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October 25, 2009

Top Five Homemade All-Natural Gifts. ~ via Aliza Sollins

Homemade all-natural gifts don’t have to be fancy, time consuming projects.

In fact, many of these items take just as much time to make as driving to the mall and fighting the crowds. They’re a lot of fun to make, and they’re better for the Earth.

If your gift is made with organic, fair trade, or local ingredients, be sure to include that information on a little card with your gift. It’s a great way to introduce folks to the value of consuming SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical) products.

These other nice thing about a homemade gift is that they are perfect for almost anyone, from your office holiday gift exchange to your parents.  Make a batch of several gifts to save time and energy.

Here are some examples of homemade all-natural gifts:

Infused Alcohols, Oils, and Vinegars

Infuse olive oil with basil, oregano, and garlic. Steep orange peels or ginger in a bottle of vodka. Make a scented all-natural cleaning spray by soaking lavender in white vinegar.

You will get a great reaction from these very useful gifts, and they take literally seconds to make. Just drop the herbs into your liquid, let steep for a few weeks, strain the solids from the liquids, and that’s it!

A nice recipe (perhaps for a vegetarian meal?) or instructions on how to use your gift is also helpful to include.

Potted Plants

Inspire someone to get a little green in their life! Herbs are a perfect beginner’s plant because they don’t require as much care as tomatoes or squash, and they grow prolifically. They are perfect for making the infused oils, alcohols, and vinegars described above. Flowering herbs are a wonderful way to attract local pollinators like butterflies and bees.

If you don’t have a green thumb, purchasing a plant is fine. They are a great natural gift that also helps purify your indoor air.

Basil can be easily propagated by placing the cut stems of basil from the store or a friend’s garden into a glass of water. In a few weeks, roots will sprout! Aloe Vera is another plant that propagates easily, and it seems like the more you ignore it, the more it grows.

Pie-in-a-Jar

A great way to give the gift of local fruit. This project does require some time, so you might want to throw a party with friends and make a celebration out of it!

There are several websites with different recipes. Some recipes give directions for an apple-pie filling that can be stored right in your cupboard. There are other recipes for making actual pies with a crust in a jar that can be stored in the freezer and baked in the oven.

Homemade granola is a great gift that can be given separately, or in addition to your apple-pie filling to make a complete “organic apple-pie gift set.”

Homemade Hot Sauce or Chocolate Sauce

If you can stir up a pot of Campbell’s soup, you can make your own hot sauce or chocolate sauce.

There are many different chocolate sauce and hot fudge recipes online and in cookbooks. Here’s a very simple recipe that just includes sugar, chocolate, water, and vanilla. A delicious treat that can be made in just a few moments with high-quality products and Fair Trade chocolate.

Hot peppers are flooding the local markets right now. Omnomicon has great step-by-step instructions for making your own spicy condiment from these cheap and easy-to-grow vegetables.

Foraged Items

Take a relaxing autumn walk in the woods and gather up any beautiful items you see. You will be surprised at how useful your natural findings can be for making winter gifts.

Dried seedpods, leaves, and flowers make a perfect base for potpourri. Sprinkle on a few drops of essential oil, put into a pretty jar, tie on a ribbon, and that’s it!

Mint, lemon balm, and other herbs often grow wild in yards and gardens. Gather some up to dry for an herbal tea. Or make a beautiful keepsake by adding a photograph along with your dried leaves, flowers, or stones to a shadowbox or picture frame.

If you have the time and energy, you might even forage for local nuts like walnuts, acorns, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and even mesquite, depending on what grows in your area.

Of course, if you don’t have the time and energy to make your own, there are plenty of great resources for purchasing eco-friendly, handmade gifts.

Etsy.com is the most famous of these, and is a great source for everything from handspun yarn to clothing and jewelry made from recycled items.

Foodzie.com is a great new resource, very similar to Etsy, except that instead of selling independently made crafts, they sell independently made food products.

Happy Making!

Aliza Sollins is an urban homesteader in Baltimore City, MD. Her adventures in vermicomposting, canning, container gardening, knitting and other sustainability projects can be found at her website.

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