Give the Gift of Green

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, they say.  And it probably is – but it’s certainly not the greenest. Not only does it generate lots of waste for landfills, but holiday time can leave us with lots of gifts and gadgets we don’t really need, or that are manufactured just to sate our ever-expanding holiday shopping needs.

It is possible to give gifts that are cool, thoughtful and green.  When you’re shopping this season, keep some environmental basics at heart, and you can help to keep your holiday footprint to a minimum. 

Here are some of my favorite gift ideas to get you rolling:

Aveda – started in 1978 to provide a more natural alternative to beauty professionals – is old hat at green, but still progressive in its approach. In 2008, the company raised $2.8 million to support clean water initiatives across the globe.  If you’re lucky enough to have an Aveda salon near you, treat someone special to a relaxing day.  Find locations and the spa menu online at  If you can’t find an Aveda store nearby, consider some of the company’s amazing beauty products.  I’m a fan of the Be Curly line.

Burt’s Bees is one of the best when it comes to earth-friendly personal care products.  Personal favorites include Burt’s lip shimmers and coconut foot scrub.  For men with rough hands, try out Farmer’s Friend Hand Salve.  The baby line is fab as well.  Available in drug stores, Borders, Target, etc.  Combine products for a great gift, or try out one of Burt’s gift assortments.  More variety is usually available online. Other great brands include Tom’s of Maine, Kiss My Face, and Origins.

The World Wildlife Fund offers a catalog full of adoption opportunities for animal lovers, focused on raising funds for their programs for endangered species.  The options seem almost endless – you receive a various adoption package based on your donation amount, so if it’s a gift, you have something for the recipient to open.  In most cases, you get a stuffed version of your adoptee.  Certainly fun for kids, and a great learning tool.  At the same time, if your home – or that of the gift recipient – has been taken over by plush, you may want to think hard about this option.  WWF’s adoptions are nice, but I have issues with this effort as well – last year I did a few adoptions, and as a thank you, WWF sent me an unnecessary metal tree ornament – made in China.

Uncommon Goods – the Web site (and catalog) is lots of fun, and carries a lot of items made of recycled and reclaimed materials.  Two of my favorites are the depression glass earrings and the hockey stick storage box.  Uncommon Goods gifts can be a little pricey, but they make a real point that almost anything can be made into something else.

Totes eco-brella.  Protect yourself from the elements while sending a clear eco-message to all you encounter in the next rain storm. Totes eco-brella canopy is 100 percent recycled PET bottles, and the frame is 70 percent recycled aluminum.  A chic bamboo handle and teardrop recycling logo complete the look. $30.

Dr. Suess was green before green was cool, in case you didn’t know.  That’s why The Lorax is my all-time favorite gift for children.  Not only is it a great and fun story in the Suess style that makes us all smile a little easier, it offers children the best gift of all – an appreciation for planet earth. Nowadays, The Lorax is produced with recycled and sustainable materials.

Remember, to give green, you don’t necessarily have to resort to companies and retailers you’re not familiar with.  You can find earth-friendly products through Patagonia, Columbia Sportwear, L.L. Bean, and even here at Neutral Existence.  Organic cotton clothing can be found through Wal-Mart, Pottery Barn, and J.Jill among others.  Look for solar gadget chargers, rechargeable battery sets, or even consider giving vintage or antique items a new life. Or really make someone happy with a sampler of organic chocolates or an organic wine, available everywhere from grocery stores to online specialty shops.

If you’re not ready to jump into green products just yet, take small steps, and remember that every little bit helps.  Buy toys that require kid power, not battery or electric power.  Give someone a beautiful plant to freshen the air in their home this winter. Or offer gift cards so your loved ones can get what they really need – bonus, gift cards also minimize wrap and packaging.

Whatever you choose, have a happy and greener holiday!

Posted in Natural Living.

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