As a part of my series on how to have a green Christmas, I thought I would get back to the making and giving of green gifts. There is no way you will get through the season without having to buy a gift for someone, even if it’s just a secret Santa thing at the office. It would be nice if you could spend a reasonable amount of money or time and get something that is earth friendly to boot. But it’s not as hard as you might think. The marketplace for eco friendly goods has literally exploded in the past few years and there are offerings of every kind. Remember making or buying green gifts reduces pollution, conserves resources, promotes fair treatment for workers, sends a powerful message to businesses about the importance of environment, and doubles the love of the gift you are giving. Here’s how to find or create great green gifts for everyone on your list.
One of the easiest and most popular is to give food! Gifts such as cookies, organic teas, or gift baskets full of homemade goodies make a thoughtful gift for almost any occasion and produce very little waste. Consider this, if you make this yourself, you can also save on gas and time shopping or standing in line.
Give herbs or fresh flowers. This is for the gardeners out there. If you have a garden full of flowers, herbs, vegetables or houseplants, consider potting or bagging them up and giving them as gifts. Nothing is nicer than fresh plants or flowers or herbs or veggies for the freezer or fridge.
Make beautiful items yourself! If you have a talent for painting, sewing, knitting, handicrafting, wreathing or anything else, consider making personal gifts for your loved ones. Nothing wears better than a sweater crocheted just for you and nothing makes almost anyone happier than a personal or family portrait they can hang on their walls. This kind of giving saves gas, money, packaging and stress.
Another idea for the handyman or woman is to pick up stuff on the side of the road and bring it up to snuff. There are a hundred businesses out there that actually make a living doing this, reselling what other people have tossed. Why on earth would someone object to a freshly painted, refinished, recaned or re upholstered item? Consider recovering jewelry boxes, repainting rocking horses, reupholstering bar stools and giving these as gifts? No on will know the difference and you’ll help the planet… and make your friends happy.. at the same time!
Also consider giving the gift of service. Make up a little card or a coupon they can “use” to have you babysit, shovel snow, mow their yard, prepare meals, wash or walk the dog, etc… Anything you can do for someone else has value. And better yet, this is free for everyone!
Buy a star, support a cause or donate to a local charity. Do you know what moves a particular person, a cause or subject that they care about? Donate to the charity, advocacy group or activist organization and get a handwritten receipt you can turn into a card. If you buy stars and have them named after your friend, you will receive a certificate to gift at Christmas. Consider also sponsoring a child or an animal in your friends’ name. You will get a photo and bio to place under the tree.
You could also give a gift certificate for a service such as a trip to the beauty salon, a massage, yard service, errand runners or a green housecleaner. The possibilities are endless. And even if businesses don’t offer gift certificates, make one up yourself and redeem it when the time comes.
Give gifts that don’t require throwing anything away! Like dinner, show or movie tickets. Although sending your friends to the movies can use up gas and cause waste of another kind, at least they aren’t tossing more wrapping paper into the landfill. Concert tickets and tickets to sporting events are the favorites.
Try buying preowned or used items at a local thrift shop or flea market. I know most Americans think this is gross or only for desperate people but it’s not at all true. I always give used stuff to new mothers. I go to consignment shops and get great deals on bibs, booties and bassinets. Then I advise the mom to take it back to another consignment shop when they’re done. Heck, the stuff is clean and green!
Always buy local. It will save both money and carbon. Get a basket of fresh vegetables or herbs from a local farm. Check out local artisans and buy pottery or paintings there. Visit a herbalist or aromatherapist and buy their handmade oils or colognes. Any idea like this saves carbon from long distance delivery and retail packaging waste.
And, the no brainer now. Buy recycled! Look for stuff that contains recycled materials. Buy natural materials vs plastic or rubber. If you really look around you will be surprised to see how many items are currently available that are partially or totally recycled. Support recycling by doing this and reduce carbon and waste in the process.
Try not to buy so many electricity powered gifts. Try buying more collectibles, art, crafted items, gift baskets, cosmetics and other use but don’t plug in stuff. This saves a lot of energy overall. If you MUST buy a tech toy for a child or friend, toss in rechargeable batteries with a recharger. This helps a lot.
And last but not least: buy green! Look for fair trade, organic, locally grown or handmade items as much as possible. Consider also giving gifts that will make the recipients life “greener”! Things like low flow showerheads, CFLs & fixtures, a compost bin, solar lights for the yard, etc… the ideas are numerous and wonderful!