Shop without surrendering your soul
Give something local, recycled, recyclable
Complaining about the commercialization of Christmas is almost as old as the holiday itself. The season also can be murder on the environment and the budget.
According to www.newdream.org, a Web site touted in the Al Gore book and film 'An Inconvenient Truth,' 5 million extra tons of trash are produced between Thanksgiving and New Year's. And, it takes an average of four months for credit card users to pay off holiday bills (total U.S. credit card debt is estimated at more than $600 billion already).
Inexpensive clothes and toys often are sweatshop-produced, shipped all over the world via fossil fuels, and made from materials that are ecologically irresponsible. Then there's all the wrapping paper.
But buying 'green' (and local) doesn't mean buying boring, and you'll probably find yourself getting much more into the holiday spirit at independent boutiques like Imp or at Bob's Red Mill - where you can watch the quartz mill press your oatmeal - than at the mall.
It's up to you whether you tell your recipient you've bought them a sustainable gift. They'll probably like it so much they won't think twice. And using recycled newspaper tied with bits of fabric or greens from your yard can look beautiful and creative (try to choose upbeat newspaper sections or stories for your wrapping - even this section!).
Of course, this also is an opportunity to educate people in your life who could use a push in the right direction. You can subtly mention that their gift is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials because you hope that the Earth will be around for many more holidays to come.
Holiday e-cards expressing similar sentiments can be found at www.newdream.org.
Another way to remind loved ones of your commitment to celebrating the holidays a little differently is to send an e-mail asking them to donate a small amount of money to a charity in lieu of a gift, providing them a list with a few of your favorites.
But if you want to buy actual presents, the following are some of the gifts you can feel good about.
Cards from Urban Bird Designs and Red Bat Press
Urban Bird Designs is the name behind self-taught artist Jennifer Doheny, who uses her Portland studio to create her designs and run what has become a national business.
Each of Doheny's original designs begins with pages from old books she finds at rummage and estate sales. She then begins the long process of cutting and reassembling her found designs, using a wax/dye/resist process, along with paints, colored pens and pencils.
The result of this arduous process are cards that look anything but hodgepodge or kitschy. Her nine colorful holiday cards (a particularly pretty one is a bright orange pomegranate bordered by a wintry vine) feel timeless.
Find them at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651, www.powells.com; and Imp, 1422 N.E. Alberta St., 503-282-7467, www.imponalberta.com, $3 each.
Red Bat Press already is a Portland classic - it's been around since 2002 - known for woodblock print and slightly cartoonish letterpress cards. This season it's offering a limited-edition holiday card ($8), which starts as a New Year's greeting then unfolds into a full 4.25-by-11-inch calendar with a hole for hanging.
While the card/calendar designs vary, there's a Portland theme going, like a depiction of 'City of Bikes' where there's a Portland skyline, lots of bikers and no cars in sight.
Order from www.redbatpress.com or call 503-248-4454.
Portland gift basket
Make a Portland gift basket.
First stop is Ten Thousand Villages, for a generous-size date palm basket from Bangladesh ($20). The baskets are made with the help of Rishilpi, a nonprofit development organization providing work for poor, rural women, particularly those who are single or widowed.
The rectangular basket has handles on either side, and it's ideal for storing magazines and newspapers.
Then, head out to Bob's Red Mill for organic grain processed as it was in early Roman times, on slow-turning quartz millstones. Sure, you can buy Bob's products at the grocery store, but going to the actual mill is more festive, and you can grab a great breakfast or lunch and some groceries of your own at the same time.
Particularly appropriate for the season is a sack of Scottish oatmeal ($2.69 for a 1.25-pound bag) or whole-grain gingerbread cake mix ($4.99 for a 1.25-pound bag). Recipe and/or cooking instructions are included.
Next stop, Stumptown Coffee - even the jasmine green tea types need a little of this stuff in December - where the beans are carefully selected from around the world and are generally organic, shade-grown and bought with fair-trade practices considered.
Prices range, but expect to spend about $14 a pound, and know that it is well worth it.
Last stop, Alma Chocolate, for some confections that are not only exotic and organic, but often crafted into shapes like the Buddha and glazed in gold like edible Christmas tree ornaments ($1.50-$3).
Fill in any holes with honey-crisp or other locally grown apples or Oregon hazelnuts from a farmers or local market.
Ten Thousand Villages, 914 N.W. Everett St., 503-231-8832, www.tenthousandvillages.com
Bob's Red Mill, 5209 S.E. International Way, Milwaukie, 1-800-349-2173, www.bobsredmill.com
Stumptown Coffee, various locations, 503-230-7797, www.stumptown coffee.com
Alma Chocolate, 140 N.E. 28th Ave., 503-517-0262, www.almachocolate.com
A great, basic, T-shirt or long-sleeve tee is the kind of gift everyone loves getting, but givers may think it's too boring.
Not so, especially not if it's in a crisp color and made from supersoft bamboo. Why bamboo? Well, it's one of the world's fastest-growing plants, so it's constantly sustaining itself, and it takes in about five times the amount of greenhouse gases while producing 35 percent more oxygen then an equivalent stand of trees, helping counter the greenhouse effect.
Recipients may get the thrill of being the first bamboo-wearer on the block. Styles for men and women range from $15 to $32, and can be sent directly to the recipient from the online store.
Sameunderneath, 915 N. Shaver St., 503-223-3592,
Lucky LooLoo Designs
Jewelry almost always is appreciated by women, but if you are on a budget - or if it's a little early in a relationship to go overboard with the bling - it can be a nervy purchase.
Lucky LooLoo Designs eliminates all room for error. Lucky LooLoo's very creative but unfussy earrings, bracelets, necklaces and other accessories can hold equal appeal for a girlie girl, a superstylie chick or even an accessory minimalist.
Lucky LooLoo's designers scour vintage stores and estate sales to find pieces of jewelry that inspire them and then, with the help of some power tools, pound down and recycle the metals, lucite and plastic to fashion modern pieces that retain a classic flair. This reconstruction gives fresh life to the jewelry without having to use all raw materials.
Some of the lines, like the horse and nautical patterned ones, are so urban looking it's hard to believe they aren't made from the newest, most techie materials, while other series feature dainty lucite leaf earrings in colors reminiscent of '50s cashmere sweater sets.
Two no-brainers are the cherry-red lucite studs with Austin- white rhinestone centers ($22) and a sterling-plated chain necklace with an ivory-colored pendant embossed with a black sparrow or raven ($34).
Lucky LooLoo will have booths at the Crafty Wonderland holiday gift fair at the Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., www.luckylooloo.com, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17
FOR HOSTESS GIFT
Blumeboxes ($3.99-$4.99) are basically pop-up vases, made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials. Each box comes with an equally ecologically constructed inner bag for holding water, if you're going to use your Blumebox for cut flowers or other perishables.
Their shiny cardboard finish and bright color palette are striking, as is their ability to fold into a flat pack for transport before they inflate to a 6- or 10-inch container.
Let the recipients inflate the Blumebox themselves (just for a little extra fun) and then also present them with an unusual, and ecologically conscious, adornment.
If you're crafty, try faux flowers made from fabric or paper scraps. Or bring over sprigs of fresh herbs and eucalyptus (or just something cool you can find in your backyard).
Beaumont Market, 4130 N.E. Fremont St., 503-284-3032, and all Zupan's markets; more locations listed at www.blumebox.com
The Balancing Cactus ($20) is the only toy in the world that is really, really fun to play with but makes no grating noises, leaves no stains, and actually can double as artwork in your home.
The 'cactus,' a stand that looks like a flowerpot and a series of bright interpretations of succulent spines, which vary in weight, shape and size, is constructed from rubber wood.
Previously, aging Thai rubber trees were burned and turned into charcoal once they stopped producing the raw materials to manufacture latex; using the wood to construct something is a very new idea, and a great one to support.
The wood is painted with nontoxic stains and kiln-dried, which limits moisture and also mellows the tones of the paint so they are simultaneously bright and natural-looking.
The object of the game is to assemble the cactus by balancing the weighted spines in a precise manner so as not to topple the pot. It's excellent training for the Ikea furniture children probably will be assembling one day.
Canoe, 1136 S.W. Alder St., 503-889-8545, www.canoeonline.net
Herban Cowboy shaving supplies
Shaving supplies are one of those things that may seem like a corny gift but that most men really like getting. Especially if they're cool-looking and made by a company that doesn't do animal testing.
One of the most fun organic shaving lines out there is Herban Cowboy. The products are certified organic and vegan, and the packaging is made from recycled materials and soy ink.
A neat black flip-up tub of the oil- and aloe-infused shaving cream is $15; a solid wood and boar bristle shaving brush is $7. Added goodies are an $8 carrot, cucumber and collagen after-shave cream and a $4 bar of supersimple shaving soap.
Green Loop, 1785 Willamette Falls Drive, West Linn, 503-656-5483, www.thegreenloop.com
FOR STOCKING STUFFERS
Recycled bottle openers
Sure, most people already have a bottle opener, but few have a bendable, flexible one made from a bike chain. The well-designed $12 gadget is made in Mosier by Resource Revival, which also turns old bike parts into picture frames, CD holders and other items.
Whole Foods, 1210 N.W. Couch St., 503-525-4343,
www.wholefoods market.com, www.resourcerevival.com