Thursday, August 25, 2011

Planning for Presents Under the Tree

SustainaMom notes out that there are 122 days until Christmas...

Despite the fact that the temperature is still hovering around 100 degrees, I'm starting to think forward to the holidays. I want to be organized, systematic, thoughtful and deliberate when it comes to gifts this year.

In 2005 (before I became a mom) I had all my holiday shopping done in October. Last year, I didn't start shopping until December 10th. Can you guess which year I felt more proud of the gifts — and my holiday impact on the environment?!

Granted, the volume of our gift giving has dropped dramatically since the economy fell apart in 2008, so our holidays are probably more eco-friendly. We've also given our son many gifts that were handed down to us or purchased from Craig's List. Yes, we go shopping in the hand-me-down closet for presents to wrap "from Mama and Daddy." Is that horrible? It certainly improves our holiday environmental impact and said kiddo loves the toys!

I had grand plans for more do-it-yourself gifts this year, but despite my hope that I would master knitting, I don't have the time for even a single dishcloth at my current knitting speed. So I'm going to focus on Mama-and-Kid projects for grandparent gifts. Last year, we made handprint snowman ornaments. I'm working with my sister and my cousins to get all of our kids together to make handprint canvas bags for the grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

I also want to invest some time to find new companies that I want to support when it comes to buying gifts. Companies with missions beyond profit, whether that mission be advocating for fair trade or upcycling trash. Here are a few I've come across...

Gifts for the Socially Conscious:
  • Sseko Designs: Young women in Uganda have difficulty finding fair work in the 9 months between secondary school and university. Sseko Designs hires recent grads to make beautiful sandals — a way to fund their education so they can become doctors, lawyers, and teachers. The company creates opportunity for women to fund their dreams, which creates opportunity for them to lead their country.
  • One World Projects pegs itself as a marketplace for fair trade, socially & environmentally conscious gifts. For example, an artisan group in El Salvador makes gorgeous purses from old tires. An Indian artisan group sells recycled metal bowls, including one made from old bicycle chains.
Upcycled Gifts:
Where do you go for kid craft-gift project ideas, unique/upcycled gifts, or gifts by companies that support humanitarian efforts?


Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

Wow what great gift ideas!! I love canning and baking so several years back I gave a few people baskets of homemade relish, jams, bread, cookies and herd vinegar. Now they ask me to give them homemade "goodies" each year which suits me just fine!! Other than the baked items all of the others are made in the Summer so when the holidays get here it is so easy to put the baskets together.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Love this post, and THANK YOU for reminding me that I shouldn't wait till mid-December to think about this!

I get a lot of gifts at The Hunger Site Store ( have lovely jewelry and purses and stuff, and much of it is fair trade. Fair Trade Winds ( is another good company; I've never bought from them online, but they have a store near where my folks live, and it's really nice.

I do a lot of crafts with recycled stuff--every year my kids get a new pair of mommade jammies and something else like a neck pillow or a recycled jeans quilt or something. Most of the purchased kinds of things we get are books (often used) and DVD's and stuff.

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation for The Hunger Site (though I do The Rainforest Site -- same company, just a different charitable cause), but mostly, I've stopped shopping very much. As a fledgling potter, I'm hoping to make more of my own presents this year. I'm also actively seeking out gifts that don't require stuff, like gift certificates to a nearby masseuse, lessons in something the recipient is interested in. Most of us already have plenty of stuff!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Alicia--the jam-and-bread (tea with jam and bread? I'll totally make some of those for my musical friends) basket thing sounds awesome--and the local thrift stores always have dozens upon dozens of cute baskets for sale.

robbie @ going green mama said...

First I love these ideas! For my kids we often go recycled (like a box of garage sale books for my reader!).

For my family though, that's tougher. I have a few close relatives who need help more than I can give, any ideas that are more usable, eco friendly and still help them meet their living needs?

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

These are great ideas, and it's true if you want to have really conscious gifts, you have to think ahead. I love to make homemade gifts (food, mostly) for neighbors and friends. My side of the family pretty much forgoes gifts all together, but with my in-laws, they are expecting (and give) lots of new and shiny things. I think gift certificates are my best bet for them, or maybe some lovely items purchased from the stores suggested here. You could also make a loan to Kiva or one of the other micro-loan organizations in someone's name.

Robbie, what about some great reusables -- cloth napkins, reusable food bags, that kind of thing, and maybe gift certificates? Maybe a subscription to CSA for a few months or a gift certificate to the farmer's market (if such a thing exists)? I also like shopping used b/c I find my dollars go so much further there -- just picked up lots of kids' birthday presents (toys, books) at my local thrift store.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I really want some of those Sseko sandals. They are brilliant!

LittleHouseontheDairy said...

I put several "logs" of homemade sugar cookie dough in my mom-in-laws freezer. I made baby food jars of colored sugar and wrapped those up with the baking directions. That way she could make homemade slice and bake cookies anytime. She has already asked for a refill for this year.


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