Throwback Thursday- Green Christmas: A Giving and Outdoorsy Christmas List

by - Thursday, August 25, 2016

This is the newest in a long series of blogs where I implore you through long lists of cute stuff to buy less/better stuff! This Christmas, we will spend a lot of money on gifts. A lot. If we put all that money toward companies that respect their laborers and protect the environment, we can change the world. Every dollar we spend is a vote for the world we want to live in, so every time we buy Made in China junk at a big chain store, we say fast and easy is more important than good. That our selfish wants are more important than other's needs. I don't think that's what anyone really thinks, especially at Christmas, but I think it can feel like we don't have any choice. We do! So here is another shopping list to show that no matter what a person cares about, you can find them awesome, eco-friendly and socially-responsible gifts. We can do it!

Two friends up in the Rocky Mountains

Melissa and I have been friends since the 8th grade, when she was the only one who showed up to help me paint my bedroom. This friendship was solidified forever when we chased a cute red head boy around on a Spanish Cruise (in Pittsburgh). I just think she is a kind and wonderful person, and her new church and home in Colorado suits her perfectly. We care about a lot of the same things, and we love talking about issues, but there is one area where we clearly differ- outdoorsiness. Melissa and her hubby Alan go hiking, they do adventurey sports, and they wake up at dawn to see beautiful sunrises on their trips (we, on the other hand, sleep in, eat a lot, and hopefully look at old stuff). Because of this, she has all sorts of wisdom to share about what to buy the hiker you love, but even better, she has some great insight about what really matters this season:

"When B first tasked me with me creating a Christmas Wish list, I didn’t know what to list. A and I had already talked that we didn’t really want much for Christmas, and we’d simply save our money for retirement and emergency savings. (Remember, it’s never too early to save for retirement, but that’s not the subject of this post.)

That being said, when I began to think about a possible list, I quickly came up with lots of new things that I simply had to have. But the reality is, most of us have everything (and more) than what we need.
With that in mind, I first want to encourage you to look outside of yourself and see how you can give to those that need it the most. "

One of my absolute favorite things about doing these wishlists this year is that almost everyone who has written to me has their own things that matter more to them than the gifts. We all have things we "need," but we also all have things we care about deeply. I feel like this is really important, and one of the best parts about it is that to effectively donate in someone's honor, you need to know what they care about. You have to get to know them that much better, which is just another way I am positive that shifting our paradigm has a super positive ripple effect. Take it away, Melissa:

"Here are two organizations that my partner and I support and love:

1: Project Education South Sudan. This organization started because of an amazing woman in my church in Denver, Colorado. She and her husband were mentors to the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. That commitment birthed PESS. Now celebrating 10 years, PESS has helped thousands by partnering with South Sudanese communities in building schools and supporting young women. Daniel Majok Gai, one of the “Lost Boys”, is now the Executive Director of PESS. He is an incredible, inspiring human being. Under his new leadership, PESS is continuing to start new initiatives like making feminine hygiene products for young women. This not only creates jobs and economic growth for communities, but also provides young welcome the chance to continue to go to school during menstruation. When we grow up in our context, it’s hard to imagine not going to school because of menstruation; but millions of young girls can’t go to school because they don’t have the resources. I have met Daniel and a number of members of their board- they are extraordinary, and so is this mission and work. Go to their website for more info: .

2: Episcopal Relief and Development. When you support Episcopal Relief and Development, you help millions of people across the world by fighting poverty, eradicating hunger, and eliminating disease. Go to this link: to purchase a “Gift for Life”. ERD also has a very high rating as a non-profit, 85% of the money collected goes to the product and services it says it delivers. Remember, check the charity’s rating before you donate, so that your money goes to services and not overhead and corporate."

Now, Melissa's Christmas Wish List:

1. A Microwave Safe Egg Bowl: "I’ve been cooking eggs in the microwave every morning for the past couple of months. It saves time, calories, and it’s still debatable whether non-stick pans can potentially release a dangerous gas that is both hazardous to humans and birds alike."
microwave safe egg bowl
from amazon
My Ideas- Alright, this one is pretty simple. One good option- Nordicware sells a microwave breakfast pan. It's microwave-safe, made in America, and actually cheaper than some of the less ethical options. Simple, easy, done!

2. Hiking undergarments- "Because Christmas is the season you get socks and underwear; I am always on the lookout for ethically made socks, underwear, and sport bras."

rei darn tough socks
from REI- Darn Tough Socks

My Ideas- Alright, I started at REI for this, because I figure that is where outdoorsy people shop (truly, I do not know much about that kind of stuff). Also, they are closing for Black Friday! How cool is that! Lucky for me, there are lots of stores that specialize just in these things! Darn Tough socks are super cute, made in the US, and come in a variety of designs and thicknesses. Smart Wool sells socks for cold sports (mostly skiing?) and they look pretty intense for those hikes up in the snow-covered Rockies (here's a hiking-specific pair). Brooks Essentials sells socks specifically designed to keep your feet dry. Hanz sells waterproof socks as well.

REI sells lots of Made in the US socks for camping, hiking, and biking (also, riding on planes and recovering from surgery). They even have their own co-op socks, which are made in the US and come in at a measly 10 dollars. These socks are hardcore, but most don't come cheap. Is it weird to buy someone a single pair of socks for Christmas? Maybe, but if the socks last longer than 4 pairs of junky ones, I think you might be on to something!

REI also sells a good collection of long underwear made in the States from Polarmax (these are even on sale). Ibex Energy Free Tights claim to keep you warm all day, but the name makes me wonder if they somehow Dementor suck the energy out of your legs.

3. Stretchy bracelets- "I love these! You can mix and match and stack as many as you’d like."  

stretchy bracelets
from hecho a mano
My Ideas- Oh, you know Etsy has tons of these, so I only picked a couple I like, but if you want to go that route, check Etsy first (and order in the next week or two). Feel like it's too many options? Put in a city near you or the giftee in the location box on the left side towards the bottom, it should narrow it down, and you are supporting something local! In Melissa's case, you can find 1000 (I am not kidding) options if you put in "bracelet" and "Boulder, CO." Hecho a Mano make my favorite ones that I saw, super fun and bright.

tuchela seed bead bracelets
from tuchela
Tuchela sells big stacks of them (for 7 dollars!) that come in all sorts of color combinations. I thought this set was pretty, but I think you could get these as awesome stocking stuffers. Moon Lab Jewelry sells multiple bracelets that i think look really subtle and sophisticated.

4. A Paracord Survival Bracelet- "This could very well go into number three, but its uses are more for outdoor survival than fashion. See various uses here:"

paracord survival bracelet
from Amazon
Just to Add- Wow! First of all, I didn't know these existed. That girl is so much earthier than I am. But you can find lots of them! And a good number are made here in the States! Survival Straps come in lots of pretty and bright color combinations, as well as more practical earthy ones. Tactical Wilderness ones look great, and they have a compass in them! That's helpful if you get lost a lot (though, as someone else who is often lost, let me recommend not going on long confusing walks in the woods). Mountaineer sells a nice looking one in the color "Olive drab" Seriously, why would anyone buy clothing with drab in the title?!?

If you have lots of outdoorswo/men in your life, you can buy a large kit from Paracord Ninja and make them as gifts! How cool!

a man on a hike carrying a topo designs wool backpack
from Topo Designs
5. A ski back pack- "In the outdoor world, folks are always creating new product for niche uses. I have my day hiking pack, my back packing pack, my rock climbing pack, well you get the idea. Since I ski twice a week on average, tt’d be nice to have one specifically designed for skiing." 
Just to Add- Ok, I didn't find much US-made for ski backpack (I did find quite a few snowshoes though). I did find airbag ski bags, which I am not convinced are the same thing (I also found carriers for your skis and your boots made in America). Like I said, not super impressive, but maybe one of these would work for skiing?

I did find some just regular backpacks that might be great for someone you love. My pick for Melissa would be Topo designs, who are based out of Colorado, just like her! These backpacks have really cool but functional designs, and they partner with other great American Woolrich. This one is my favorite for her.

My other top pick would be from Green Guru Gear, which is made out of all sorts of recycled materials (part of their company mission is providing a recycling source for adventure sports). Their backpacks seem to primarily be made for biking, but I think they could be awesome for lots of purposes. Plus, they are made in the USA and all-recycled, so you know I love them. New favorite. If only I enjoyed adventure sports!

Tough Traveler makes a wide variety of durable backpacks that might be great for skiing! We bought a suitcase from them as a gift, and I can vouch for their greatness. Clinton at North Street Bags makes backpacks that look tough, but are in pretty colors! Equinox, who I also love, makes backpacks and backpack covers (in case she could repurpose another bag). Utility Canvas makes really simple backpacks as well.

As a side note, Melissa and Alan are also big photographers, and I found some very tough, but good-looking camera bags. If you have a landscape photographer/ adventurer in your life, I might stop first at Domke. These are serious bags, so this only works if the giftee REALLY takes their photography seriously.

6. This quote “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air” printed on something- "As we know, and with the help of this blog, what we surround ourselves with, and what we use, matter. I love this quote and want to put it up on my desk to always encourage me to adventure into the unknown and experience God’s love for us in creation."
Just to Add- Gah, I love this one! As Melissa could tell you, I love buying she and Alan art, frames and decorations. Our style is so different- I am a colorful mismatched quilt that doesn't make much sense, she is a crisp but warm comforter in a single color with a clean repeating organic pattern embroidered on. I have a whole folder of things I see that are Melissa things, because it's fun to play in her aesthetic.

swim in the sunshine quote print
from words and page
Apparently, Melissa has tons of company admiring this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. I found lots of pretty options! This one might be my absolute favorite, words and page does beautiful calligraphy (and it's on recycled paper). It's simple and clean, but it still reminds me of the outside. There are lots of pretty calligraphic options, which feel really special even if they are simple.

This ceramic sign is refreshingly simple in comparison to the content of the quote- maybe too much? I can't decide, but it does remind me of a book page. This embroidery hoop is clean and feminine, so it might look perfect in an office. If you want to get something like that as a gift but you don't have much money, you could also get a downloadable one like this one and print it out! The last option I really like on Etsy is this wall decal which I think looks really sophisticated and might be perfect in an office.

If you have someone in your life milling over this idea, I would recommend making them an art print with the quote, but use their own photograph! This would especially work for Mel and Alan, because they take spectacular landscape photographs together.
sleeping bag christmas gift
from Western Mountaineering
7. The Big Gift- "Growing up, Santa always brought one big gift whether it be a bike or a Barbie Dream House. My two big gift wishes would be a winter sleeping bag and a new digital piano. I know, opposite ends of the spectrum, but it is what it is. A and I went winter camping 10 years ago in college. I froze to death and still have never gotten over it. We stayed together, but my bitterness remains. For the piano, I started taking lessons with Miss Darlene in Longmont this August. While I have a keyboard, we have progressed quickly and I need the functions (like 88 keys and a pedal) faster than I expected."

Just to Add- First of all, I know the kind of sleeping bag she is talking about (because she told me, to be clear) and they are for really really cold nights (and not just cold like her bitterness, cold like I am not even going outside), and I am not sure what I found hits that level of winter-ness. My pick would be Western Mountaineering, which is only sold in stores, so you have to put your zipcode in and go. They have tons of choices, all organized by horrifying temperatures (I cannot empathize with the desire to sleep in -25 degree weather). They also don't have prices, which makes me feel like I can't afford them because I had to ask. Wiggy's also sells Made in America sleeping bags. Butler Bags makes an all-seasons bag which might not be hardcore enough for Melissa, but it might be perfect for who you are shopping for!

Second, Keyboards. These are tough! Yamaha does have six factories in the US, and from what I can tell, they are the only major brand that does (avoid Casio, boo Casio). Still, I can't seem to find any straightforward answers about which of the keyboards are made domestically and what are made internationally. If you can find that info, send it my way and i will update this!

A Few More Ideas

A Cozy Blanket- Faribault and Woolrich sell blankets that look tough enough for a camping trip and cozy enough for a living room. These aren't cheap either, but I feel like it's a special gift that will last a very long time, even if they have a tough ride out in the woods. Faribault also has a special place in my heart, because they are doing a buy one/ give one program this winter, so for every blanket or scarf you buy from them, they will donate a blanket to help Minnesota's homeless population. That's awesome, and it might be the perfect combination of Melissa's wishlists!

National Park's Monopoly- I love this board game so much for Melissa and Alan, because I feel like they explore national parks more than any other family I know, and like I have said before, travelers love dreaming of future travels. This might be a cool way to do it! Maybe they could play it while hosting?

Boots- I am not talking cutesy riding boots here, I am talking hiking boots. But they can still be cute! I especially like these Danner Boots or these Kamik boots (both made nearby by responsible companies) for those wintery hikes up in the mountains. It sounds terrible to me, but at least your feet will look nice.

Camera Bags and Straps- As a side note, Melissa and Alan are also big photographers, and I found some very tough, but good-looking camera bags. If you have a landscape photographer/ adventurer in your life, I might stop first at Domke. These are serious bags, so this only works if the giftee REALLY takes their photography seriously.

You could also get your hardcore photographer one of these cool Luma Loop straps, which might be particularly helpful for someone who has to move around a lot to get their shot.

liberty bottles we can do it bottle

Water Bottles- You can read about my beloved reusable water bottles elsewhere, but Liberty Bottle now takes the cake. I love this so much, and I will probably buy it for Melissa. Spoiler Alert. Also reading Liberty Bottle's website, I am very encouraged by their priorities as a company, making more jobs and creating less waste.

But outdoorsy people need water bottles. Everyone needs a reusable water bottle- let 2016 be the year we stop using those horrible plastic one time use monsters.

Tents- If you have an aspiring outdoorperson on your list (or have been thinking about a tent yourself) you have good options! Beckel Canvas Tents look like the kind Ron Swanson would like (if he couldn't make his own lean to). Springbar also has lots of great options, so you can get out there and camp it up (maybe in the spring? Unless you have a winter sleeping bag and a will of steel).

Alright, I hope this list gave you inspiration for the outdoorsy person you love! Remember to look at the thrift and vintage stores nearby too, because you might find something on your list for a better price and a more eco-friendly option!

If you are still feeling shoppy, check out my big honking list of lists for more shopping ideas!

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