Guide to selecting a green gift

It’s the simple things that make life rich. For the all-natural types, nothing keeps love going strong like, say, hiking to a waterfall together or sharing a delicious organic meal supplemented with a bottle of organic wine. Choose a gift that encourages this sort of thing, and you won’t disappoint.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when hunting for the perfect green-wedding gift, be it of your own eco-savvy or to satisfy the green tastes of the bride and groom. First, try to purchase products from local vendors: In general, an item that hasn’t been shipped thousands of miles has a lower impact than something shipped from halfway across the globe, even if it’s not made from 100 percent organic resources. Products made with reused or recycled materials are great, and vintage or antique treasures are even better. Things made from natural materials—beeswax instead of paraffin-wax candles, clothing made with hemp fiber instead of pesticide-laden conventional cotton –- are preferable.

You may want to get creative with the gift-wrapping. Instead of using conventional wrapping paper that will get chucked into the wastebasket within minutes, look for some beautiful, reusable cloth or perhaps a decorative handmade basket that can later be used for storage. Below are a few gift suggestions that can support a healthier lifestyle –- and benefit the environment along the way.

CSA membership: Community Supported Agriculture is a direct link between local organic growers and consumers. Through these programs, a farmer gains the security of knowing a portion of the harvest has been paid for, and the CSA members know they can look forward to locally grown, seasonal organic produce for 24 to 36 weeks out of the year.

Before the start of the season, when a farmer is planning for the upcoming year, shares are sold to members of the community (now would be an excellent time to purchase one). Throughout the season, the CSA community members each receive a box of that week’s harvest.

“I know people who have given a CSA membership as a wedding present, and I think it is a fine idea,” says Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project Program Director Peter Marks. Prices and models vary, he says, and there are occasionally waiting lists, so it’s a good idea to do a bit of research in advance.

“Overall, it’s good value that people are getting in terms of dollar per pound,” Marks notes. From a wedding point of view, it helps people continue eating healthy, local food for the first spring, summer and fall of their marriage.” To learn about local CSAs, visit the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project online at www.buyappalachian.org/csa.php.

Green kitchen and beyond: Nest Organics, a store specializing in sustainable products and located at 51 N. Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, has a wide selection of eco-friendly kitchen items that would make excellent wedding presents.

Plates, bowls, and serving trays from Pittsburgh-based Riverside Designs are made from recycled glass. Plates with a Purpose, another company that makes tableware out of recycled glass, features designs that reflect the various nonprofit organizations that it supports with portions of their proceeds. There are certified-organic bamboo utensils; table runners, placemats and cloth napkins made of a blend of hemp and vintage cotton; and flatware created by a local artist who uses only wood products that have been harvested in an environmentally responsible fashion.

For unique and innovative home items, this is one of your best bets. Or, look to local ceramic artists for beautiful mugs, pitchers and other one-of-a-kind home and kitchen items.

Locally made herbs, tinctures, oils and salves: Red Moon Herbs, based at EarthHaven EcoVillage in Black Mountain, offers a “Magic Massage Blend Oil” consisting of comfrey, poplar bud and St. Johns Wort herbs. Gaia herbs, based in Brevard, offers arnica oil that helps support muscle relaxation and aids in relieving normal, day-to-day stress. Catch the drift? With the wide range of herbalists in Western North Carolina, you can put together a basket of massage oils, salves, tinctures and essential oils for an aromatic, rejuvenating gift.

Accessories for hiking, biking and more: Nothing gets outdoor enthusiasts excited quite like gear. Think plant-identification books, guides to local hiking spots, first-aid kits, a water-purification kit, binoculars or maybe a pair of sleeping bags that can be zipped together for cozier camping. For outdoor sports wear, Patagonia (available locally at Mast General Store, Diamond Brand Outdoors, Ski Country Sports and Black Dome Mountain Sports) is famous for conducting business in an environmentally responsible manner; they’ve even supported local environmental nonprofits such as the Dogwood Alliance and the WNC Alliance through their grant program.

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