Limit Consumption this Holiday Season

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly Dec 12

by Karen Jewett

If you are like me you are looking for meaningful ways to celebrate the holidays while continuing to live lightly.

Using recycled materials to wrap gifts, decorating with nature, and whenever possible using low energy lights will go along way to reducing the waste and debris that often accompanies the holidays.

Gift Giving
Of course gift giving is a part of the season. Finding the right thing for those on your holiday list can be a challenge. We are fortunate here in the Ithaca area that there are so many options for some fun alternative gift shopping.

Share Tompkins has the 3rd Annual Craft Swap and Really Really Free Market scheduled for December 18. Just a week before Christmas, you can support a local artist by swapping your food or handcrafted items (or other things you have, and they want) for some beautifully crafted items.

The local consignment and resale shops are great places to find some nice things for a reasonable price and have the added bonus of reuse.  Local businesses in downtown Ithaca and the surrounding communities provide outlets for local arts and crafts; specialty local foods are abundant at the farmer’s markets and local groceries.

Candy, cookies and breads are always popular, but maybe you’d like to give a healthy alternative this year. I like to give spiced nuts as holiday gifts… almonds and pecans are readily available, are easy to prepare and appreciated by those who receive them.

Give to a Charity
I have four siblings and they have 11 children. Add in the in-laws and the grandparents and there are 20 plus family members gathered to celebrate the holidays in Vermont every year. Because some of us have a lot more resources than others and because some of us enjoy shopping a little too much, the gift giving got pretty competitive (and out of control) until my mom put her foot down. At her request, several years ago we gave up buying gifts for each other. We weaned ourselves off the piles of presents by picking names for a few years… but even that became too lopsided.

As an alternative we now contribute the money we would have spent on each other to a charity. Each year a different family member selects the charity, teaches our family about the group and why they chose it. We then “bundle” our gifts so that they can have a bigger impact. Our choices have been as varied as Kick-start a NGO that sells low cost human powered water pumps to farmers in Kenya, to a grassroots group in my sister’s community to send volunteer clowns to visit sick children in the hospital. The options are endless and this method, of having a different family member choose the charity each year has the added benefit of educating everyone—children included—about philanthropy.

As mentioned in a previous column in this newspaper, the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair gives the shopper a chance to make a donation as a gift for a friend or family members. Sixty plus organizations participated in the live portion of the event on December 3, but last minute shoppers can participate by giving on line to any of these via the IAGF until December 17. Available gifts start at $5 each, so you choose the perfect gift at any level for your friends, colleagues or clients. Gifts made to local non-profits are tax deductible and your money stays in the community.

Secret Santa, White Elephant Gift Exchange and Re-gifting
Paring down your gift-giving list can be easy if you arrange with your family to pick names in advance of the holiday.  White elephant gift exchanges are becoming more popular. Organize a swap with the adults in your family or among your friends.  Laughter always ensues.

Holiday Travel
Offset your excess carbon use from holiday travel with Sustainable Tompkins’ Finger Lakes Climate Fund. They put the offset monies to work locally by helping modest income families reduce their fossil fuel consumption with weatherization and renewable energy installations.

Have a warm and wonderful holiday.

Karen Jewett is the Director of Operations at Sustainable Tompkins

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles