artisan crafts from around the world.

  • Those random Holiday Bizarres you see advertised everywhere this time of year.

  • Searching websites like the Sustainable Business Network.

  • Shop Etsy and directly support many small-scale artisans.

4) Consider Unique Gifts with a Small Carbon Footprint:

Some of our favorite gifts are paperless, but at the same time support local organizations. If you are shopping for children who already have every toy they'd ever need, why not buy them a membership to your nearest zoo, science, or children's museum?

Tickets to a play, movie, sporting event, or concert are also welcome, but unique gifts. Gift certificates for massage, pedicures, facials will excite any woman on your Christmas list.

Perhaps a membership to a CSA would be a great family gift for you or a family on your list.


Ideas abound for making a more simple/green/thrifty Christmas celebration, yet the bigger question remains: how do we change our expectations for giving and receiving? This is a huge philosophical and spiritual question with which to ponder. Further, how do we raise children that don't have the expectation that they're always going to get tons of new things each year?

Currently, being "green" and simple is a choice many of us make on principle. Someday, it may not be an option.


cheeseslave said...

I really appreciate this post, Carrie! Such great ideas.

I hadn't thought of making gifts...

Of course I am SO SWAMPED with work right now so I can't spend any time on this. BUT I have a lot of fermented salsa I made and that would make a lovely gift for our gardener and housekeeper (I'm also giving our housekeeper two days off with pay). I think homemade sauerkraut would also make a great gift.

Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home said...


Big box stores make me feel the same way! Thanks for all the great ideas.
By the way, you look so pretty in you new photo!

Merry Christmas,

Kelly the Kitchen Kop said...

That is the sweetest little baby boy picture! I just want to reach into my computer and give him a squeeze!