Group dreams of 'greener' Christmas: Environmentally friendly gifts top Kenai Resilience members lists

Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A local environmental group is challenging its members to think green while shopping for holiday gifts this season.

Soldotna's Kate Veh, who helped to form Kenai Resilience, said giving green isn't necessarily easy, but the rewards are high.

"I'm just asking people to do one green gift this year because it is a challenge, and sometimes they do cost a little more and require a little more thought," she said on Monday. "I want people to feel challenged and have fun."

Veh said there are four general principals that make a gift green: if it's crafted by the person who gives it, if it's crafted locally, if it's a gift of time or a gift of service.

Green gifts typically steer away from the more conventional stocking stuffers explained Michelle Martin, also a member of Resilience.

"I think of green giving as ways to share yourself more if you're able to, and eliminate giving stuff that people don't need," Martin said.

A few factors that also influence how green a gift is are the materials it's made of and how far it had to travel.

Veh explained that an item made in China requires the burning of more fossil fuels to get to its final destination than an item made locally.

She noted however, that there are still going to be items friends or family want that have to come from afar, but encouraged shoppers to look for them locally.

Martin said supporting the local community is a priority for the group.

"I'm trying to be more conscious of supporting local retailers in large part because I'm grateful they're here and I know if don't they might not be," she said.

Veh said that the ideal green gift is something that's produced locally, but sometimes given the small and rural nature of the area it might make more sense to make a gift.

For this, Veh and Martin pointed to the abundance of wild foods as great gift ideas.

"I've known people to gather berries and can them and send them to friends and family so they get a taste of Alaska and something local," Martin said. "Of course there's always smoked and canned salmon. Those are always appreciated by folks who don't have as easy access."

While Veh said she wasn't sure about specifics, wild game, seafood and other products are all available in the area.

"We also have some really nice breweries in town and the wineries," Veh said.

Another option is to make something to give away. Veh said this year she was knitting hats.

Martin said some of the best gifts she received was a home made pillow.

In some cases its possible to even make something out of green materials.

Martin said at her wedding she and her husband were given a corkboard a friend made of recycled wine corks they now use to post messages on near their front door.

Veh pointed out that while not everyone is a craftsperson, sometimes that's part of the challenge of making a gift for someone.

She said her hat-making project was taking more time than anticipated, but that she was learning a new skill in the process.

Another green gift idea is to give someone something that fosters sustainable habits.

Veh said she didn't want to mention who, but that she was giving someone an ice cream maker.

Other ideas of this nature could be a canning kit or sewing machine.

Some green gifts don't need any wrapping.

Martin said in the past she's bought memberships to museums and nature preserves for nieces and nephews.

She's also given money to non-profit charities in a relative or friend's name. She did say for this idea it's important to know that the person would support the organization.

Veh said these types of gifts are particularly nice for people who don't necessarily need anything new in their lives.

Other ideas she pointed out were gift certificates to local service providers.

"You can invest in a day at the spa, a hair appointment, a gift certificate to a movie theater or a concert for example," Veh said. "It's not a thing, but it's a nice gift to get, it's a piece of your time that you'd really enjoy and would rejuvenate you."

An advantage to gift certificates is that they can usually be purchased from afar and don't require shipping, making them perfect for relatives Outside.

For her parents, who don't live locally, Veh said she got them a gift certificate at restaurant near their home.

The thrifty should take note when it comes to giving the gift of time; it's the cheapest option out there.

With two small children, Veh said one of best gifts she ever gets is when someone does a little babysitting for her.

"If you can go help out for three-hours you can just see it on their face that they got away for a little bit," she said. "Then they can come back and be better parents."

Teens should take note too; Veh had a very affordable recommendation on making a coupon book redeemable with parents.

"They could make a gift certificate for a hug, washing dishes or cleaning the bathroom, that any mom could get," she said.

Dante Petri can be reached at

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