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Gifts that won't cost the earth

PUBLISHED: 11:10 30 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:22 20 February 2013

Kristina Boulden, Romney Marsh Wools

Kristina Boulden, Romney Marsh Wools

Christmas is a time of giving, and who better to give a present to than the environment? Well, probably your friends and family. But what if there was a way to find a gift that puts a smile on a loved one's face and helps the earth?

Some people might appreciate a more unusual gift but lets face it; its not to everyones taste. There are plenty of us who look forward to tearing the wrapping paper open and having something that we can get our hands on straight away. And theres nothing wrong with that, but there are ways to make sure whatever it is can be green at the same time.


GREEN GIFTS


When you buy a product from us you can be sure that its been made to the highest environmental standards, says Eileen Holford of Wild Planet. Most face, bath and soap products are made industrially, which means plenty of energy.
Our products are cold processed by hand and so much less energy intensive. We select only the freshest, highest quality ingredients from suppliers who work closely with long-established, organic and ethical producers from the planets ideal growing regions.
Where possible, we also try to get our ingredients locally and use Kentish lavender and Rosemary in some of our products. Our gift sets, which come in sustainable packaging, would make an ideal Christmas present for a loved one this year.
Sustainability is also at the heart of Romney Marsh Wools. The farm, which is run by Kristina Boulden and her husband, offers a range of gifts made from their locally produced wool.
There are so many environmental benefits to buying one of our throws or rugs. They are hard wearing, so not as disposable as many other similar products. Everything is hand-woven, which is less energy intensive and we also use natural dyes, which are more ecologically sound, says Kristina.
I think its also important to take into consideration the local aspect. Not only does this mean that you are getting something with less carbon-miles, you are also supporting a farm that had been an integral part of the Romney Marsh for generations.
We have a good choice of products for all incomes, ranging from simple woolsacks to large throws. It wouldnt be an article about Christmas without mentioning food. Its the one time of year when we all like to indulge ourselves a little.
Jonathan Parker of Food for Kent says that their hampers offer the chance to buy someone a gift that is both packed full of high-quality food and green at the same time.
The ethos behind our business is about supplying great quality local produce to people, with minimum environmental impact, he explains.
We have a number of hampers available, including Bubbles, Salmon & Truffles, Canterbury Tales, Garden of England, High Tea and Pilgrims Trail. They range in price from
around 23 to 60.
Each hamper contains a selection of great foods from around our county. We always try to minimise the food miles and with that in mind, we source food from as close to our Ashford premises as possible. We also make sure that when deliveries are made, the drivers collect produce from farms and businesses nearby at the same time.


SPONSORING


If you want to buy someone an ethical gift, then The Kent Wildlife Trust offer several ways, says supporter relations officer, Emma Barnes. One of the most popular choices is the sponsoring of an animal and we have several to choose from, including dormice, hedgehogs, barn owls, tiger beetles, kingfishers, seals, Exmoor ponies and highland cows.
She adds: Sponsoring can really make a difference. Take the dormouse Kent is one of the strongholds of these secretive animals. Due to loss of habitat, their numbers have declined, but Kent Wildlife Trust is working to reverse this trend by putting up nest boxes to help the survival and breeding success of this little mouse.
Sponsorship prices range from 9 to 30, depending upon the size of animal you choose. If animals arent your cup of tea then another option is to dedicate a tree, as Emma explains.
Trees are vital to Kents wildlife whether its a spectacular 1,000 year old oak, a young silver birch sapling or a majestic beech tree. Some of these trees would not survive without proper management. By dedicating a tree, it will be a lasting gift.
We have six sites where people can choose a tree: Yockletts Bank, Wattle Wood, Spong Wood, Quarry Wood, Brenchley Wood and Kiln Wood. Each dedication costs 15 and every sponsor gets a gift card, certificate, a map, a fact sheet and a photograph.
If you want to think big, then why not opt for an entire habitat? Kent is home to three precious habitats, some of international repute, such as the Oare Marshes, which are important for migratory, over wintering and breeding wetland birds. All can be sponsored chalk grasslands, ancient woodland and wetlands and coast and each costs just 25.
Habitats such as this and others in the county need to be managed and protected, and for this we need your help, says Emma.


COURSES


Much of what we eat is imported from abroad, often at significant environmental cost. Any yet there is plenty of food just lying around the Kent countryside waiting to be eaten, and perhaps more appealingly, its free, too.
I run a course that can teach people to make the most of the wild food that surrounds us says local foraging expert Fergus Drennan.
My courses typically last for between eight and 12 hours and involve foraging in different
habitats, such as woodland, field, river and seashore.
The aim is to provide a general introduction to seasonally available wild plants, how to harvest them sustainably and how to utilise them as food. Lunch is served inside with a range of deliciously cooked seasonal wild food that you will have collected.
Dinner is cooked on an open fire. I like to encourage people to get involved with the cooking.
The courses themselves take place near Canterbury and the surrounding coast. The cost is 115 per person, which includes a full 12-hour day, two foraged three-course meals, something tasty to take home, information sheets and transportation back to your hotel at the end of the day if required.
If foraging seems a bit too much work, then Alan Sage of AJS Crafts thinks that another option could be to enrol somebody on a course that teaches them to create things they need from the countryside.
I run a wide range of different courses, including basketry, willow sculpture, plant supports, hurdle making, rustic furniture, green woodworking, living willow structures and wreath making, he says.
The courses vary in price from 20 to 120. I think they make an ideal gift to give to friends or partners as the person on the course not only enjoys the experience of making something special but they also get to take it home with them. So its like giving two presents.
In fact, many people have said what a great present it was after attending a course that was given as a gift. What they produce is also ecologically sound. Not only does it replace buying something that might be factory produced and imported, which means plenty of carbon emissions, but also the wood we use is cut by me from sustainably managed local ancient woodland.
So these products are completely natural, biodegradable and help to maintain and preserve our ancient Kentish landscape.

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