Sustainable gift giving

Green Calgary hosted a sustainable gift giving workshop at Hillhurst United Church Nov. 20, teaching participants to make homemade and chemical free lip balm, hand scrub, and even deodorant.

Memories are what people claim the holiday season is about, so perhaps it’s time more people consider handmade gifts over another mall-bought present, and a healthier life is just an added bonus.

“We love things made with love,” said Lynn MacCallum, program assistant and healthy homes advisor.

MacCallum said Green Calgary advocates “doing things instead of getting things.”

The deodorant and lip balm, both made by melting ingredients on a stove top, were shockingly easy to make, and reap great health benefits.

According to Lauren Mangion, owner of the company “Conscious Home,” an average woman uses anywhere from nine to 11 products before leaving the house each morning. That’s more than 200 unnamed chemicals before even leaving the house.

A common ingredient listed on hygiene products is ‘fragrance,’ but the ambiguous term can be comprised of thousands of untested chemicals.

Mangion began investigating chemicals in her own hygiene products, and was shocked to find all the links between them and cancer.

“It’s important we become more conscious of what we are using, and putting on our body,” said Mangion.

The deodorant, perhaps an insulting product to gift to a friend, is apparently quite effective. MacCallum claimed she can go days without reapplying.

While homemade deodorant may be a bit much for the average holiday consumer, taking a quick look under the bathroom counters may not.

Household cleaning products do not legally have to list their ingredients, another potentially upsetting situation hidden from the consumer.

With the colder weather hitting, Calgarians are spending more and more time indoors. Why not control what chemicals you’re touching?

Jori Baum, from Green Calgary, warns consumers to look for an ingredient list on cleaning products, or a third party certification.

Many companies are throwing “little green leaf designs” on their products to appear eco-conscious.

“They self-certify all the time,” she added, calling it “green washing,” similar to brain washing, but specifically tailored to the environmentally minded.

A simple combination of water, white vinegar, and Castile soap creates an all-purpose cleaner with no unnamed chemicals.

Baum explained that the antibacterial properties of white vinegar are exactly the same as chlorine bleach, although cleaning companies have most consumers convinced we need ‘stronger’ cleaners.

“It’s a profit market,” Baum explained.

“It’s fear based,” she said.

Wrapping and packing presents can also take on a greener shade this Christmas with a few simple ideas.

Toss the packing peanuts in favor of shredded recycled paper, popcorn, or even tree boughs, suggests MacCallum.

Re-using different papers can create unique and beautiful wrapping.

Anything from old car maps, sheet music, posters, or even magazine pages were suggested as less wasteful alternatives.

Whether it is helping your loved ones lessen the chemicals they’re surrounded by, or just a simple homemade lip balm, switch up the holidays this year and put a little relationship back in Christmas.

About Amy Reding 6 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Amy Reding worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.