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Written by Kim Ogren, BT Contributor   
December 2019

This holiday, give the gift of nature and time

IPix_GoingGreen_12-19f you’re the curious type, check out the fun and instructive video available on YouTube about swapping consumerism for sustainability. It’s called The Story of Stuff. It’s where I learned about the shell game that is planned obsolescence, and that there is no away where we can throw trash.

I’ve bought plenty of pointless holiday gifts, but I’ve also spent time with family outdoors in lieu of all the fuss. I want to share some of those experiences and ideas with you in the hope that they’ll inspire you this holiday season.

My mother was ahead of her time. She was frugal beyond belief, and in many ways more of an environmentalist than my father, who was a professional naturalist.

Mom was the only person I know who could squeeze blood from a turnip and turn it into the best Christmas. Sometimes our holidays seemed “off,” compared to those of my friends. Gifts of socks and toothbrushes were wrapped with care. All the wrapping papers were carefully removed and saved. (The minimum amount of tape was used.) I still have some boxes with 1970s department store names on them.

There were three of us. Christmas was quiet and over in about ten minutes. Then off we were on a boat ride to an undeveloped island or fishing ten miles offshore. Our Christmas tree was often a Florida native cedar -- root ball intact. There are five Christmases’ worth of mature cedars in my yard. Now that both of my parents are gone and the world is degrading so quickly, there’s not much I wouldn’t give for more days like those.

My husband and I usually give each other an experience for birthdays and holidays. Clever one that he is, and not unlike my mother, he can really stretch a holiday. One Christmas he asked me to marry him. The next Christmas we got married. Now we go on a daytime or nighttime leisurely 13-mile bike ride at Shark Valley on our anniversary. I chat with the alligators (I can call them). My husband proudly points out the birds during the day or the constellations by night.

Zookeeper for the Day at ZooMiami was the very best gift my husband ever gave me. They’ve since updated this offering to a VIP guided tour or a behind-the-scenes tour. Spending the day with monitor lizards, accounting for every bird in the aviary, and feeding the owls’ little pinkies while an ambassador talked with me about biology, habitat, and animal behaviors helped fulfill a lifelong dream of mine.

A great source of pride for me is my annual Florida State Park Family Pass. My “locals only” card provides me easy access at a moment’s notice on any drive. There’s a passport for $17.99, for stamping entries, and the family pass costs $120.

With a $30 contribution, you can adopt a turtle through the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The package pairs nicely with a promise to participate in a night nesting walk in June or to attend the annual Tour de Turtles, where hundreds of people gather to watch a satellite tagged turtle crawl into the Atlantic. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton has an exceptional turtle experience, too.

If you’ve never done it, it’s time for a day hike on the Florida National Scenic Trail beginning at the Big Cypress. There’s a perfect three-mile out and back that takes you through a number of habitats. Skip the lines for an airboat ride and just enjoy the easy pace and sounds of nature.

Here are two outings I haven’t tried, but you bet I will soon: The Pelican Harbor Seabird Station sunset cruise and the Biscayne National Park Institute’s sailing trip to Boca Chita.

Finally, the list of programs made available with the Miami-Dade Parks programs is extensive. FUNdamentals of Camping looks perfect.

Every year my father would take me to an outfitter, and we’d select another piece of good camping equipment. One year a tent. Another year some dry bags. A sleeping bag. A water filter. I enjoy them all, and the memory of going together to pick them out. Mostly, I enjoy not getting cold, bitten, or letting wet weather bother me. I’m grateful to have experienced waking on cool mornings in the middle of the Big Cypress with my husband after having backpacked to a camp five miles in.

I hope I’ve saved you a trip to the doctor for one of those prescriptions they’re writing for folks to get outdoors -- though now and then we do need someone to give us that boost, to be told what to do. It takes the will power off our proverbial holiday plate. Feel free to contact me via feedback below for more details or to send your suggestions for fellow BT readers!


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