Written by Denise Deby.

"Gifted" by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic http://www.flickr.com/photos/brandsvig/8229019147/

“Gifted” by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic) http://www.flickr.com/photos/brandsvig/8229019147/

This is a lovely time of year to slow down, enjoy being with family and friends, and give meaningful gifts. Too often, though, it’s a time when many people find themselves buying too much, trying to accomplish too much and feeling like they can’t cope.

Here are a few suggestions for giving sustainably while giving back:

1. Consider buying your loved one a food-bearing tree (or a gift card for one) from Hidden Harvest Ottawa. Alternatively, you can donate a tree to a community group, such as Ottawa Community Housing, in someone’s name.

2. Buy a South March Highlands 2014 calendar, with beautiful photos of the landscapes, flora and fauna of this special place in Ottawa’s west end.

3. Offer to teach someone something, or give them the gift of learning. Many art, music and other places offer gift certificates. Check out the Westboro Brainery, a community initiative that has short (around 2 hour) courses on a wide variety of subjects, including vegan cooking, solar power for the home, beginner salsa dancing and indoor plant care, for starters.

4. Give the gift of fun, fitness and social interaction with a gift certificate for the City of Ottawa’s recreation and culture programs. You’ll find everything from skating lessons to yoga to playgroups for preschoolers.

5. Consider a book or e-book on environmental issues from your favourite independent bookstore, or a digital or paper subscription to an environmental magazine. A\J Alternatives Journal is one of my favourites. Browse for others at Magazine Canada’s website; search under “Science and Nature” or another category of interest, and check out their Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale.

6. Give a no-waste, renewable, recyclable gift: give a library book! See guest blogger Eloise Collison’s 2007 post on how this works.

7. Search Swapsity for a gift that you can obtain by swapping something you no longer need—you’ll save cash and keep things out of the landfill.

8. Give a gift of seeds, trees or clean water for someone who can use it through USC CanadaUNICEF CanadaKiva and many other organizations offer global gifts as well.

9. For the person who wants to live more sustainably, EnviroCentre’s enviroBoutique may have something, like a Fireplace Package with Eco-Logs or a Water Wise kit with a low-flow showerhead and aerators.

10. Check out eco-store terra20’s gift suggestions, or their gift cards (made out of birch!) You’ll find terra20 in the Pinecrest Shopping Centre, Wellington St. W. and online.

11. Buy local and send a gift to someone in Ottawa or elsewhere in Canada through SMAKK, which stands for “Share Meaningful Acts of Kindness and Karma.” You browse their website for what’s on offer from participating shops and services, choose a gift and they’ll send a gift card to your family member or friend. Offerings include yoga from PranaShanti Yoga Centre, jewellry from TUBEDJewelry made out of old bike inner tubes and Bôhten’s designer eyeglasses made from recycled materials.

12. Shop locally through Givopoly: you choose a gift from their website—like soap from Purple Urchin or local foodie gift boxes—and they’ll deliver it the next day.

13. Look for a merchant that pays as much attention to the environment and the community as to profits. The Ottawa-based Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED) has a holiday gift guide to buying from socially and environmentally-conscious companies, such as Camino which makes fair trade, organic chocolate, or Cycle Salvation where you can find used, reconditioned bikes and parts.

14. If you know a local food aficionado, you may find something appropriate at a local food producer or retailer who’s a Savour Ottawa member. You’ll find more suggestions on the Earthward blog. Don’t forget that the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is holding its Christmas Market on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22, 2013, and the Ottawa Specialty Food Association has a Flavours of Ottawa Stocking Stuffer Specialty Food Fair on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

15. With a donation to Ecology Ottawa, you get a free subscription to EcoParent Magazine.

Please share any other suggestions you have in the comments section below!

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