Green gifts

Can you believe it’s November already? November, when the weather finally warms up around here, the days grow long and the garden takes off. Time to plan for the summer and the busy period to come.

I’m wondering where 2012 went and realising that all too soon it will be Christmas, then New Year and 2013 will be here. Christmas… It still strikes me as unnatural to celebrate Christmas at the height of summer, when life here is at its busiest. It’s a Northern Hemisphere idea: a mid-winter festival that draws us together through the cold and dark. Fairy-lights, conifers and roast dinners make sense when the nights are long and cold, not when the temperatures are hitting 30oC! Still, Christmas is coming and it’s time to prepare, and that means getting gifts organised.

I loathe Christmas shopping. I’m not a fan of shopping at the best of times, but the combination of festive muzak, crowds and marketing overload between now and December 25th push me to the very edge. I do my damnedest to avoid it! Instead of heading out and buying stuff I stay in and make things with my own two hands.

It’s a choice that started as necessity when I was a broke uni student. With no cash to spare I got creative at Christmas, baking cookies, mixing up bath salts or massage oils, cooking up pesto and sauces, or making gift cards promising to deliver a massage or perform specific chores. Presents were wrapped in plain brown paper (hand-decorated in those days when I had more free time) and gift tags created from the bits and bobs in my craft draw.

My family got used to the idea of a hand-made Christmas and now it’s a tradition that continues. Born out of poverty it’s now a celebration of love: taking the time to make something for each other instead of buying yet more stuff. It’s cheaper, more meaningful and what’s more, it’s greener too! Consider the difference in impact between something cooked up in your own kitchen versus a made-in-China trinket. Home-made gifts mean no packaging, no transport emissions, no manufacturing impacts and far less resource use.

Of course, not everyone has the time, skills or resources available to make Chrimbo gifts, but there are still ways to green-up your gift-giving:

  • Go second-hand – if you’re after a specific item for someone, does it have to be new? Check out websites like gumtree.com or the trading post and see if you can score one second-hand (thus leaving you with more money to get them something extra).
  • Go local – buy things made by people in your community. Try art and craft galleries and fairs, or manufacturing jewellers for pretty things. Buy a book by a local author or a CD from your fave local band or city orchestra.
  • Go charity – Not in need of more stuff? Make a donation to a worthwhile cause in your family’s name instead, or buy a charity gift through one of the many great programs available these days. A couple of years ago my Mum gave me a goat and it made me very happy!
  • Go experiences – instead of objects, give the gift of doing. Think tickets to a concert, a fine-dining experience, a voucher for a massage, or something a little more adventurous like a joy flight or jet-boat ride.
  • Go producer – visit the markets and providores to pick up locally made tasty treats, supporting local farmers and growers. Put together a hamper of local cheeses and chutneys, give a dessert-lover sweet sauces and syrups or box up a collection of quirky ingredients for a culinarily-adventurous friend.
  • Go growing – give the gardener in your life (hi Dad!) some fancy heirloom veggie seeds, pick up some funky potted herbs for home gourmets or give a living bouquet with a pot of pretty flowers or an exotic orchid to your loved green-thumb.

This year I’ll be baking mini Christmas cakes (note to self: put the cake fruit into brandy this weekend) and making panforte again. I’ve also got a bag of lovely foraged lemons that I’ll turn into sunshiny curd to give away, along with the spiced cumquats I bottled recently. And because Christmas means sharing food and booze I’ll be buying some fine local wines and sourcing prime Tassie produce to lay on my table.

Do your worst, Christmas, I am prepared!

How do you navigate the Christmas consumer overload? Share your suggestions for making the festive season a little more sustainable!

 
Peanut butter cookies & Lemon curd never go astray!

Tassie folk: where are you doing your sustainable Christmas shopping? Here’s a summary of what’s on in the festive lead-up:

  1. Sustainable Living Festival – 10 & 11 November, Princes Wharf, Hobart
  2. Plant Hunter’s Fair – 10 & 11 November, Plant Hunters Nursery, 1115 Huon Road, Neika
  3. The Barn Market – 17 November, Rosny Barn, Rosny Park
  4. The Mother’s Market – 26 & 27 November, St. George’s Church Hall, Cromwell Street, Battery Point
  5. Maker’s Market8 & 9 December, Masonic Temple, Sandy Bay Rd, Battery Point
  6. Farm Gate Market – every Sunday, Melville St car park, corner Melville & Elizabeth Streets, Hobart
  7. Harvest Market – every Saturday, Cimitiere Street car park, Launceston

Can you add to the list?

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