The Gift of Local by Peggy Malecki
Keeping things simple and local can help us to stay more positive throughout the season, reduce
our stress and make it more gratifying to shop and prepare for our holiday celebrations. Slowing
down and carefully choosing where we spend our dollars also reinforces that the spirit of the
season and gratitude matter far more than an armload of material things.
The holiday season is perfect for getting creative whenever possible! Gifting homemade food
items, framed photos, a rooted cutting from a treasured houseplant, vacation mementos or other
personal items help create new traditions and lasting memories. I also like to create nature
connections whenever possible—think bird feeders, spring seeds and gardening supplies, museum memberships or perhaps an online course in bird ID or nature photography.
By seeking out unique, handcrafted, small batch or locally grown and produced items from
business and farmers in our own communities (or small online sellers), we can bring more joy
and awareness to our holiday celebrations. It’s also a great way to teach our kids about
purposeful shopping, which keeps money in our local economy, connects us to the people and
resources behind our food supply and makes purchases more impactful and sustainable. Many
stores, services, independent garden centers, holiday entertainers and others rely on the annual
holiday season for much of their annual income, and our holiday orders will help keep them
energized into the new year.
The list of options is long for celebrating all things local, and here are some suggestions to help
get you started. Look for craft and artisan markets, community expos and traditional festive
holiday experiences like Chicago’s annual outdoor Christkindl Market, the Chicago Makers Pop-up Shop, the Chicago One of a Kind Show + Sale and Chicago Fair Trade’s annual Pop-up Shop. Many markets have online shops as well, and offer gift cards.
Succulents and houseplants make great gifts (and holiday decorations) and are available at most
independent garden centers. Or look for a dedicated plant shop, where knowledgeable staff can
help you find the right greenery for an indoor growing space. Locally sourced gardening items
and decor, seeds, services and classes make great gifts to inspire urban and suburban gardeners
on your list. Some merchants even offer fun pop-up shops and offer gift cards, as well. If
possible, keep your holiday décor dollars local by seeking out handmade wreaths, swags and
arrangements rather than mass-produced chain store items.
Choices abound for both our holiday tables and the foodies on your list! Some communities are
hosting winter farmers’ markets which, depending on your locale, can include seasonal produce,
farm-fresh items, baked goods, preserves, pickles and condiments, local honeys, herbs and spices
and even handmade pet treats! If you don’t have a farmers’ market nearby, source regional foods
to give or serve from community grocery stores, farm micro-warehouses, year-round farms
stands, food co-ops and specialty shops. Many small producers now offer online delivery of
cheeses, jams, honey and dried fruits, small-batch herbal seasonings and baking mixes, locally
milled flours, decorations and gift items, as well as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
one-time or subscription produce boxes. Resources to check out include Buy Fresh Buy Local
Illinois, Chicago’s Green City Market vendor portal and Artisan Grain Collaborative.
Peggy Malecki is the publisher and owner of Natural Awakenings Chicago Magazine, Chicago’s
leading independent healthy lifestyle publication and media brand, connecting those looking to
take positive steps to lead healthier, more sustainable lifestyles with the information and
resources they need to thrive, and a part of the national Natural Awakenings brand. To read the
online edition, subscribe to the Natural Awakenings Chicago newsletter, or find a Natural
Awakenings magazine in your area, visit NAChicago.com.