Giving Green Gifts
Green gifts are presents that require fewer resources and result in less waste than conventional mass-produced items. They can be bought new items, repurposed old items or old items made new through the magic of recycling. Get an early start on your new year's resolutions and pledge to give green this season with a little help from Green Neighbors. Here are some ideas to get your green giving traditions rolling.
What to Look For in a Green Gift:
Minimal packaging: All too often that little toy, gadget or appliance is wrapped up in more packaging than can be justified. It’s easy to associate plastic wrapping with newness and newness with goodness. Look for items with minimal packaging when you make your purchases.
Durability: The less something breaks the less often it will need to be replaced. Durability usually requires an upfront investment but it pays off in the long run.
Reusability: Ask yourself, “What happens when the recipient of this gift no longer uses it?” Some of the best green gifts can be passed between people instead of ending up in the landfill.
Give your skills: Are you a piano aficionado? A great cook? An accomplished tennis player? Whatever your skill may be it has value as a green gift! Give piano lessons to your granddaughter, a baking class to your coworker or teach your sister how to play tennis.
Give your time: Babysitting, organizing the basement or going to that show they’ve been trying to convince you to see with them. You can make coupons to give to your friends and family that can be redeemed for your time. Sometimes it’s nice to offer time with you; sometimes it’s nicer to offer time from you, two hours of time cleaning out the garage makes a pretty generous gift.
Give a carbon offset: Help a loved one offset their carbon footprint or even go carbon neutral by buying them a carbon offset. There are a number of options; carbonfund.org for instance allows you to offset the carbon emissions generated annually by an average individual, couple, or family of four. You can also choose to offset someone‘s car, air travel or home emissions using their built in calculations. For just $20 you can offset two tons of CO2 emissions or a flight up to 10,000 miles.
Give a donation in someone’s name: A classic green gift is a charitable donation in the name of a loved one. Not only is donating a waste-free way of giving, but it can go directly to environmental efforts. Be sure to research charities thoroughly before you make a donation.
Give something repurposed: All those clothes at the back of your closet could be turned into a dress-up treasure chest for your young niece. What about that old pile of wood scraps you’ve been collecting to burn, but despite the abundant holiday fires seems to be growing larger rather than smaller? Those could easily be cut into blocks for your young nephew to build a castle with. Those annoying single socks can find a new life as puppets and that old tire that’s been lying around can become a swing.
Give something recycled: It’s easy to make decorations, jewelry and other accessories with recycled materials. From transforming old magazines pages into beads that make a beautiful necklace to pillows made from old flannel shirts, there is endless potential for gifts made from salvaged material. Check out Etsy.com for some great ideas.
Give something that
grows: Plants and seeds make great gifts for anyone with a green thumb on
your list. Pair vegetable seeds with boards and top soil for a raised bed
gardening kit that will be sure to please the plant-lover in your life. For
those who live in an apartment without access to outdoor gardening space, the
gift of a window box garden kit makes it easy to grow herbs and vegetables
without taking up valuable space. Even for those who can’t seem to keep a plant
alive to save their life, succulents in an attractive terrarium featuring rocks
and moss can be a green gift that brightens up any home.
Give something reusable: Tupperware, bags, jars, travel mugs, beeswax fabric wrap, use any of the above to replace single use items like plastic bags, cling wrap and disposable coffee cups for someone special in your life. Think of how much material could be saved if you gave a durable thermos or travel mug to someone who regularly uses a disposable coffee cup!
Give something secondhand: Vintage shirts, antique furniture and used books all make great green gifts. Secondhand gifts give a second chance to items which may otherwise end up in the landfill and come "pre-loved" which can make them even more special. Thrift and vintage spots are great places to find secondhand gifts and so is the back of your closet.
Give something gentler: Many store bought cosmetics, lotions and balms contain dangerous chemicals and additives. You can make your own personal care products at home out of natural ingredients and give a gentler touch than the conventional alternative. Try making homemade lip balm for instance, all you'll need is beeswax, honey and almond oil. One nice thing about making these kinds of gifts is that they are so easy to personalize; you can make a big batch of lotion and then add different essential oils for each person on your list to match their favorite scent.