Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alternative Gift Fair and Sustainable Gift Giving!


With Thanksgiving now behind us, the holiday season has officially begun! The holiday season is a great time of year, no matter what you choose to celebrate, to extend the feeling of gratitude and thankfulness started during the Thanksgiving season. After a period to reflect upon what we are thankful for, now is the season of giving, and lending a hand to others who are less fortunate. Not to say that gratitude and giving should only be designated to one time a year, but the holiday season is a nice reminder for all us down to slow down, take a step back from our busy lives, and think of others before we think of ourselves. 

But some may argue that with all the consumer and sales buzz behind big events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that consumerism has taken over the true meaning of the holiday. I would argue however, they are simply not looking in the right place. There are still many ways to celebrate the season of giving, without having to brave crowded shopping malls, or acquire more things. There are plenty of other giving and sustainable ways to celebrate the holidays, as well.

Ready to get in the giving mood by this weekend? We've got the place for you! Every year in the First Baptist, and First Presbyterian churches in DeWitt Park, Ithaca holds it's annual Alternative Gift Fair! It's a wonderful event where instead of purchasing "things" as holiday gifts for loved ones, you can donate money to local charities in their honor. This year it will be held this Saturday from 11am-6pm. 

This is how it works:

1. Go to one (or both!) of the churches and get a flyer which shows were all the charities are positioned throughout the two churches. 
2. Visit each table and read about what each charity does, and fill out a sheet that donates what charity you would like to donate to, and how much.
3. Go to the "check out" to pay for your holiday "gifts"!

All 100% of proceeds go directly to the charity of your choosing, and you can donate as little or as much as you would like. Best of all, for each donation you make, you can see exactly where you dollars go! Each "gift" you purchase from a charity will designate what you money is sponsoring. For example I volunteer for an amazing nonprofit called Clean and Healthy New York. Their mission is to advance broad policy and market changes to promote a safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world. They also work to educate both consumers and local businesses alike about the health and environmental dangers of toxic chemicals in consumer products, and advocate for more healthy and sustainable substitutes to be used in their place. If you wish to donate, you'll be able to see that your $5 donation will do directly towards keeping toxic products out of baby stores. Or that your $25 donation will help to fund policy action to make lawmakers accountable for protecting children's and consumers health! To find more about CHNY check out the their website here: http://www.cleanhealthyny.org/. Also come check out our table and test your skills to see if you can identify if popular beauty items are toxic or non-toxic. 

From volunteering at the fair for a few years now, I can personally attest that it's an absolutely amazing experience. Not only is it a great opportunity to help out some awesome local charities who have great causes, but it's also such a heartwarming and communal experience that will no doubt get you into the holiday spirit! Also, it's a great opportunity as a poor college student to save money on holiday gifts and also give gifts that actually have meaning. 

And it's completely sustainable because it not only involves helping others (the social justice aspect of sustainability) but it also helps avoid overbuying and the collection of more STUFF! To find out more about the Alternative Gift Fair and how you can get involved, click here: http://www.ithacaaltgiftfair.org/

Looking for more ways to be sustainable during the holiday season? Here are some sustainable gift ideas!

1.  Buy services and not goods! It helps to spur the local economy without the accumulation of more things!
2. Give plants and baked goods! Delicious and pretty, and without the excess waste.
3. Have experiences instead of goods. Have a game night or a fun party idea, like a hot chocolate bar! Both get people together without having to spend money or purchase unnecessary items.

Want to do more giving?

1. Look for volunteer opportunities in your community
2. Look for food or toy drives in your community

Keep a lookout for us tabling next week in the dining halls about more sustainable holiday gift ideas!

Happy Giving and Happy Holidays!
-Kat

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