It Is Easy Being Green: Eco-Friendly Gifts
By Nichole Dupont
Leave only footprints, and we don’t mean large carbon ones. This is a hard and fast and generally respected mantra while out on the trail or camping in a state park. But, for some reason, the mantra doesn’t hold when it comes to Christmas and the holidays in America. According to the EPA, the average household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s roughly one million EXTRA tons of trash that the earth has to somehow absorb. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are gifts galore throughout the RI region that are beautiful, unique, and eco-responsible. Repurposed fashion (with plenty of bling), scenic vistas atop Nordic skis, in-home mini-gardens – we’ve got perfect gifts that do no harm and leave Mother Nature (and the polar bears) just as we found them.
Become A Member
You’ve probably gotten at least one appeal letter in your mailbox — or inbox — from a local non-profit asking you to donate for the cause. That’s great. They need the cash, trust me. However, if you really want to help out, become a member. Or give the gift of membership which, around holiday time, provides special deals and offers beyond the ol’ canvas shopping bag.
The Trustees of Reservations is offering a bamboo utensil set (and other outdoor living goodies) with gift memberships. The Trustees maintain and are the stewards of some 100 public, historic, and ecological properties in Massachusetts (that’s more than 25,000 acres), many of which are right here in the Berkshires including the Ashley House and Bartholomew’s Cobble in Ashley Falls, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, and Field Farm in Williamstown. A membership ($57 for two adults) gets you (or your giftee) access to all the Trustees properties — the Crane Estate, Appleton Farms, Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge — and to events like Nordic ski lessons at Notchview in Windsor, Saturday snowshoe treks and hot chocolate at the Cobble, indoor yoga classes at Tyringham’s Ashintully Gardens, and a plethora of workshops and guided adventures throughout the warmer seasons.
And for our New York folks across the border who want to explore the Gilded Age glory and majestic groves of the state’s history, supporting the National Park Service is the perfect gift to give. An $80 park pass allows access for three adults to sites all across the country, as well as local gems such as the recently renovated FDR Presidential Library and Museum, the Vanderbilt Mansion, and modest Val-Kill.
Rags to Riches
The fast-track clothing industry is leaving a big, polluting footprint on the environment. Thankfully, eco-conscious designers are railing against this tide of waste couture and tapping into the monolithic market of used textiles. Warren Street’s Ecosystem offers a brilliant, culled selection of fashion-forward gifts designed by eco-driven artists. Wallets made from recycled blankets, elegant blouses crafted from repurposed flannel, and urban-meets-rustic lamps constructed from reclaimed wood are just a few of the offerings at this eclectic Hudson hotspot. In fact, the little city across the river is brimming with vintage clothing and gift shops where everything old is new again, including shops such as Five and Diamond Vintage, Sideshow, and Discipline Park. For a complete list, visit Hudson Valley Vintage.
Across the border in the snow-covered Berkshires, reclaimed fashionista Crispina Ffrench finds her muse in used sweaters. The owner/founder and main crafter of Crispina, her one-of-a-kind creations run the gamut of jolly and bright, with homey ragamuffin dolls, masterful patchwork quilts (below), and bespoke sweaters with charming, whimsical details.
In the reclaimed world, it seems that wool and whimsy do go hand-in-hand. PetitFelts, founded by Copake-based designer Jocelyn Gail, combines needle felting with wild imagination (and a love for animals). The result is a masterful menagerie of charismatic finger puppets — horses, sheep, penguins, goats, sea creatures — for children and children at heart.
Flora and Fauna
It’s easy to get your hands blissfully dirty in a region where local farms and gardens are considered sacred ground and the efforts of those who protect the bounty don’t go unlauded. One impressive group of Berkshire-ites has breathed new life and new conviction into restoring the trails and gardens and traditions of the area. Greenagers are the young stewards of the land, volunteering to clear trails and maintain lands from Ancram to Sheffield. This season, the group is selling a picture-filled calendar to support their continuing efforts in the field. The calendar is available for $15 at The Bookloft, Fuel, Ward’s Nursery, Tom’s Toys, The Marketplace Café, Sheffield Pottery, and Gorham & Norton, or you can request one at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the teens are hibernating until next spring, it never hurts to have a little green inside while the Nor’easters pile in one after the other. One Mercantile in Great Barrington is now offering a bit of the earth with locally made terrariums (shown at top of page). These moss- and plant-rich works of art are encased in glass and provide a gentle reminder that winter does, in fact, come to an end.
And while we’re waiting for that end, the world is lush with stories and debates and images of wild places and spaces the world over. Orion Magazine, based in Great Barrington, is a purveyor of these stories with nature at their core. The mag offers online and paper subscriptions to bi-monthly features full of art, activism, poetry, politics, and the green in between.