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Green Christmas

[Welcome to another edition of East Coast Guest Posts. Now that Hallowe’en has come and gone, we all know what’s on most consumer minds: Christmas. This week, we’ll be hearing from guests about shopping “home for the holidays.” First up: a word from the Ecology Action Centre.]

By Charlene Boyce

Working at an environmental non-profit organization has several implications for the holiday season. One is that every year I’m challenged to be creatively ‘non-consumer’ with my gift-giving…crafting, re-gifting, baking and researching what folks actually need has become SOP.

But nothing is ever easy. It’s not like I live in a commune of like-minded individuals. I have family who do not speak ‘green’, and don’t understand a used, marked-up book as a sign of love. I also have a nine-year-old daughter, who is perfectly balanced between ‘planet-lover’ and ‘marketer’s-brain-washed-sidekick’. The child devours the Sears Wish Book just as I did at her age, and yet accepts most of the Santa-legend amendments I offer, such as “Santa’s elves are only using recycled materials this year”, and “Santa won’t bring you new toys that he knows you won’t love…so if you don’t get them, it’s because Santa knows you don’t really need them.” Santa’s omniscience is unchallenged as yet…thanks be to the gods of fiscal prudence.

Gold bow

Gold bow

This year my newest green tip (because I am a notorious impulse buyer) is to make a list of stores I want to support and shop at for Christmas and to avoid the others. Despite Wal-Mart’s tremendous green initiatives recently, they aren’t on my short list, because Wal-Mart causes me to suffer ‘shopper’s ADHD’: “I just need thi—oh, there’s that shirt Nancy wan—oh, I need more laundry so…is that a SlapChop?!…oooh, shiny! ”

You get the idea.

I’m looking at boutiques like Woozles and P’lovers, small stores that support local products like Rum Runners, co-op stores like MEC and the Farmer’s Market. If I can make it to Christmas without going in a mall, so much the better for my wallet and spirit. I’m also being a dragon about sticking to my list this year. No buying stuff just because so-and-so, who I had no intention of buying for, might like it.

First run-through the list, though, is to figure out who would love or use something homemade. I’ve started knitting, but the baking won’t happen till there’s snow down to inspire me. Every year I make Christmas bread for several people. My daughter helps me prepare it, from an old family recipe I got from her dad’s mom. This year it will feature red fife wheat, our local Nova Scotia variety. I may add some blueberry preserves (my roommate is the preserves queen, I’m counting on her for guidance.)

Other things working at an ENGO means at Christmas? One, I buy an organic Christmas tree (I work for the Ecology Action Centre, and, full disclosure, we sell them annually); I don’t use regular gift wrap (except sometimes for the child’s gifts, due to the infernal culture machine dictating that for Santa); I do give those who will appreciate it gift memberships or charity donations in their name; and (something most will relate to) I never have enough money to buy everything I want to at Christmas. Non-profit salary means that all my planet-saving measures must also be cost-saving measures…so believe me when I say, if I can afford a green, sustainable Christmas, anyone can!

Charlene Boyce is the Development and Outreach Coordinator for Ecology Action Centre. She’d love to help you find great sustainable gifts for the eco-peeps on your list… like gift memberships or eco-undies!

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