Have a low-impact holiday season


‘Tis the season of waste! Bah, humbug!

Ah, but we don’t have to be scrooges to enjoy the season of giving the low-impact way. Creativity and thoughtfulness will take us far.

Consider holiday cards. You read one and feel a few seconds of warm gush. Then you toss it into the recycle bin, another timber casualty.

Or do you display it and save it for next year? If this is your practice, how about saving some trees through creative reuse? Old holiday cards can become festive art projects: cut, paste, decorate … Viola! Beautiful, classy, original holiday cards, ready to be customized and re-gifted next year. If you’re not the artsy type, there’s always the e-card.

Then there’s wrapping paper. Besides being a waste of trees, this stuff can be toxic. Film plastic, synthetic inks, chlorine, and even lead are found in wrapping paper, usually produced in countries without the environmental regulations we have here. Alarmingly, 4 million tons go from logs to landfill as wrapping paper and holiday shopping bag waste every year in America.

The Hyde Park Herald you’re holding makes great wrapping paper. For extra flair, do sponge painting on it in festive holiday colors and shapes. Scarves and bandanas can make attractive gift wrap, as do old maps and reused wrapping paper and gift bags.

As for gifts, our guiding principle should be simple: put our money where our values are.

  1. If it’s over-packaged, refuse to buy it. Tell store owners and manufacturers your apprehensions.
  2. Support local businesses. A silk scarf or cotton apron with flare can be found at The Fair Trader. Toys Et Cetera has a selection of games and puzzles for family fun. Functional art from local artists and books from our own brick and mortar bookstores abound.
  3. Purchase services, such as massage, acupuncture, house-cleaning and dog-walking, or offer your own services: a meal, chore, coupons, childcare or grocery pick-up.
  4. Make gift bundles from necessity items, like food, wine or natural body care products. Open Produce sells a great salami, and Bonne Sante is full of quality organic body care items, including the newly launched local lotion line called My Body Garden. And remember those reusable bulk and produce bags I told you about last time? Eh-hem, stocking-stuffer!
  5. House plants are not just low impact, but positive impact. They improve indoor air quality, aesthetic and mood.
  6. Events and outings make nice gifts; think Court Theater or museum tickets.
  7. Older kids might like acting lessons or musical instrument instruction at Joan’s Studio or martial arts or fine art classes.
  8. Younger kids will love homemade play-dough in bright colors, packed in reused stackable take-out/deli containers. Tie a bow around some old cookie cutters and a potato masher. Put it all in a shoebox. You have a box of fun that stores neatly. Little kids will accept used items without judgment, and will be filled with glee when they find socks, underwear, toothbrushes and Elmo bandaids in their stockings.
  9. Get your loved ones jump started on their New Year’s resolutions with Chaturanga memberships or Tri-Yoga class packages.
  10. Gift certificates are available at most restaurants, grocers, and retailers around Hyde Park.
  11. Out-of-towners might appreciate the meaningful kiva.org micro-lending card.

We can change our own expectations about giving and receiving during the holidays. Generosity of spirit, togetherness, shared meals, and laughter are the riches of the season.

Happy holidays!