Recycle, Re-use, Renew:
This holiday season, go green by giving something old that's new again and gifts that sustain the earth and its creatures. Reduce your footprint by giving art made from found objects, save a life by giving companion animals a home and renew the earth's promise by investing in community-supported agriculture.
Konnie May, an Ashland textile artist, creates unique pieces of wearable art, a design idea that got its start with a $2 bag of thrift store sweaters. "I said to myself, 'Ah! I wonder if I can make something with that?'" May recalls. "The idea of recycling, reducing, reusing was attractive." May calls it "urban wear for the modern diva," and her peplums, hoodies and dresses can be '40s formal or something quite different with a pixie look, pointed collars and long sleeves. "I really enjoy playing with the colors, like a lime green and a pink one [sweater] together or red and blue," May says, but admits that black on black fashions are most popular.
Many art forms, especially folk art and sculpture, re-use common materials for new, inventive works. "Found objects — reclaimed farm machinery, kitchen utensils — all become the building blocks for pieces of art in the hands of artists like Margie Mee, Sam Campbell and Sam Hefter," says Judy Barnes, executive director of the Rogue Gallery & Art Center in Medford. Their assemblages are fanciful and whimsical, familiar, yet strange. "The objects they reclaim have shape, color, texture and form, learning how to compose these elements is art — a creative way to recycle and reduce landfill."
We don't usually think of pets as recyclables, but more than 8 million of them are left homeless every year in the United States, most of them surrendered by their owners, according to Hillary Hulen, director of shelter operations at the Southern Oregon Humane Society. "Adopt a shelter cat or dog this holiday and give a home to a homeless animal," suggests Hulen.
"Your pet will add an incredible richness to your family because it gives devoted love, love without question," Hulen says. Pets also give children a chance to learn responsibility, and for seniors, pets provide companionship and help maintain a healthy, caring lifestyle.
It's important not to surprise the family with a new cat or dog on Christmas Day. Instead, make sure the whole family is consulted and agrees to the adoption. "Introducing a pet into the home during the week of Christmas isn't the best idea," warns Hulen. Wait until after the stress and bustle of the holidays are over before you bring your new pet home.
Another way to give a renewable gift this holiday is through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). By subscribing to a weekly in-season harvest box from a local farm, you invest in your local grower, establish a personal connection with a farm and preserve agricultural land for the future.
CSAs have transformed the small, family-run farm by providing growers with a stable income. "The biggest benefit we've found, is that early spring money," says Suzie Fry, who farms in Talent and Medford with her husband Steve. "By the early spring, your winter money has run out. It's really nice to have that money coming in to be able to buy seeds and hire some help to ready the fields."
There's something remarkable about eating food at the peak of its readiness, ripened on the vine. "A lot of people don't understand the flavors of food," says Fry. "When people start eating fresh foods, they say 'Oh! I didn't know how that really tasted!'"
Kathy Niskanen of Medford loves her CSA box, filled with whatever has ripened to perfection and then dropped off at her home. "It helps me to have more variety in my cooking," Kathy says. "This box shows up and maybe there's fennel in it." A CSA subscription expands your culinary skills and your palette with new recipes and seasonal foods that you might otherwise miss at the grocery store.
So make this holiday a truly green celebration by giving the folk art of found objects, by taking home a rescued animal or gifting someone with a summer CSA share in your local family farm. Recycling, re-using and renewing aren't abstractions, or limited to cans, bottles and newspaper. This holiday season, make it personal and make a difference.