Gifts for the Whole Year
(a People- & Planet-Friendly Portal & Guide)
A Christmas That
(A) A Christmas That Doesn't Kill
Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and togetherness. But all too often, greed, haste and superficiality are the hallmarks of the season.
Would you buy a gift if you knew it was made in a sweatshop, or by slave labour? Or a gift that was made by a company that is squandering resources, polluting the planet and paying for neither? What about a gift that could damage the recipient's health and happiness?
There are plenty of gifts that do all of the above. The good news is that there are better alternatives, for those who look. Gifts that go deeper than the shiny paper wrapping. Gifts that respect our neighbours, near and far. And alternatives to gift-giving that can build friendship, community and well-being.
This special edition of the People- & Planet-Friendly offers some alternatives to the unthinking consumer frenzy that is Christmas today. If we only think a bit more about why and what we buy; focus more on services and less on products; and seek more mature ways of showing our love, pride and status we will all be better off.
Below you will find a wide variety of gift ideas and activities for the whole year, from beeswax to bicycles, from wildflowers to wwoofing. The emphasis is on green, healthy, ethical and fairly traded products and services.
Of course, just because a product is labeled "green" doesn't say much. Be sure to read the label, look for organic or fair trade certification, ask where it came from, how it was made, what the ingredients are. If the package doesn't say or the vendor isn't reputable, don't buy it.
Have a green, happy and sustainable holiday!
Peter Blanchard (contact)
P.S. While some of the examples below are in Toronto, if you follow the links you will often be able to find them anywhere in North America, especially if you are open to mail order or on-line shopping. Note: the listings in this document are not paid advertising.
Please tell them you saw it at planetfriendly.net!
(B) Green Places To Shop (across Canada, local and on-line)
Grassroots. "Behind every product sold at Grassroots is a story. Not only are these stories about the environment, but they are stories about small eco-friendly companies that we are proud to support". Here are just a few ideas. Book Deal: two outstanding books for only $9.99 (original value $42). (1) Get a Life "how to make a good buck, dance around the dinosaurs and save the world while you're at it" and (2) Real Food For a Change "how the simple act of eating can boost your health & energy, knock out stress, revive your community and clean up the planet". Other ideas: great posters and postcards, including "How to Build Community" and "Going Organic" ($2-$25). Lots of great books, including titles on organic gardening, healthy homes, self reliance ($12 & up). VideoActive4, a compendium of fifteen diverse activist films and videos from across the hemisphere ($27). Peace calendar ($23). Also: organic cotton and hemp clothing; beeswax candles; bath salts; unbleached, recycled papers; battery-free dynamo or solar flashlights and radios; cooperative games; much more. Stocking stuffers: bumper stickers ($1-$2); great magazines ($5 & up). Gift certificates are available in any denomination. What else is great about Grassroots? Bulk or packaged non-toxic household cleaning and personal care products; great bulletin board of environmental and activist news & events; bikeshare hub; lending library (books, videos, articles); used battery & Britta filter drop-off; accepts clean plastic bags and containers for reuse; fun, creative workshops monthly (subscribe to their monthly e-mail newsletter). Also on their site: The Christmas Tree Debate: Real or False; gift wrapping alternatives; upcoming events. Grassroots is involved and supportive of the environmental community. Grassroots Environmental Products www.grassrootsstore.com 372 Danforth Ave. at Chester subway (416-466-2841) and 408 Bloor W. at Brunswick (416-944-1993) or toll free 1-888-633-5833
Green Stores & Products across Canada
Green Shopping (on-line & mail order)
Progressive Bookstores across Canada & USA
(including mail order & on-line shopping)
Books on organic food, gardening, landscaping
Mountain Equipment Co-op "Canada's leading supplier of quality outdoor gear & clothing". I cannot say enough about these stores. I would shop there even if the same product was available elsewhere for less. Their commitment to quality greatly exceeds what can be found elsewhere. The staff are highly knowledgeable and are actually there to help you rather than push some useless product at you. Their products are geared to healthy, environmentally-friendly activities: hiking, cycling, camping, paddling, skiing, etc. What else is great about MEC? Outstanding store warranty. Repairs. Rentals. Buy & sell bulletin board (plus annual swap events). Battery return service. Supportive of local groups & charities. Miles above the competition, who tend to offer the glitz but not the substance. MEC is a consumer co-operative, "driven by our member's needs and values rather than the financial drive to maximize profit". Locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal (spring 2003), Halifax, plus on-line shopping. Lifetime membership is $5. Gift certificates $10 to $100. www.mec.ca Toronto store: King St., just east of Spadina, 416-340-2667 (To learn more about co-ops, including listings of all kinds of co-ops across Canada, see: www.planetfriendly.net/business.html#coop ).
(C) Green, Healthy & Ethical Gift Ideas
Good Food Box or CSA Membership,
approx. $10-$30/week (across Canada)
Fair Trade Handicrafts (North America) www.tenthousandvillages.org
Fair Trade Coffee & Tea (Toronto)
Fair Trade Stores & Cafes across
Fair Trade Gift Suggestions www.transfair.ca/tfc/xmas.html
Green Events, Outings, Films, Workshops,
Courses. Choose an event that is social,
educational and fun. Pre-register, buy tickets (if
available), or write a gift certificate on a Christmas
card). If the event isn't scheduled yet, do it anyway!
Green Garden Visit $50 (Toronto) 416-781-7663 www.ntgc.ca
Composter ($15 and up) at hardware stores or www.city.toronto.on.ca/compost/
Gardening Books (see section on books, below)
What's Up? South! World Map, Laminated fedpubs.com/maps/wldmap2.htm#whatsupsouth
Bikeshare Membership $25 (Toronto) www.bikeshare.org 416-504-2918
Bicycles Used, Reconditioned & New
Buy It Used Yearning after the
new, shiny and stylish is a trap, a rat race. Consuming
is false economy. It can be fun and empowering to go the
other way buy used! Be proud of used, recycled or
handed-down items. www.goodwill.org
("second hand stores", "bicycles",
Learning Centres & Places Directory of organic & environmental learning centres across North America. A gift certificate, paid workshop or getaway could make a fun and unique gift. A diversity of places where people of all ages and backgrounds can gain new experiences, skills and inspiration. Includes ecological farms & gardens, strawbale & solar-powered homes, organic food co-ops, nature retreats, resource centres, environmental education centres, environmental stores, wilderness trips, ecovillages, university programmes, more. Guided tours, demonstrations, workshops, courses, outdoor activities, school programs, volunteer/barter opportunities, apprenticeships, site rentals. www.planetfriendly.net/learningcentres.html
Wwoof Membership Wwoofing is a terrific, healthy and highly affordable way to travel, learn about sustainable living and organic gardening or just to have a healthy retreat from the city. When you join Wwoof Canada, you get a fascinating booklet describing over 400 farms, gardens and businesses across Canada ($30). Memberships are also available in many other countries. The basic idea behind Wwoofing is that you help out in return for accommodation, meals and instruction. Each location is unique. Everything is negotiated between you and the host it's up to you to call prospective hosts, and decide whether your needs and expectations match those of the host. To learn more about Wwoofing around the world: www.planetfriendly.net/learningcentres.html#wwoof
Sustainable Living Directory The most comprehensive sustainable living directory in North America. Many great products, services and things you can do, including links to many great gift ideas. Also books, travel, courses & events, health, recreation, much more. Buy a gift certificate or booking, or write your own and give it to a friend. www.planetfriendly.net/living.html
People- & Planet-Friendly Supporters. Please visit the websites of the organizations that support People- & Planet-Friendly! They offer a variety of great products, services and memberships. www.planetfriendly.net/supporters.html
People- & Planet-Friendly Donation. For less than the money that you could spend on a night on the town, you can pitch in and support the Planet-Friendly for an entire year. Or, why not make a gift of the Planet-Friendly: give a donation in the name of someone who shares your concerns. www.planetfriendly.net/donate.html
(D) Books & Videos
Progressive Bookstores Across Canada & USA
(including mail order & on-line shopping)
Books on organic food, gardening, landscaping
Green & Progressive Booksellers
Mail Order & On-Line
The Sacred Balance www.douglas-mcintyre.com/book_details.asp?b=432
Food, Gardening & Agriculture
Eco Foods Guide http://eco-foodsguide.com
Health & Environment
Straw Bale Building www.strawhomes.ca/book.asp
No-Nonsense Guides ($16.00 each)
No-Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade
The War Against the Third World ($10 US) www.addictedtowar.com/dorrel.html
Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine (across
Canada, ongoing screenings).
Bullfrog Films "the leading US publisher of independently-produced, environmental videos, that point the way to living healthily, happily, and with greater concern for the other inhabitants of this planet, and for our descendants". Order by mail, fax, phone or on-line. www.bullfrogfilms.com 1-800-543-3764 or 610-779-8226
Film & Video Links
(E) Magazine Subscriptions
Here is an eclectic list of magazines that offer inspiring and informative reading on People- & Planet-Friendly topics. Don't forget to take editions you're finished with to the doctor's waiting room or other public place where they will be read by others. Note that many "print publications" make varying amounts of their content available on their websites. Canadian publications are indicated by an asterisk*. Don't know where to start? Some of the lighter, more general interest publications are indicated in bold.
Web & E-mail Publications
Biodemocracy News www.organicconsumers.org/listserv.htm
Progressive Bookstores Across Canada & USA (many
have great magazine racks)
(F) Ideas, Activities & Alternatives to Gifts
Here are some thoughts on how to save time and money, build friendships, strengthen community, help each other, and have a great time!
Better Ways to Give
gift certificates for local services or local, green,
Alternatives to Giving Physical Gifts
a gift certificate or ticket for a local service, event,
outing, film, workshop or course
Better Ways to Buy
If you must buy gifts:
locally, from independent services and stores
Related Links & Resources
Ethical Gifts www.planetfriendly.net/gifts.html
The Planet-Friendly Directory www.planetfriendly.net/directory.html
(G) Top Five Gifts Not To Buy
Perfume. Many perfumes contain
chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions. Perfume is
increasingly cited as a trigger for asthma, allergies and
migraine headaches, including potentially serious
reactions. Anyone in your building or vicinity can be
affected. There is no mandatory disclosure of perfume
ingredients. "Natural" perfumes, including
"essential oils" are not necessarily any
better. There are plenty of other ways to make oneself
attractive, rather than falling for marketer's appeals to
our fears of inadequacy, vanity and discomfort with our
own bodies. Many other products also contain perfumes
buy unscented products whenever possible. For an
excellent article this topic, see Natural Life Magazine's
"Spraying Yourself With Toxic Chemicals is Not
Clothes That Need Dry Cleaning. Most cleaners use a controversial chemical called perchloroethylene. It is potentially harmful to their staff, customers and neighbours. It's also a waste of time and money. So stop trying to keep up with the Jones and wear something more healthy! www.google.com/search?q=%22dry+cleaning%22+health www.planetfriendly.net/health.html www.planetfriendly.net/living.html http://directory.google.com/Top/Health/Alternative/Non-Toxic_Living/
Battery-Operated Toys. The
ingredients of batteries are highly toxic. They should be
disposed in a toxic waste site. Most people don't bother
this can lead to contamination of drinking water
and crops. For the most part, there's simply no need for
it. There are often more healthy, creative and
intelligent things for kids and adults to
do without batteries.
A New Car. Cars are traps: they are bad for your health, your finances and your children's chances of survival. The average Canadian spends over $7,000 per year on personal automobile transportation, all expenses included. The time you spend working to pay for your car, maintain it, insure it, etc., is a waste of your life. For urban dwellers at least, there usually are better alternatives, even in today's car-dominated society. Be creative: try a combination of public transit, walking, cycling, car-sharing, car-pooling, renting, telecommuting, flex-hours, job-sharing. Work as close as you can to where you live, and choose or create recreational activities in your area. If more of us did this, lots of alternatives would arise as the market began to respond. www.planetfriendly.net/living.html#transport
Television. Televisions sedate people. They turn brains to tapioca, bellies to mush. They turn entire lives into missed opportunities. TV's are a cheap escape, a controlled hypnosis. Like any addiction, the more we do it, the worse things get and the more we feel we "need" the thing we're addicted to. Things that once were natural for us to enjoy reading, conversation, exercise, thought no longer are. Even in small doses, TV alters one's perceptions and behaviour and steals time from the more important and enjoyable aspects of life. It's not so much a matter of the quality of the programming. The medium itself is hypnotic, non-interactive and socially unbalanced. Tired? sleep. Bored? read a book. Stessed? take a hot shower. Energy to burn? go for a walk. Lonely? call a friend, or make plans for tomorrow. There's almost always something better than TV ...if only you don't turn it on! Do not give a television to anyone you wish to see thrive and grow. www.adbusters.org/metas/psycho/tvturnoff/ www.tvturnoff.org www.whitedot.org www.turnoffyourtv.com/tv.links.html http://directory.google.com/Top/Society/Activism/Anti-Media/ www.dmoz.org/Society/Activism/Anti-Media/
(H) What Are The
Physical & Mental Health www.planetfriendly.net/health.html
Healthy Community www.planetfriendly.net/community.html#healthy
Sustainable Living www.planetfriendly.net/living.html
Learning, Growing, Participating www.planetfriendly.net/calendars.html www.planetfriendly.net/eventtips.html www.planetfriendly.net/fun.html www.planetfriendly.net/voices.html www.planetfriendly.net/learningcentres.html www.planetfriendly.net/organic.html