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Web posted on December 9, 1997

Seasons Greetings

Gift ideas for the eco-friendly

By Myra Shah

Everyone is always talking about a white Christmas, but in today's age of eco-friendly consciousness, wouldn't a green Christmas be great?

It's time to deck the halls and stuff our stockings with things that don't harm the earth. After hours of treading Toronto's downtown pavement, I think that I've managed to come up with a long enough Christmas list to suit everyone's budget and taste. I almost restricted myself to guidelines of Gaia green, but I have listed a few alternatives to traditional Christmas celebrations as well. (There just isn't enough granola and recycled garbage products on the market yet.)

The best area for conscious Christmas shopping is definitely the Annex, where I began my research. "Actually Made by Humans in Canada" is the slogan for a not-so-traditional version of the classic bar of soap. At The Outer Layer (406 Bloor Street West), you can choose from 30 different vegetable-based, non-packaged soaps, priced from $1.10 to $1.40 per ounce. Creatively named and brightly coloured, you can select "Lime Margarita" for your boss (who needs one), or "Lapis," which comes with a real gold leaf, if you can't afford real gold on a student budget.

Next door at Grassroots (408 Bloor Street West and also at 9620 Yonge Street), you can find everything green from hemp journals ($2.50 to $9.95) to solar powered radios ($39.95). They also have clothes and towels, made of hemp or unbleached, undyed cotton fabrics, as well as water and shower filtration systems (if OSAP has been especially kind to you this year). Check out the biodegradable plastic pens imported from Vancouver; I picked one up for the nice price of $1.39.

If you're interested in giving the gift of information this holiday season, literature on how to make the world (and yourself) a little greener truly abounds on the bookshelves. There are three great bookshops next door to each other on Bloor Street that all offer the best in natural and spiritual healing. Seekers Books (509 Bloor Street West) offers a new and used collection of excellent books for healing all of our minds, bodies and souls. Upstairs at Healing Books (509 Bloor Street West, 2nd Floor), you'll find more new and used books specializing in natural and alternative medicine. You can also stop for lunch at their very green vegetarian caf‚ (may as well go all the way!). The Eternal Moment Bookstore (497 Bloor Street West), located next door, has even more books to help your family and friends go green this Christmas, and maybe even recapture the ghosts and spirits of Christmas past!

Walking the block to Harbord Street is a great idea, and there are two great shops to help you out with the green womyn in your life. Indigo Stories: of womyn & cloth, (81 Harbord Street), offers a socially friendly approach to shopping with The Khanga Project. So how about going Khanga this Christmas? Or at least, how about buying a Khanga cloth (all selections $30) for the fashion-, or politically- conscious womyn in your life? The Khanga is a bordered piece of cloth, worn wrapped as a shawl or used to carry babies, created by a group effort of womyn in Canada, Nigeria and Tanzania. The cloths are made of beautifully coloured patterns, with borders, incorporating written expressions; it's the most thoughtful gift under the tree.

If neither a green Christmas nor a Khanga Christmas is what you're looking for, check out Wonder Works (79A Harbord Street). There you'll find gift ideas for alternative Christmas celebrations, such as "Happy Winter Solstice" cards, Hanukkah menorahs as well as books about the newly-created African-American holiday, Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is based on the seven principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

As well, while many of us like to celebrate the New Year, there are even alternatives to the 1998 calendar available. They have a unique 13-month lunar calendar, as well as several varieties of womyn's daybooks inspired by the moon, ranging in price from $11.95 to $29.50. There is also a beautiful selection of handmade in Canada goddess jewelry, figures, and candleholders, for all of the womyn and lovers of womyn on your list. While not specifically green, these items may help to renew the spirituality of this time of year, something that still exists beyond the commercialism of our city streets.

I traveled to Yonge Street and went as far as the Eaton Centre, at which point I had to give up my search for green; the greenest things that I could find were the TD Bank Machines.

My quest wasn't all for nothing though, as I did find something to ask Santa for myself. Instead of the Land Rover that I had originally requested, I 'greened' down my four-wheel choice. Lose the petrol, engine and three zeros off the price, and what do you get? Off-road roller-blades, with the biggest wheels this side of my dreamy 4x4! It's true and it's new, for $599 to $699 (although I heard they may be going on sale in time for Christmas) you can either buy a pair for the big cheese on your list, or else put them on your own list like I did. Equilibrium, (360 Yonge Street) also has a selection of regular eco-friendly rollerblades ($129 to $299), skateboards and snowboards.

Some of the greenest products that I could find this year are made of hemp. Healthy to eat, natural to heal, hemp can be made into paper, fiber, and energy-efficient fuel, reversing global warming as it uses CO2 when grown. You can find a great selection of hemp products at the Toronto Hemp Company (667 Yonge Street). They have hemp pouches, wallets, backpacks ($5 to $85) for everyone on your list to carry their new hemp bath and beauty products, and hemp snacks. Hempburger, cookie, and hotcake mixes cost $10, or for the same price, you can buy hemp bicycle lubricant! If , like me, you think it's a good idea to educate your family and friends this holiday season, then you can choose from a wide variety of books and videos about hemp's uses and unfortunate abuses. Hey, why not have a hemp holiday this year?

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