Gifts and resolutions for sustainable living

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The season of gift giving has passed. The time of resolutions has also passed. Long after they have been lost or broken, the wish to do better, be better, give better and live better remains — often seemingly futile wishes.

Do something for yourself or give friends gifts that promote health and sustainable living any time you want. Goodness is not limited to the solstice season.

Everyone eats! Find locally grown food or give a gift membership in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Locally grown food is fresher and often tastes better. Membership will provide your friends with a growing season of farm-fresh food that is good tasting and often organic.

Even better, grow your own food. Tomatoes and salad greens are perennial favorites, easy to grow, and prolific. Give small planters and a sampling of garden seeds. After you and your friends have tried gardening, add other greens, then branch out more.

Try preserving some of your homegrown food — a few jars of jam, canned tomatoes or pickles. If you like what you’ve prepared, gift some to friends. These are always appreciated and remembered long after they’re gone.

Plant a tree. Try landscaping with fruit trees that provide the bonus of fresh, homegrown fruit in season. Give a favorite fruit in the form of a tree, which will expect loving care. You will have given so much more than a tree — you will have provided an opportunity for a new, pleasant experience with nature in the outdoors.

Bring together a group of friends or encourage an existing organization to give a gift of a tree to a local park. They will provide beauty and shade for us, shelter for birds, food for small animals, and oxygen for all.

Try a pet for yourself or your friends that requires little, but gives much. A chicken loves to chase small pieces of fruit such as a grape or peck at breadcrumbs. It also relishes leftover vegetables. Your pet will supply several fresh eggs a week.

Provide experiences that have a lower environmental impact than expensive toys for either children or adults. Take a child to a science museum, on a nature hike or fishing. Give a gift membership in an environmental organization, botanical garden or a museum. These are delightful experiences that can be enjoyed throughout the year with almost no environmental impact.

Enjoy local resources that will require less transportation as well as leave more money in the local community. Visit art displays, enjoy specialty foods at a local restaurant, attend a local theater. Give gifts of tickets to local events or a night’s stay at a local B&B — a mini vacation.

Give a gift certificate to a shop that deals in environmentally friendly products — handmade soap, homemade baked goods, hand-knit clothing, or local art.

All of these things that you do for yourself or give to friends will make you feel good and be healthier and will have a light impact on the Earth.

The season of giving may peak in December, but the spirit of giving can live throughout the year.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the Jan. 7-13, 2015, issue

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