NCVA top 10 picks for awesome local and vegan holiday gifts

The holidays can present a minefield of issues for vegans, including vegan unfriendly events and parties, receiving unvegan gifts from well-intentioned friends and family, and finding gifts to purchase for others that fit within the vegan ethical framework.

The amount of money that is spent every year on useless and unwanted gifts is astounding, and much of it lines the pockets of big box stores rather than the local establishments, owned by community members who contribute to a sense of community.

With that in mind, I decided to create a list of some of the best vegan-friendly holiday gifts, the purchase of which supports local, ethical businesses. When you purchase the gifts listed here, you can rest easy knowing that the money you spend will stay within the community, will support local business owners, and will be in accordance with vegan ethics.

1. Hand made gifts by Tweal

A yoga bag by Tweal.

Local artisan Judy Panke is the creative force behind Tweal, a small online business that sells eco fashions, quilts, bags and accessories, all handmade with love using re-purposed re-used, recycled and upcycled fabrics.

All items are one-of-a-kind and made without a traditional pattern, so you’re guaranteed to be the only person with any exact item! All pieces are individually sized with exact measurements given in inches. To check out Tweal’s creations, visit Judy in person at the Craftalicious sale on December 10, at 217 First Avenue, or visit and order through the online store.


2. Organic vegetables for the whole family

This suggestion may be best for the patient people on your list, but is one of those gifts that just keeps on giving. Local vegan farmers Jim and Gen of Our Little Farm offer Community Supported Agriculture baskets of the freshest, organic, and began vegetables around, available at two convenient pick up spots. This is a great way to not only give the gift of healthy produce, but it also supports a farmer and their family living within the community.

For more information visit their website.


3. New American Vegan

Don’t let the name fool you; New American Vegan is the work of Ottawa vegan Vincent Guihan. Ottawa-born and bred he is not however; Guihan grew up near Chicago, and was fed American comfort food until he went vegetarian, and later vegan, as a teenager.

This cookbook is a nod to that upbringing, but which incorporates kale, collards and other greens into a substantial number of recipes. If you are considering a cookbook for anyone on your list, New American Vegan would be a great option.

Order it through Amazon, or Chapters.


4. Cooking classes with Credible Edibles

Credible Edibles offers a range of informative, interactive cooking classes, including sensational soups, holiday cooking, kids kreative cooking, Full of Beans, and Forks Over Knives. If there is someone on your list who is interested in taking a cooking class, this is an ideal gift.

Credible Edibles sells gift certificates for the classes, in any denomination. They are redeemable for any class of the person’s choice. Owner Judi Varga-Torth is aiming to have the January-February schedule ready by end of this month so that it can accompany gift certificates for the holidays. Check out the website for more details about the types of classes that are offered.


5. Dr. Michael Greger’s vast wealth of knowledge

Dr. Greger is not from Ottawa, but he was a speaker at Veg Fest 2010, wowing the audience with his interactive presentation and vast wealth of facts and information.

Whether you want to get healthy for Hanukkah, feel less crummy for Christmas, or get trimmer for 2012 — or just want to spread the word to everyone on your gift list — Dr. Greger has just posted a new holiday DVD sale on his website.

For a limited time only, you can order a set of all six volumes of his Latest in Nutrition DVDs (which includes eight disks) for $75. He is even willing to include a personalized gift note, if you ask nicely. As always all proceeds are donated to charity.


My husband and I's foster squirrels, Terror and Erebus, from the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

6. A Charitable Donation

There are a number of worthy local charities dedicated to helping animals, most of which are entirely volunteer-run, and all of which need support. Some are even run by vegans. When people ask me what I want for Christmas, donating to charity is my response, because the animals need the help more than I do.

A few examples of local animal-helping charities doing great work, and who are in need of support include Westminster Pet Sanctuary, Teja’s Animal Rescue, Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Wild Bird Care Center and New Moon Rabbit Rescue.


7. A NCVA Membership

This is another gift that gives all year long! Only $20, a NCVA membership entitles card holders to discounts at many local restaurants and services, including The Table, Green Earth, ZenKitchen, Cafe My House, Lieutenant’s Pump, and many more.

Order them online through Paypal, and just be sure to note that it is a gift membership, who it is for, and where it should be sent. We will take care of the rest, including a festive card that informs the recipient of your gift.

Order an NCVA membership by clicking here.


8. Simply Raw Detox Program

Natasha Kyssa

The 28-day SimplyRaw Detox Program is a natural approach to improved health that will help you to both cleanse and nourish your body with nutritious fresh plant food by making gradual week-by-week changes, encouraging the consumption of natural whole plant foods, rich in antioxidants, and eliminating processed, acid-forming foods.

Natasha Kyssa, who runs the program, has been a pillar of the Ottawa veg community for years, and brings a wealth of knowledge and endless encouragement to those participating in the program. The next group class starts Jan. 8, 2012, and meetings are held on Sundays from 6 pm – 7 pm.

If you have someone on your list who is more of a do-it-yourselfer, consider giving them Natasha’s book, the Simply Raw Detox Manual, available on Amazon.


9. Purple Urchin Soaps

For those on your Christmas list who like smelly bath products, consider Purple Urchin. I first met the proprietors of Purple Urchin a couple of years ago at a Christmas craft sale. They were new to Ottawa, and selling mostly (although not all) vegan soap products that are handmade from scratch. Purple Urchin makes 100 per cent natural products, which are either unscented or scented with essential oils, and 97 per cent natural products, which are scented with high-quality fragrance oils.

I recently learned that they have opened a small shop in Ottawa’s Chinatown neighbourhood, selling their handmade soaps and other goodies like soy candles. Why pick up a chemical-laden soap basket at the drug store when you can have the all-natural goodness of Purple Urchin, AND support a local business in the process? (Read the ingredients though- not everything is vegan.)


10. A Gift Certificate for someplace new

As a vegan, it is very important to me to introduce people to vegan culinary delights; to show non-vegans that there is great food to be had, and it aint at Swiss Chalet.

So next time you need to go the gift certificate route for someone on your list, consider giving them a gift certificate for ZenKitchen…or Café My House…or Auntie Loo’s Treats… or any of the wonderful vegan or vegan-friendly that we patronize, that make eating out enjoyable for us year-round. There is no reason why our omnivorous friends and family wouldn’t enjoy a meal there, but they may never give it a shot without the added incentive.

So, don’t be afraid to support our local businesses this way; it is an important step towards normalizing our lifestyle to the masses.

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