green your gift list

by anna rabhan
This holiday season, many of us are trying to think of a way to make our gifts unique, meaningful and environmentally friendly – easy on the wallet wouldn’t hurt either. Use the ideas that follow to inspire you to think along the lines of the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. These gift suggestions are sure to impress with their creativity and thoughtfulness and are environmentally friendly at the same time. As a bonus, the three Rs tend to be money savers. Green – it’s not just for the tree anymore!
Handmade gifts are always a hit because they reflect the time and effort taken by the giver. There are dozens of options from baked goods and confections to wine cork bulletin boards and trivets. Let’s take one example – candles – and green it up. Melt your candle scraps down for reuse. You don’t need fancy equipment. A clean food tin in a pot of boiling water makes a great double boiler. Add a festive ribbon from last year’s gift exchange to a simple, scented votive and you have a great gift for a friend. Have a gardener on your gift list? Use that tiny terra cotta pot that’s been in your garage for a year – just fill it with a wick and wax.
You can also reuse by saving up a few wine bottles to package your own homemade spirits in. Flavored liquors are surprisingly easy to make. Corks can also be cleaned and reused, or you can purchase corks in thrift, craft and specialty wine and beer hobby shops or online at
Save spice jars to package your own homemade spice mixes, flavored popcorn salts, rubs or homegrown dried herbs. Most glass bottles you use make good packaging for infused olive oils too.
Reuse for the office as well. Take some of those clothespins you have at home, hot glue or screw them in alternating up/down positions on a scrap of carpenter’s trim and paint as a gift for the guy in the next cubicle who can never find the bit of paper he wrote that all-important phone number on.
While you’re in the garage with those terra cotta pots, gather the broken ones. Not only can you use them to improve drainage in future plantings, they can be recycled into holiday gifts too. Does your favorite gardener like to entertain? Wash the broken pieces of pottery and stencil common buffet dish names on them, such as the names of various cheeses. Delivered in a larger pot wrapped with a pretty bow, they make for a classy gift.
Your decorator friend (or your friend who just finished redecorating) will love this next clever gift. Cut out paint swatch cards with a scrapbooker’s punch in whatever shape or design you like and insert a half-inch ring through a small hole in the card. Clean out a small paint sample can and fill it with these wine glass tags that your friend can write guests’ names on at his or her next party. Those same paint swatch cards, artfully cut, make great buffet tags and place cards too.
If you do opt for store-bought gifts this year, there are ways to green up that choice as well. Make a conscious effort to buy gifts that required minimal transportation. That means buy gift certificates from local businesses and restaurants or gifts from locally-owned shops that source their inventory close to home. You get to give a special, green gift and support the local economy! Also, buy items sold in minimal packaging. All those formed plastic inserts add up in landfills. Offer to collect any unwanted boxes and wrapping at your holiday gift exchange. Recycle everything possible and do your best to find other uses for the rest.
Another category of eco-friendly gifts is the “intangible” gift. Make a donation in someone’s name to their favorite charity or organization. If your sister is an animal lover, make a donation in her name to First Coast No More Homeless Pets ( or to the Humane Society of Jacksonville ( Donate to public radio in the name of that friend who loves 89.9 ( The nature lover on your gift list would surely appreciate a donation made in his or her name to the Riverkeeper ( While you’re at it, a not-so-intangible item that would make a great gift for any and all Jacksonville residents would be the Riverkeeper’s recently released Get Your Feet Wet guidebook to the St. Johns. Intangible gifts can also be doing something for others. You and your friends may have talked about joining a food co-op, but just haven’t found the time. Announce that your gift to everyone will be to do the research, choose a suitable organization, collect the money and register everyone.
Greening your holiday gift list is easy. With a little creativity, you can make any gift idea more environmentally friendly. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy a green holiday season this year!
Web resources for finding the perfect green gift: – A self-professed “lifestyle” company, Gaiam’s website includes links to purchase fair trade products. – Find links to companies that sell green products, such as the Eco Golf Ball. – Find a green version of anything you could ever think of here. – Treehugger’s site is a bit overwhelming, but the holiday gift guide is comprehensive. – Give the gift of conservation through the Nature Conservancy’s site. – The Environmental Defense Fund’s site offers suggestions for intangible gifts. – Another comprehensive green gift guide. – For those who want recommendations from a name they know, Yahoo has gathered suggestions from other sites, such as treehugger, and provided links for purchase.