by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Its not so hard to find green-oriented gifts. Portlands Conscious Box sends out boxes filled with sustainably-oriented products to several thousand customers each month.Living the sustainable life can get even more difficult during the holiday season. Between all the extra food, presents, gift wrapping and other consumption, the Environmental Protection Agency says the average household generates 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Portland-based consultant Lynn Collins has worked with families for 20 years to help them make sense of the holiday season and live out their values. Often, families find themselves in the trap of consumerism, Collins says, even when they swore to avoid it. Being thoughtful about the holidays takes planning and early discussions with friends and family, she says.

“You don’t have to change everything, but just one or two things can make a big difference,” Collins says.

Here are 10 ways you can use your gift-buying powers to spread more joy to the world.

1. Reduce the gift wrapping

Wrap gifts in durable and reusable items — such as cloth, tins and baskets — instead of shiny paper destined for a landfill after one use. Start a tradition of cloth gift bags that you purchase or make from felt, gauze or calico. Decorate with ribbons and found natural materials. Save and reuse conventional wrapping paper and bags from the gifts you receive. Or, Collins suggests, make a date for next summer to splash paint around with the kids onto recycled butcher paper and roll it up for next year’s wrapping paper.

2. Give an experience

Collins advises clients to think about what their own favorite gift has been before they go off to buy things for others. Often they find their favorite gift was an experience. This could be a class you take together, tickets to theater or music productions, or memberships to museums. There’s no need to spend money. Videotape an interview with an aging family member. Write a song or a poem for a friend.

3. Give time

Make your own gift certificates for your time or a useful skill. (If you’re not confident in your artistic abilities, search “printable gift certificates” on Google or Pinterest.) Often people would love help around the house or could really use cooking, woodworking, résumé help or whatever else you have a knack for. As an added bonus, you might get to spend quality time together while delivering your gift. If you’re too busy to offer your own time, buy a gift certificate for a service, such as window-washing or car maintenance.

4. Give a homemade item

If you have a hobby or love to make crafts, this can be a perfect way to share your joy of creation with family and friends. Collins cautions that this can add to holiday season stress, so start early or make gifts during a slow time of the year. Can berries in the spring, do messy tie-dye in the summer, or knit garments as the leaves start to turn. Then you’ll have more time and energy to spend with family during the holidays.

5. Support local artists, artisans, farmers

If you aren’t particularly skilled at homemade items, Portland is brimming with people who are, says Supportland co-founder Katrina Scotto di Carlo. The local business network offered triple points on Small Business Saturday, to encourage Portlanders to skip the big-box stores.

“I like the idea of giving a gift to someone, but also giving a gift to the community,” di Carlo says. “It’s almost cooler than donating (to a charity) because you’re supporting a neighbor. I always think it’s like a double gift if you support local.”

Holiday sales often can make the difference between a boom and a bust year at local gift shops and boutiques, di Carlo adds.

There also are plenty of temporary markets set up this time of year. The Portland Farmers Market’s website,, lists open markets where you can pick up fresh or value-added local foodstuffs.

6. Keep returns to a minimum

About 10 percent of all gifts are returned, according to the National Retail Federation.

FedEx says its ground returns jump 25 percent in the days after Christmas. All that back and forth from the store or online warehouse adds up in our atmosphere. If you think a return is likely, pick up a gift card, buy local or buy a service.

7. Give to charity

Heifer International is one of many organizations that offers a card you can give to loved ones. They provide the gift of livestock or other farm necessities to needy families around the world. At, you can give a charity gift card, allowing the recipient to choose the charity. According to a Red Cross poll, 79 percent of respondents say they would rather have a charitable donation in their honor than a gift they wouldn’t use.

You don’t even need a nonprofit. Donate goods to a needy friend or family.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Temporary employees fill Conscious Boxes with green-themed goods.8. Shop secondhand stores

Think outside the big box. Give new life to items found at estate sales, thrift stores, and antique shops. “Who says it has to be new?” Collins says.

9. Gift cards

Though they may seem impersonal, gift cards are what people want most, studies show. You can gently influence your recipient’s purchases by buying certificates to local restaurants or other small businesses. If in doubt, ask. You will often find that even very small businesses offer gift certificates.

10. Fewer gifts

Make a commitment with friends and family to give fewer gifts. A study by The Center for a New American Dream showed 70 percent of Americans want to reduce the importance of gift-giving during the holidays. So it’s likely most people in your network would jump on board, for example, the idea of a gift exchange game

instead. Start the tradition with a White Elephant or Secret Santa exchange. You can also request that in lieu of presents, your family rent a ski cabin

together or share a similar


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