For people who celebrate winter gift-giving holidays, this time of year tends to be a mad scramble to find a set of perfect gifts for loved ones. One of the most difficult groups of people to buy for are those who say, “I don’t need anything” even though you want to buy them something. This is made even more difficult when they are coming from an anti-consumerist point of view. So this leaves the considerate gift-giver with a conundrum – give a gift they don’t want or don’t give a gift at all? Thankfully, as with many situations, there’s a third way – give gifts that help them fulfill their non-consumerist philosophy as much as possible. Today, I’m going to talk about gifts for those who are working to support sustainable food systems. Next week, I’ll address giftees who are more into adopting sustainable transportation.
Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture
Many gardeners consider Gaia’s Garden the handbook of the “growing food” side of modern permaculture. Although there are more comprehensive books on permaculture, this one is very well-written, provides superb connections between theory and practice, and is relatively short. Even if the gardener doesn’t carry out all of the ideas, there’s plenty to choose and learn from. As a result, it’s a great introduction to the concept and reference book to have on hand.
Producing one’s own compost is one of the fundamental ways for gardeners to reconnect the waste stream to the production cycle. However, not everyone can have a simple wooden compost bin. In particular, city dwellers with compost bins that don’t close securely may find themselves with a serious rat problem. They may also lack the space for a full compost bin. For these folks, a secure spinning composter is a fantastic investment. I actually have this model and it produces great compost so long as the gardener puts in the correct wet/dry ratio of waste. I used quite a bit of the final compost a few weeks ago when prepping next spring’s soil.
Worms Eat My Garbage
Perhaps your gift-reciever doesn’t even have enough space for a spinning composter. Perhaps they’d also like a pet, but don’t have the resources for a cat or dog. Worm composting could be the perfect project for them! This book, in its second edition a few decades after the first, is a great guide for the new worm cultivator. It has everything you need to know about keeping composting worms, from how to build your own worm bin to treating your worms well. As I set up my own worm bin, I learned quite a bit from this book, such as rotating the placement of food.
A Community Supported Agriculture Share, or A Trip to the Farmers’ Market
Community supported agriculture is a structure that allows consumers to purchase a “share” of a farmer’s crop in the beginning of the year and receive produce through the summer and fall seasons. (There are also some winter CSAs, but they are relatively rare.) By having customers pay at the beginning of the year, the farmer is guaranteed a certain income, making their financial situation much more stable. On the other hand, customers get a box of vegetables (and sometimes fruit) every week for less money than they would normally pay at the farmer’s market. If you think that your giftee would want to participate in a CSA, you can find farms that offer shares through Local Harvest. A word of warning here though – not everyone has circumstances that fit a CSA well. The customer has to have the time to use or process that much produce every week, because he or she is going to receive it no matter what. In addition, the person has to be a bit of an adventurous cook, because CSA boxes often include some unusual vegetables. If that seems like too much of a commitment, givers can also create a gift certificate saying, “One all-expenses-paid trip to the farmers’ market.” Going to the market with the giftee could make for a nice bonding experience if it’s not something the giver does often, and allows the giftee to choose the items he or she would like. Lastly, there are also some local food delivery businesses, like Arganica in the D.C. Metro area, that offer gift certificates or gift memberships.
Buy an Animal through Oxfam
This is the ultimate non-gift gift. Oxfam America – along with many other charities, but I like Oxfam in particular – structures donations so that you can “buy” a family in a developing country goats, crabs, honey bees, chicks, alpacas, and manure. If you want a great gift to accompany Worms Eat My Garbage, they even have a “can of worms!” Although the donation doesn’t actually go to buy a specific animal, it does directly go towards Oxfam’s goal of helping people in developing countries get the resources they need most. The best thing about these gifts is that they aren’t just charity. Unlike traditional food aid, animals such as sheep and goats provide an ongoing source of food and help families become economically self-sufficient. Often, these families then go on to help others in their community, exponentially increasing the positive impact.
All of these gifts are a bit out-of-the-ordinary and perfect for the person who is “green” minded, but doesn’t want another recycled wallet. Post any other permaculture-related gift ideas you have in the comments!