From my very first post I wanted to pay homage to the speech which inspired the title of my blog, Ain't I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth. Such a beautiful speech, such a beautiful name, such a beautiful woman. It is one of my favorite pieces. I strive to emulate this style in my own work. Poetic and powerful. Honest and unafraid. Memorable. And I like brevity. It too is beautiful. This is the standard I wish to be held to as I explore the question with you ~ ain't I a writer?
"Obliged to you for hearing me, and I do have a few things more to say..."

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For locals

Jolly Green Gift Giving
By Tammi J Truax
     You have been hearing a lot lately about how shopping locally is good for the environment, and by that we mean both the fragile ecosystem that is our home and the fragile economic system that rules it. Spending your hard earned cash at local, independent shops, businesses that used to be called Mom and Pop operations, is the right thing to do. If you want to go a step further, as many of your local merchants have done already, you can do even more good by buying green goods. That means choosing products that have the smallest carbon footprint (the negative impact the item has made on the planet) before coming to you and maybe after purchasing, and in most cases that means you, or the recipient of the gift, benefit as well, by less exposure to impure parts or ingredients.
      Karen Marzloff of Seacoast Local further explains why shopping locally is important, “New Englanders are projected to spend $700 each this holiday season, and every dollar spent locally creates up to three times the economic activity in our communities. Around the country, economists forecast that U.S. consumers will spend approximately $445 billion during the 2010 holiday season. Every one of those dollars spent at local independents helps ensure that they will remain local economic engines for years to come and maximizes the growth of economic security, rather than sending away profits to corporations that own big box stores and out-of-town chains.”

     So remember that when you spend money at a chain store in your town, most of that money is leaving town, and is more likely to be reinvested in someplace like China than in Portsmouth. If you follow Seacoast Local on Face Book or Twitter they will post holiday specials being offered by local indies throughout the season. For your holiday gift selection consideration I asked just a small sampling of the many fine shop owners we have ready to serve us, what is their greenest gift offering this year, and here is what some of them said;

     The owner of Blue Moon Imports at 1 Washington St. Centre in Dover said, “The greenest gifts I have this year are beautiful fair trade purses and Christmas ornaments made out of recycled sari fabrics from India. Each piece is hand embroidered and truly unique. They are absolutely beautiful!”
      Liz Wright, co-owner of FaLaLo at 51 Ceres Street has a bounty of well-researched green goods but decided, “Our greenest gift is the recycled phone book bag. They come in three sizes, and have two different types of handles. They’re not only recycled, but also fair trade. They are made in the Philippines by women who work with the not-for-profit organization Handcrafting Justice.”
     Heather Lessard, partner and poet-in-residence at Tulips Handcrafts on Market Street says her greenest gift is “Herlihedrons” which are spectacular sculptural assemblages created by local artist Nina Herlihy who collects objects like driftwood and seashells and turns them into something else like mermaids, owls, even Santa’s! Tulips carries almost exclusively New England made arts and crafts.
     Owner of Puttin’ On The Glitz at 150 State Street, Assiah Russell, recommends her line of Stephanie Robb Designs of silver and gold jewelry with natural stones, and she recently went to Buffalo, New York to check out the company. You won’t get research like that done for you at a retail chain store. She says, “All pieces are hand-crafted by a small design team that employs four women who sit around a work table and collectively work on designing. All scraps are recycled so there is no waste. The quality and price-point are excellent. A fine example of a woman dedicated to producing an entire line, totally made in America and supporting her local women.”
     Image Arts at 738 Islington Street Plaza 800 can surround your art (hopefully created by a local artist) in custom frames made from sustainable wood. For this they use a company that offers a line of eco-care frames that are produced from managed forests with an active reforestation program. They use organic water based stains on the molding with no chemical solvents. 
     If you have expectant or new parents or a baby on your list Nest Maternity and Baby Clothing and Gifts at 601 Islington Street carries almost exclusively green items for the purity of the products. They carry every conceivable supply for diapering little green babies, and organic toys and clothing, and sweet burp cloths handmade by the owner’s Mom. I really like the Willie Nelson onesie.
     Also for the little ones, head mom and buyer, Jody Breneman, of the family-run shop G. Willikers!  at 13 Market Street said her greenest gift is the wonderful fire truck ($26.00) for ages 1 to 7 years. It is made by Green Toys which produces American made products from recycled milk jugs. She will soon have the entire line on hand which includes a tug boat that will tug at your heart. The fire truck has won two toy awards this year. G. Willikers! also features many children’s books by local authors which I really appreciate, and they offer shipping and free gift wrapping.
     You would be hard pressed to find a greener shop anywhere than the two operating out of the 76 Congress Street storefront. They are 1 World Trading Company which says they are “purveyors of goods that benefit the planet and the people that live on it.” They carry everything you need to green up your home and your lifestyle. When pushed to divulge what was the greenest gift of all proprietor Paul Keegan chose The Klean Kanteen, a food grade stainless steel travel container for hot or cold drinks combined with a colorful handmade Guatemalan pouch, citing the gifts ongoing contribution to the globe every time it is used instead of a plastic water bottle. Available in two sizes, from $24. to 26.  For an inexpensive gift, they carry a handcrafted, organic, and minimally packaged soap that is blended by bicycle power in Massachusetts. Available in several scents, I think the peppermint would make a festive Christmas gift. Paul also runs Re-Cycles which sells bicycles he has refurbished that were going to the landfill. You can’t get much greener that that.
     I did some of my Christmas shopping at 1 World where I bought an organic cotton tee made in India with 80% wind power, printed with Earth friendly ink in the USA, and designed by a Keene artist with the slogan New Hampshire - Live Green or Die for a friend that moved away (they say they will plant a tree for every tee sold and that if the recipient plants the tag wildflowers will bloom), a pretty handmade charm bracelet for a girl that collects them, bamboo ski socks for my black diamond daughter, and a bar of doggie soap from a local farm.
     And Santa if you’re reading this, while I was at Worldly Goods on Congress Street I saw the warmest women’s mittens made from recycled sweaters for $59. a one-of-a-kind pair!  A bonsai tree from Little Timbers Nature Store right up the street is a fairly green gift for happy growers (like me), and I believe vintage estate jewelry from Market Square Jewelers is a green idea vastly underrated. (Do we really need to mine any more diamonds and gold?)  And thank you Santa, for all of the green good you do too. More people should make their own toys and get around in a sleigh. Let our local merchants know if you need anything and they will be happy to help you fill up your pack.