As the holiday season approaches, we are inundated with advertisements to buy, buy, buy! Something for all our family members; something shiny and new for our significant others; something small for all our co-workers; and something for ourselves, of course. The choices on gifts are essentially endless, and the options can overwhelm anyone into simply picking up a gift card, slapping a bow on it, and calling it good.
However, if we stop for a minute and take a breath from mass consumerism, we can remember a time when it was not this difficult to pick out or create a gift for those we know and love. If you think about it, most kids hand-make cards and gifts for their parents. The time and energy that went into these gifts were worth far more than anything they could have bought, and they end up being the most cherished gifts a person could receive for a long time to come. So why don’t we continue this into adulthood?
The main excuse is time (or lack thereof), of course. Many adults become so busy with work, taking care of their home and family (and maintaining their sanity), they just don’t have the time to sit down for arts and crafts. Don’t fret though, instead of buying some shiny object that comes across media outlets, there is a way to show you care (even without having the time to do it yourself). I’m talking about eco-friendly products made of handcrafted materials. For example, an eco-friendly journal can have all the flair of a fancy new gadget, all the hard work of a gift delicately crafted by your hand, and all the meaning of something given from the heart.
One of the most commonly handcrafted papers is Lokta paper. Also called Nepali paper it is made from the bark of the Lokta bush that grows naturally in the Himalayan foothills. The process is incredibly sustainable, doesn’t require any chemicals or machined manufacturing, and a lot of individual energy from local Nepalese villagers goes into making every one of the pages in a Lokta journal. Here’s a glimpse at the process:
- Stripping the Bark:
- The inner bark of the Lokta plant must be stripped by hand and thoroughly cleaned, then chopped into small sections. The batch is then soaked in water for up to 6 hours to soften the fibers.
- Cooking Process:
- After the sections of Lokta bark have soaked, they are cooked in a water and soda solution for 1 to 2 hours. This process helps break down the cells and allow the bark to become more malleable be formed into paper.
- Forming the Paper:
- When the cells have lost their rigid structure, the pulp is pounded with flat rocks to break it down further. It is then poured into a flat wooden mould and allowed to dry in the sun.
The finished product is a paper that is not only pleasant to the eye and to the touch, but also one that is incredibly strong. Since the paper is not bleached or cured with any chemicals to alter its look there are individual variances in every strand that enhance the natural look and feel of the paper. Plus, the Lokta plant is a renewable resource as it regenerates after every pruning (which takes about 2 to 4 years to fully grow back), so a person can not only be satisfied their journal is providing jobs for the Nepalese that will last for years to come, but that the environment is not being destroyed in the process.
Finding the right gift can be a burden. In today’s society is often too easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the season and forget about finding a gift that has real meaning behind it. While there are a lot of great gifts out there, the one with a story, hard work, and meaning behind it will surely stand out above the rest.
Meet the Writer: Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana, where he enjoys amazing access to the great outdoors the area has to offer. With years of wandering in the backcountry, and a love for the environment, he transfers his experiences exploring the great outdoors to guides and stories of surviving in the wilderness.