Give the gift of nature


I will admit it. I struggle this time of the year.

Yes, I realize it’s the holiday season, and I should be merry and bright, but I also have grown out of the childhood drama and excitement of Christmas morning that I once had when I was younger.

I do know I suffer and get a little depressed from lack of sunlight, and I’m not fond of cold weather, so I try to make the best of it.

Besides eating comfort foods, I find it’s a great feeling to give, and help others.

Being the nature lover that I am, I’m not only talking about giving to my friends and family, but also about my four-legged friends ­— the wildlife and our natural resources of course.

So here are some ideas for those of you that may be doing your last minute shopping, or need an inspirational idea for later this coming New Year.

Gift with purpose

So in my job as an educator, I’m constantly striving to connect youth to the outdoors and nature.

To appreciate and understand anything outside, and to get away for a moment from the video games, computer, television and cell phone.

Seems impossible sometimes, but I believe that it is needed to create a connection. And perhaps it’s not just with the youth, but even adults.

So, why not think of a gift that helps entice that connection?

Birding and gardening come to mind. And the feeling and enjoyment that one gets from either hobby will last much longer than an article of clothing or a box of candy.


Birding is a gateway “drug” to nature.

Many people get hooked on it, and then learn more about birds, habitats, trees, weather, and conservation efforts, and may even get involved in social media to help with bird counts and citizen reports and sightings.

It’s no wonder over 85 million Americans enjoy observing, photographing or feeding birds.

So what type of gift do you get someone? Well, that depends on the person.

Do they already have a bird feeder? If not, there are many varieties to pick from, and you can never have enough bird seed for these long Ohio winters.

Binoculars and telescopes are great ideas as well. Or a simple bird ID book or magazine might be nice. ­­

Honestly, anyone that has a smartphone can download plenty of apps (like Merlin Bird ID) that are free and, if you are a hardcore birder, you can purchase apps; either way having the information on your phone is worthwhile and handy.

Phone technology also comes in handy with camera capabilities and amazing picture taking as well, another birding enthusiast delight.

Another often overlooked but needed necessity to survival for all animals, including birds, especially in the freezing winter, is the availability of water.

So, if you really want to attract birds to your backyard, opt for a heated bird bath. Birds need to drink water every day, so providing a source of open water can bring birds that may not come to a feeder.

This can be a great gift idea that benefits both the person you give it to and wildlife. This is what I call a win, win for gift giving.

Planting an idea

If a tree is too big and outrageous of a gift idea right now, think green but on a smaller scale.

Is the person already into gardening? Or new to the concept?

An indoor garden can take up as much or as little space as you are willing to give it.

Growing plants of all kinds, from lettuce, spinach, carrots, radish, tomatoes, to herbs and microgreens can be done on a windowsill or on a table.

This might just help beat the winter blahs and you can also get a taste of fresh greens.

Not only do plants cleanse your household and improve the aesthetics of any indoor space, they can provide a family with food.

Some expenses or “gifts” would include grow lights, soil or compost, seeds, shelves and growing containers.

For those wanting to go green this holiday season but not wanting to get a plant or garden, consider compost bins, tumblers or recycling containers as gifts.

Reason for the season

Shopping can be fun, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Don’t lose sight of the meaning of the season, and the reason you are giving a gift.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and appreciates our beautiful natural resources and the treasure of friends and family.

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you keep that in mind, everything will be fine. Have a merry one!


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Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from the University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at



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