Twelve Ideas for Greening the Holidays

By Becky Shankland and Branden Willman-Kozimor
December 2009

Wondering how to deck the halls with GREEN gift ideas this holiday season? At PEEC we brainstormed our favorite green gifts and came up with a list to share.

  1. Handmade gifts are always treasured. Terry Foxx and Katy Korkos recently gave an idea-laden PEEC workshop called "Using Up and Making Do." Quilts that are too worn to use on beds can be turned into pillows, potholders, table runners, patchwork pincushions. Those sweet but useless lace doilies that you inherited from Aunt Jean can be used in a hand-decorated memory book or bookmark. Worn-out heavy sweaters can gain a new life as slippers. How about reusable sandwich wrappers--instead of sending your family off with a new plastic bag every day, stitch up a foldable, velcro-closed, layered wrap--colorful fabric on the outside and nylon rip-stop or vinyl-coated fabric on the inside. Tote bags for groceries are finally becoming the badge of environmentalists: sew one from favorite fabric scraps or buy a sturdy canvas one at PEEC. If you're not a crafter, you can still give lovely handmade gifts. Shop the Art Center at Fuller Lodge for a stunning variety of locally crafted objects.

  2. Donate to an organization you believe in. My mother died just after writing a gift card to her great-grandsons donating chickens to a third-world family in their name; now our family continues the tradition in her name. Many charities offer gifts of school-books or animals that appeal to children. My grandchildren become adoptive parents to PEEC critters - at visiting time, they find their name on the tank of Elf the Turtle or Foxxy the Hognose Snake, and they get educational updates on their animal throughout the year.

  3. Give a Fair Trade item. These help build equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and create opportunities to alleviate poverty by offering a living wage to low-income farmers and artisans around the world. Fair trade items are often hand-made, unique gifts. The Global Exchange Store is one place to find these gifts:

  4. Give a child the universe. Galileoscope kits allow kids to build their own telescopes. Kits are available at PEEC for $30. When you purchase the Galileoscope your child will be invited to an astronomy class taught by Bradbury Science Museum educators. Kids will discuss Galileo's discoveries as they assemble their own telescopes. Class offered from 10 a.m.-noon on January 30.

  5. Give the gift of learning: pay for a class at UNM-LA, the Art Center, the ski hill, the ice-skating rink, or send a young person to a PEEC nature club, Nature Odyssey or LEAP summer camp.

  6. Give the gift of service, a no-cost way to help a friend or family member who may not need or want material gifts. Does someone need the garage cleaned out? A special gourmet meal cooked for an anniversary? A baby sitter for the evening?

  7. Buy local! Money spent locally helps merchants give back to the community, re-circulates money into the local economy, and cuts your gas expense and carbon footprint. Join the local 3/50 challenge: choose 3 businesses you value and spend $50 at each one. Or give Chamber Checks from the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in any denomination and redeemable at most local businesses. Or how about a year's pass to Bandelier?

  8. Give a book. With all of the new fancy electronic reading technology out there, we still prefer cuddling up with a good solid book. Otowi Station and the Historical Museum have a wonderful assortment of reading material. For nature lovers, check out PEEC's collections, including our own monographs on Winter Trees and Shrubs, Mountain Daisies, Trees of the VCNP, and more.

  9. Give the Earth a gift by signing up for LA Green or swapping your incandescent light bulbs for CFLs. It's easy! Stop by PEEC Tuesday-Friday 12-4 p.m. or Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m to participate.

  10. Plants are a treat in winter when the outdoors is barren--how about fresh herbs? Cuttings from your geranium plant? White narcissus? Or how about a succulent like a potted aloe or cactus?

  11. For holiday meals don't forget that our NM farmers are mostly organic (even if they haven't signed up to be certified) and their food is fresher and uses less carbon to transport. People are now recognizing the importance of buying organic--for family health, to diminish the chemical fertilizers and pesticides on fields and the antibiotics and growth hormones used by agri-business. Find local organic jam, squash, buffalo, yak, chicken, honey, soap, and hand lotion at the holiday farmers' market at Fuller Lodge December 10.

  12. Of course, you'll want to wrap your gift in a reusable shopping bag instead of tree-wasting, throwaway wrapping paper. PEEC sells sturdy canvas bags or you can purchase cloth bags from many local stores. Or create fun packages by recycling old maps, comics, magazines, and paper grocery bags into festive gift wrap.

Don't forget, PEEC will be offering Eco-Crafts for Kids on Saturday, December 12, for 5-12 year olds from 10 a.m.-12 noon. Children will make their own gifts and wrappings from natural, eco-friendly materials ($10, $8 for PEEC members).


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