By Stef McDonald
How can you be a more environmentally-friendly gift giver? It’s easier than you think, and some ideas are perfect for last-minute shoppers. It’s often as easy on your wallet as it is on the planet, too. Here are some suggestions for earth-friendly gifts that support your community and a more sustainable future.
It’s true about one person’s trash being another’s treasure—and when you buy from antique markets, consignment and thrift shops, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and other sources of second-hand items, you do your part to reduce waste to landfills. Think of it like the island of misfit toys from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”—there are worthy, good-as-new items out there looking for a home.
When you shop online while logged in to Amazon Smile, you can choose a nonprofit to receive a small portion of sales. (Hint: You can help Earth Day Network on Amazon Smile!) Another way to give back is by buying from gift shops for museums and parks, in person or online.
Support the independent businesses in your neighborhood by shopping local—especially at book stores and sources that sell the works of local artisans. Even better: shop on foot or bike or use public transit and leave the car behind.
Give reusable straws, water filters, water bottles, reusable coffee mugs, and shopping bags. (Consider filling a mug or water bottle with a homemade beverage or sweet treat.) Wrap edible gifts in a reusable bag or an alternatives to plastic wrap, such as beeswax-covered cloth.
Homemade gifts, including food and personal care items, are twice as nice. Extra touches: attach a recipe for the recipient and consider using a vintage glass jar, container, or tin that can be reused.
Put another way: give tasty edibles. Choose locally grown produce, sweet treats, and other items for out-of-the-ordinary dining experiences at home. First stop: food vendors at your local farmers’ market. A farmers’ market basket or bag with fresh and local produce and a cookbook is a perfect gift. My grandmother always said, “Food is love.”
Give movie, concert or theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, or museum memberships and you’re giving the recipient an experience to enjoy. The same goes for magazine subscriptions, books (here are some suggestions for environment-themed books, climate fiction titles, and kid books), music CDs, and DVDs of movies or TV shows. (Friendly remember to use Amazon Smile to help support EDN.) Also consider giving games or a puzzle from a photo-printing service that allows you to create one with personal photos.
One size fits all: House plants, herb gardens, and seeds or outdoor plants for loved ones with yards or gardens.
Something to consider: the maker of the products and its ingredients. Give from companies with responsible business practices—organic, Fair Trade, sweatshop-free, environmentally-friendly, sustainable. Also: look at labels for ingredients that are organic and non-toxic.
Reuse those gift bags you receive and save them for next year. Also: be creative and put gifts in reusable shopping bags or wrapped in newspaper.
It’s always meaningful to give experience gifts or contributions to good causes in the recipient’s name.