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MAKE THIS HOLIDAY COUNT

Every year around this time, I put together an article to encourage holiday shoppers to do the right thing. “Don’t shop more, shop differently.” “Top ten socially conscious gift ideas.” “Less is more for the holidays.” These are the types of articles I’ve written. Well this year, I’m changing things up. I’m encouraging each person reading this to make this holiday about more, not less.

Of course I am not referring to you consuming more stuff this holiday. We have enough toxic toys and glossy wrapping paper. I’m talking about more trees, more clean air and water, and more children with access to an education. But this is a tall order, especially around the holidays when human consumption surges out of control and gift giving responsibilities leave consumers feeling trapped.

So how do we fill this order? Cramming the aisles of Walmart is certainly not the answer, and ignoring the question until after the holidays are over seems futile, because another holiday will be inevitably waiting for us next year.

Don’t worry. Achieving more of what we want in this world is not just about making sacrifices. You can carol your way through each December, holiday spirit and all, without forgoing the gift-giving and cookie baking that make the holidays such a special time. Here are a few suggestions:

More education and healthcare for children. Chocolate gift assortments are a great gift idea for the sustainably-minded, and there are plenty of Fair Trade options to choose from. Fair Trade prohibits forced child labor. With an estimated 284,000 children toiling in abusive labor conditions in West Africa’s cocoa fields instead of being educated in schools, consumers who choose Fair Trade chocolate can enjoy each bite confident that they are not contributing to child slavery. Plus Fair Trade farmers invest Fair Trade premiums in social projects like scholarship programs and building health clinics.

More recycled and re-used products. Why purchase new stuff for the holidays, when there are a plethora of gifts available made from recycled and re-used materials? Here a few finds off the top of my head: wallets made from recycled beer cans, doormats made from re-used flip flops, and handbags made out of old candy wrappers. Sound interesting? Try googling “recycled gifts online,” and prepare to be wowed by the sheer volume of high quality, recycled gift options available today.

More clean air, water and land. Your Grandma’s sugar cookies will taste even better with Certified Organic ingredients. Organic food, grown without the use of conventional pesticides, can lead to better health for people and the planet. It’s important to mention that the majority of Fair Trade Certified food products are also certified Organic. So if you want to spread the cheer, consider cooking up something special using Fair Trade, Organic ingredients.

More trees. Hmmm, what to do about holiday cards and wrapping paper? With forests dwindling at an alarming rate, it’s nice to know there is such a thing as tree-free paper. Two companies proving that you don’t need to cut down trees to create quality paper; Boku Books offers stationery products made from a blend of kenaf fiber and recycled material, and Ellie Pooh is an innovative line of elephant pooh paper products. If you want to avoid paper altogether, look to organizations like Trees for the Future to have a tree planted in someone’s name. And consider replacing traditional wrapping paper with last Sunday’s funny papers. This “retro” solution will make your gifts look cool!

More hope.personal pick Kiva is a great place to invest in hope. Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur in the developing world, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty. Heifer International helps children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. And Oxfam America’s Unwrapped program allows people the opportunity to give gifts that symbolically represent their efforts to spread hope in 26 countries around the world.

Especially around the holidays, it’s important to adapt our purchasing practices to the world we live in so we’ll have more clean air to breathe, more educated children, and hope for the future. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll agree that more during the holidays isn’t always a bad thing. Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to do more this year.


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