The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend an average of nearly $700 each this season. Though this should be a joyous opportunity to share gratitude, it can stress finances, time — and the environment.
There are lots of ways to please everyone on your list — including Mother Nature.
Helping Hands: Make certificates for services that friends and family can use, such as cleaning, babysitting, dog walking or lawn mowing. It costs you nothing but time and often gets you a little exercise in return when they call you to cash in.
Rejoice in Reuse: Look for items at thrift stores, resale shops, yard sales or gift exchanges, such as Ashland's Abundance Swap, scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Historic Ashland Armory (http://abundanceswap.org) — or organize one with friends. It's inexpensive and eliminates the use of new resources.
Make it Merry: Handmade creations make a special statement with a custom fit. If you can knit, sew, bake, draw or have artistic leanings, let it shine.
Cause for Celebration: Make donations in honor of recipients, selecting nonprofits focused on issues they value, or let them choose. Organizations typically provide acknowledgment cards, and sometimes recognition, such as Jackson County Library's "Buy a Shelf" program. If you're short on cash, offer to volunteer.
Gift Certificates: These are a great one-size-fits-all present, and even better when purchased from local businesses or arts organizations. The Ashland Chamber of Commerce offers versatile "Ashland Gift Certificates," redeemable at diverse member businesses.
Nurture with Nature: A bird feeder, seeds, plants, fruit trees or bulbs can brighten someone's day for months or years to come. Tracy Harding, executive director of Rogue Valley Farm to School, says, "I saved poppy, sunflower and echinacea seeds from my garden to give as gifts. They're appealing and easy to grow.
"I make seed packets from old calendars and magazines and use reclaimed materials to package dried herbs and hot peppers from my garden."
Healthy and Happy: Outdoor gear and gift certificates from local outdoors merchants let loved ones stay in shape and enjoy nature.
Greener Gadgets: Recycled and renewable items, reusables that replace disposables (e.g., travel mugs, water bottles, tote bags) and energy-saving devices, such as rechargeable batteries, solar chargers and compact fluorescent bulbs, help recipients save resources and money.
Practically Perfect: Go with essentials like clothing or healthful edibles. A local food and wine basket would please most anyone, and the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative offers gift certificates redeemable for farm-fresh produce.
Localize: Look for locally made goods at local retailers, craft festivals and other venues. This saves time and gas, supports our regional economy and yields unique finds.
Sustainable Style: Use reused, reusable, recyclable wrapping, such as comics, old paper bags or boxes, tied with natural fibers and decorated with seasonal plants. Craft your own cards from reused and recycled materials.
That's a wrap. Have a happy, healthy holidays.
Freelance writer Melissa Schweisguth is a sustainability professional who grew up on an organic homestead and savors the rewards of living lightly, gardening organically and buying local foods.