Healthy Green Gift-Giving
The Rise of Blue
News for December 2007
It's That Season Again
Healthy Green Gift-GivingHealthy Green Artists
by Janet Chui
Ah, the holiday season. Some things about this time of year drive me crazy (like the music played in all the commercial spaces); but then again, beautiful and inspirational things abound this season, and there's plenty to keep a healthy green artist busy. Those lucky enough to be related to or friended by us will receive gorgeous greeting cards that can't be gotten at Hallmark (right?), there's baking, cooking, gift-finding and gift-wrapping to do; or even if there's not, most of us do get a public holiday anyway that can be used for creating art.
A year ago this column talked about the material windfall that happens around this time of year for creative types -- the wrapping paper, cardstock, packaging materials, ribbons, trim, etc. that can be picked up as Useful Things for art businesses the year ahead, especially for shipping and packaging. This year, consider more ways of being green this holiday -- and more and more people are pitching in and coming up with creative ideas!
Let's not go to the mall
Whatever your opinions about Buy Nothing Day (which just passed us on November 24), it is getting more and more important in this era of climate change and widening income gaps to question blind consumerism and media conditioning, and how our habits may contribute to environmental destruction, corporate misbehavior and lax labor laws in other countries.
Personally, I find it hard to shop for presents for those who already have everything they need -- and you may know kind I'm talking about! Their homes and closets are already filled to the gills with faddish items, improbable novelty gadgets and stuff they never use; Some of those items, I've long suspected, may have been pressed upon them on holidays and birthdays, when so many people feel the obligation to just give something, and that something "only" counts as a gift if it can be gift-wrapped. For these already materially-endowed people, consider making charity donations in their name. I for one actually really enjoy receiving this kind of gift, if anyone's wondering...
Or, here's another thought: One can find gifts and declutter at the same time by re-gifting an unused item... I mean, people are always saying that it's the thought (the gift-giving, I assume) that counts, right?
The Handmade Pledge
Not to rule out buying or shopping completely for those who do need a wrappable gift, there's always the ongoing pledge drive for gift-givers to buy handmade. Now that's something artists can and should get behind! It's not just about rewarding those people who make things with their hands, but that about rewarding the product creator and designer, not a faceless middleman or corporation. It's also about shopping close to home (especially if buying something made in your own country), and in that way, choosing a product with a smaller carbon footprint -- more so if the product was made out of discarded or vintage materials!
And being artists and crafters ourselves, sometimes we are the makers of the gift!
Make and use reusable wrapping
Being kind of thrifty, I've boggled before at prices charged at organic/specialty supermarkets for cloth gift bags, which are kinder on the earth compared to wrapping paper, but may be more expensive than most can afford. It may be cheaper to wrap a small gift in a pretty tea towel or scarf, and there's always the art of Furoshiki, perfect for Japanophiles too (Flickr provides photo inspiration). Sewing crafters (I can't call them crafty sewers, can I?) will know making a gift bag isn't even that difficult (basic adaptable pattern below, photo of finished product on the right) and may be the perfect use of fabric remnants rescued from other projects, or a charity thrift shop, or creative reuse center, or vintage clothing store. The best thing about the bags -- they can be for keeps, and they're marvellous for holding odd-shaped gifts.
The most important thing to remember: Have fun! Happy holidays (be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Festivus), and I'll see you again in 2008!
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