I'm conflicted when it comes to holiday gift buying. On one side, my inner curmudgeon urges me to opt out as far as possible. Isn't this focus on new stuff at odds with people reducing their negative impacts on the planet? Bah, humbug.
On the other side, I enjoy giving and receiving gifts as much as anyone else. Curmudgeon be gone; let's open presents!
Of course, when you take the time to think it through, you can give gifts that people will enjoy and that are in line with environmental ideals.
Along these lines, my spouse suggested I remind people there's one last Saturday for the Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Village in Urbana. There you can buy locally produced gifts of food, including cheeses from Prairie Fruits Farm, or homemade toffee and jelly. The Holiday Market also is a great place to find locally made craft products, such as jewelry, pottery, paintings, soaps and ornaments.
The gift shop at the Anita Purves Nature Center also offers some interesting options. Operated by the Champaign County Audubon Society, it stocks a wide selection of products that help people connect with nature. Among those are bird feeders, binoculars and a nice selection of field guides, not only for birds but other animals and plants as well.
Of course, for field guides that are specific to the Prairie State, the Illinois Natural History Survey is the place. The survey has produced guides to butterflies and moths, mammals, reptiles and amphibians and mussels. And beyond field guides, they produce many other books, posters and other materials to increase the naturalist's understanding and appreciation of life.
It's possible to buy things at the headquarters for the Natural History Survey in the Forbes Building at 1816 S. Oak St., C, but the hours there are limited to 8:15 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. It may be easier for most people to visit them on the Web at https://shop.inrs.illinois.edu/shop-inhs.html .
Other gifts can promote other sorts of outdoor activities. Are there bicyclists on your list? Quality cycling gloves and jackets can make all the difference in the world for people who continue biking through the winter. Drop by one of our local bike shops to get advice from people who know what's what when it comes to winter cycling. At this time of year, quality lights and extra reflective gear also are likely to be appreciated as gifts.
Of course, quality cold weather gear also enables people — especially children — to better enjoy a walk in the woods or a day of sledding. You can shop for cold weather gear without having to brave the mall by stopping at Champaign Surplus. There you'll have the added benefit of a knowledgeable sales staff.
And while we're on the topic of a walk in the woods, don't overlook the importance of the gift of time. Much of the stuff that is purchased and exchanged in the month to come will be forgotten before long, but the pleasure of time spent with family and friends endures. To my way of thinking, the person who motivates an adventure that enables people to enjoy the outdoors together may give the best gift of all.
Environmental Almanac is a service of the University of Illinois School of Earth, Society and Environment, where Rob Kanter is communications coordinator. Environmental Almanac can be heard on WILL-AM 580 at 4:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Thursdays.