Giving the Gift of the Green
It's Christmas, and the paper, and the packaging, and the idling through the parking lot looking for a spot, and the schlepping from store to store, and the catalogs...
OK, so maybe you've guessed that being asked to come up with the 10 Best Green Gifts for the holidays put us in touch with our inner Scrooge.
And then it dawned on us, advise people to give the gift of -- nothing.
Let's face it folks, none of us have any money this year and, more important, we all have more crap than we could ever use.
So how about this year, we get in touch with what the holiday is supposed to be all about, you know, good cheer, kindness toward others, good will toward men.
So, with this theme in mind, let's explore how we can find nothing under the tree this year and still be merry.
1) Junk the Junk -- Hey, nobody likes Junk Mail, but at holiday time, you could build a house with the stuff that comes through the door. So instead of using it to buy a gift for that special someone, give the someone the special gift of getting rid of it -- permanently.
A company called 41 Pounds provides a service that stops 85 to 90 percent of the mail you don't want, for $41 for five years.
2) Adopt Something that Needs Your Help -- Rather than try to compete, let me (again) crib shamelessly from Grist Magazine which advises you can "adopt endangered animals -- and even parcels of rainforest land -- in someone's name. For the greenie who has everything, look past the charismatic megafauna to sting rays, Hellbender salamanders, and vampire bats -- because nothing says happy holidays like poisonous stingers, cannibalism, and blood sucking." Ah, don't you just love the holidays?
3) Provide a Service -- Everyone knows someone who has a child who needs watching, a foot that needs rubbing, a garage that needs cleaning or even a portfolio that needs advising. These things cost money too, and buying or providing them gives your receiver the most important gifts of all, time and piece of mind.
4) Have a Good Time -- Some years ago, old friends of The Thin Green Line agreed to stop buying crap and instead, decided to devote the money to something worthwhile -- drinking! To be specific, we would make a holiday date and all go out and spend quality time together.
While alcohol is certainly not required (although advisable in moderation), good times are to be had a-plenty at Christmas time. Right down on High Street, the TriCounty Performing Arts Center is staging its premiere performance of "Miracle on 34th Street."
Up in equally lovely East Greenville, The Grand movie theater, remodeled to look as it did in 1924, will continue it holiday tradition showing "Scrooge," starring Albert Finney, starting Dec. 12. Also premiering will be the theater's historic 1923 Marr & Colton Theater Pipe Organ. Admission is only $5 and, on Dec. 17, admission is free!
Also free is the concert that will take place on Dec. 5 for Phoenixville's First Friday. The free concert will be at the Steel City Coffee House on Bridge Street from 6 to 9 p.m. One week and one day later, come and see the Holiday Luminaria set up at Lock 60 at the Locktender's House run by the Schuylkill Canal Association, also from 6 to 9 p.m.
5) Remember the Second R -- For that person on your list who just won't take "no stuff" for an answer, remember what comes after reduce and recycling. (It's "re-use" dummy! Don't you have your Tree-Hugger Manual handy?) Any-hoo, if there's one thing Pennsylvanians are good at it's re-using, they being so ... thrifty. That's the word. So go to the church bazaar or the antique store and give the gift that's already been given. In many cases, you can find something that's been locally made, involves little or no plastic and may even benefit an organization in your community.
6) Speaking of Helping a Community -- Help your own or someone else's. Our mother, never a fan of crap, decided to teach our little green liners about the real spirit of Christmas and rather than sending crap, sends them a note about a village in Africa that is getting a goat instead of them getting another PlayStation game. Local organizations, like the Green Valleys Association, abound. Or go far afield and help communities in the Third World develop sustainable practices.
7) Give the Gift of Knowledge -- My wife and I have long bemoaned the fact that no one would pay for us to go to college. We had been doing it for 17 years and had become quite good at it. But if you can't get paid to go to class, maybe you can cover someone else's costs. Both the Gallery on High and TriCounty Performing Arts Center have classes right here in Pottstown, as does the Pottstown Parks and Recreation Department, the YMCA and YWCA and, or course, the Montgomery County Community College's West Campus. All right here in Pottstown.
8) A Taste of the Holidays -- Put your stove to work. For years, my wife, sister-in-law and mother-in-law put together a collection of Christmas cookies, candies and sweets that still has people asking for more when they send Christmas cards (which are, of course, printed on recycled paper.) Yes, it takes time, but that's the idea. If time is money, making plates of cookies to give as gifts is perhaps the most expensive gift you can give.
9) A Gift That Gives Back -- You can also combine suggestions six and two. Consider that many organizations whose goals include helping your communitity and its environment sell items as a way to raise money. For example, the Berks County Conservancy sells a fleece jacket for $42 or, if that's to pricey, a $21 watercolor print of a painting called "The Oley Hills," identified as one of the most pristine areas of the the Highlands.
10) Explore Your Inner Crafter -- So perhaps, like those of us here at The Thin Green Line, the only handicraft ability you have is to buy them. But even you can put together a photo album, re-live that time the two of you got lost in the woods for two days and descended into savagery -- ah good times. If not, consider making something for some of your more recalcitrant recyclers, like a bin for their plastics. Or peruse the selection at RSI, where they specialize in sustainable gifting with things like rugs made from old jeans, or more useful things like battery re-chargers, used books (we once found a complete works of Shakespeare there for $5!) and even an electricity monitor.
Whatever you decide, remember that Christmas has always been about new life and the fewer things that get killed in order to celebrate it are in keeping with the spirit of the holiday.
Labels: 41 Pounds, Berks County Conservancy, Gallery on High, Green Valleys Association, Grist, Montgomery County Community College, Oley Hills, Recycling Services Inc., TriCounty Performing Carts Center