Green Gifts

by jennifer mccaren
Christmas and Hanukkah are on the way (along with winter solstice and the rest of the traditional winter festivals). Even in Florida, where we expect temperatures to hover in the mid-60s even on our shortest days, this is a time for reflection on the past year, and a time for centering ourselves as we await the return of the sun. It’s also a time for giving gifts to our friends and loved ones. The statistics on environmental impact from our gift-giving traditions are not pretty. 83 million square meters of gift wrap land in British landfills each holiday season, and overall there’s a 25% increase in trash produced during this time. That includes a large quantity of uneaten fruitcake, which, as we know, never actually decomposes. But don’t fear the malls and heaps of plastic wrappings, the Styrofoam peanuts and gas guzzled in traffic jams on Black Friday! There are greener gift options this holiday season.
“Green” gifts can be very roughly categorized into two types: the obnoxiously practical and selfless (i.e. “gee, thanks…”), and the totally fun and innovative (i.e. “gee, THANKS!!!”).
Stick to the former category if you’re seeking a gift for someone who sincerely doesn’t want more stuff in their life. Like your minimalist sister or environmentalist column writing buddy, for example (me, me!). Folks like us might appreciate some fancy new carbon offsets from to absolve us from our driving sins, or a donation in our name of a share in a life-giving cow through a charity like Heifer International (
Much like gift certificates to Amazon, these gifts can be appreciated for their simplicity for the giver, generic usefulness, and the ease with which they can be packed in a suitcase. But if you feel that this sort of gift is impersonal, or if you’re shopping for that high-maintenance boyfriend who really likes gadgets and clothes (for example), you should switch to the second category for some sustainable and fascinating toys.
First, the local angle. If you’re in the market to seriously impress your wife this year, zip on over to Jax E-Bikes, in the Marybuilt Building at Stockton and College Streets. Dylan and Andrea Phillips are selling the best new mode of transportation since walking shoes: electric bicycles that you can charge at home and travel up to 18 miles without sweating. (
For smaller items and a ton of variety, check out one of Treehugger’s excellent green gift guides at:
This is one of the best green gift guides online, by far. Their 2006 guide is particularly fun, and includes an extensive list of smaller items.
The guides, which are released each year, are divided into sections for the green foodie, the green fashionista, green kid’s gifts, green gadgets and more.
Of course, this local farmer always hovers around the green foodie wonders, like sustainably harvested foods and high-quality cookware made from bamboo. Even more fun are tools for learning to make foods from scratch that you normally purchase from the opaque and threatening industrial food system. My personal favorite in Treehugger’s 2006 guide is a pint-sized ice cream churn, in the shape of a ball. Simply add cream, sugar, ice and rock salt; play with the ball for 20 minutes, and you’ll never need to wonder what’s in your Haagen-Dazs again.
Keep in mind when searching for the greenest of gifts that material objects should be given wisely. When in doubt, give something recycled or consumable (note: re-gifting is a very good way to recycle). Spend a little more on high-quality goods that won’t wear out and land in the trash heap in three months. Take a few moments to really think about your gifts and recipients, to make sure it isn’t just “the thought that counts” under layers of disposable wrappings. They’ll surely appreciate it–and so will mama nature.