Photo credit: alancleaver_2000
Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? I think not. If you plan early and do a little research, green alternatives arenâ€™t hard to find; thereâ€™s something eco-friendly out there for everyone on your list.
Top 10 Green Gifts
1. Homemade Bodycare Products
For the: makeup lover, spa junkie, or anyone who could use a little pampering
Why itâ€™s Green: There are tons of natural beauty products out there, but why not kick it up a notch and make your own? You can make this present as green as you want it to be!
Generally, homemade products are free from toxins and dangerous ingredients because you use pure, simple ingredients like essential oils and skin care oils like almond, olive or grapeseed. Using baking tools you already have at home, plus some simple ingredients, you can create countless products. You can also clean and re-use glass packaging from old bodycare products (which saves money and packaging) and use organic and local ingredients whenever possible.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: You can personalize these products to make something perfect for that special someone. Use essential oils to create their favourite scents (such as rose, citrus or vanilla) and keep in mind their skin type (oily, dry) to create a unique product that they canâ€™t find on the shelf. There are tons of great recipes online.
2. Tools to Refuse Plastic
For the: friend whoâ€™s always on-the-go
Why itâ€™s Green: Saving non-recyclable, toxic food containers and wrappers from contaminating our environment and ending up in the oceansâ€”how can this not be green? Iâ€™m not just talking about stainless steel water bottles and travel mugs here: everything from chopsticks, cutlery, stainless steel drinking straws, cloth napkins and glass or stainless steel food containers are a must if youâ€™re always on-the-go and donâ€™t have time for a sit-down meal with real cutlery and dishes. If youâ€™re armed with these tools on hand, you can easily refuse the disposable plastic thatâ€™s always forced on consumers.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Now that theyâ€™re becoming more popular, stainless steel water bottles and travel mugs come in stylish designs that will please even the most reluctant environmentalist-in-training.
3. Refillable Pen
For the: student, business professional or creative writer
Why itâ€™s Green: Instead of throwing out hundreds of pens and wasting plastic, investing in one reusable high-quality pen that will last forever is significantly better for the environment.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Not only is this gift environmentally-friendly, a serious writer or student will appreciate how much more professional and beautiful a high-quality pen looks.
4. Natural Rubber Yoga Mat
For the: yoga and fitness enthusiast
Why itâ€™s Green: With yoga becoming so popular, we should re-evaluate the typical yoga mats being used. Regular yoga mats are made from PVC, a toxic plastic that has been labelled a carcinogen. Available online, natural rubber yoga mats are the natural alternative to synthetic mats. Theyâ€™re plastic-free, non-toxic and biodegradable and they work just as well as their PVC cousins.Â
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Chances are, anyone who practises yoga is doing so as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Knowing that youâ€™re breathing in toxins during Downward Facing Dog isnâ€™t a pleasant idea.
5. Hot Air Popper
For the: foodie
Why itâ€™s Green: Did you know that microwave popcorn bags are lined with toxic non-stick coatings? Yes, even organic microwave popcorn. Plus, the vast majority of microwave popcorn is genetically modified and loaded with trans fat and salt. The hot air popper is an old idea that is ready for a comeback. Depending on which kind you get, they can be a little pricey, but avoiding toxins is well worth the investment. Plus, theyâ€™re so much more fun to use.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Everyone loves popcorn! Pair it with some organic hot cocoa and a movie, and youâ€™ve got the perfect remedy for a cold winter night.
6. Gardening Supplies
For the: friend with a green thumb
Why itâ€™s Green: Growing your own food is one of the greenest (and healthiest) things you can do. Help out your favourite gardener by giving stylish gardening gloves, hand-held tools, beautiful ceramic pots, a watering can and other supplies from you local gardening/landscaping store.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Sure itâ€™s not the season yet, but we can dream about the sunshine, canâ€™t we?
7. Hemp Clothing
For the: fashionista
Why itâ€™s Green: Organic cotton and bamboo are great, but youâ€™ve got to hand it to hemp as the winner of the best eco-friendly fabric. Itâ€™s durable, comfortable, naturally resistant to mold and mildew, and doesnâ€™t require chemicals to grow compared to cotton. Itâ€™s even strong enough to act as a vegetarian alternative for wallets, purses, bags, belts and shoes.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Itâ€™s fashionable! Theyâ€™ll have no idea itâ€™s hemp until they look at the tag. Check out The Hempest (http://store.hempest.com/catalog/) for some great pieces.
8. Indoor Plants
For the: homeowner
Why itâ€™s Green: Unlike some gifts where youâ€™re looking for a â€œbetterâ€ alternative, plants are perfectly environmentally-friendly on their own! Not only do they add oxygen to the air, but they clean the air of indoor toxins too. For a sophisticated look, choose a bamboo plant, an exotic palm or a cactus. For the more traditional friend, flowers or ivy work well. Small evergreens are also perfect for this time of year.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Theyâ€™ll make any room look stylish and cheerful. There are lots of varieties that need virtually no water, so itâ€™s not too much to care for them. Plus, they can be transferred outdoors if they ever get too big.
9. Gift Certificate for a yoga lesson, photography workshop, cooking class, etc...
For the: friend who has everything or the friend who refuses material gifts
Why itâ€™s Green: Thereâ€™s nothing being produced, shipped or wasted here because itâ€™s all about the experience instead of a material object.
Why theyâ€™ll love it: They can do something they love, and you can do something together. There are countless possibilities: a craft, sport or dance theyâ€™ve always wanted to try, a massage, an event theyâ€™ve been hinting about, an annual pass to a museum...
10. Make-it-yourself Birdhouse and Birdfeeder
For the: family with young kids
Why itâ€™s Green: Birdhouses can teach kids to love nature and care for animals at an early age. Plus, songbirds are in danger these days due to hungry neighbourhood cats, so they need all the help they can get!
Why theyâ€™ll love it: Putting it together is a fun project that can be done as a family and watching winter birds take refuge in your backyard is definitely rewarding. Plus, the kids can spend some time outdoors instead of in front of the TV. If you decorate it, make sure you use natural, non-toxic paints!
Top 10 Stocking Stuffers
Take a trip to your local health food store and fill cloth gift bags with organic chocolate-covered fruit and nuts.
Organic and Fair Trade Certified bulk tea and coffee are stocking stuffer classics with an eco-friendly twist!
Natural beeswax or soy based candles are an eco-friendly alternative to paraffin-based candles with synthetic (and toxic) fragrances.
Give small, medium and large lightweight drawstring cloth bags for produce and bulk food to the shopper in the family. While many people have swapped their plastic bags for reusable ones, produce and bulk bags are often overlooked. Washable, organic cotton or hemp bags are best.
Organic cotton or hemp facial washcloths are a perfect companion to any natural bodycare products.
Warm and cozy hats, scarves, socks and mittens made from organic cotton or non-dyed wool are perfect for the cold days (preferably from local vendors at craft fairs).
Homemade natural and organic foods are so much better than store-bought! Give away jams and preserves (in bpa-free glass jars), cookies and baked goods and organic hot cocoa mix.
Packets of organic vegetable or flower seeds will keep until spring when they can be planted.
For the student, recycled pencils, notebooks and other environmentally-friendly supplies are useful and stylish.
Make some homemade lip balms (see above for more information). Try a combination of peppermint and vanilla essential oils for a lip balm that smells and tastes like candy canes!
Top Places to go shopping
Skip the big box stores and find something unique and environmentally friendly:
Winter farmersâ€™ markets and craft sales: youâ€™ll find one-of-a-kind gifts and local creations, and youâ€™ll get to meet the people behind the products.
Local artisan shops and boutiques: like farmerâ€™s markets and craft sales, youâ€™ll find unique pieces of artwork that are locally made.
Your local health food store: find specialty and organic foods, preferably with minimal packaging.
Online: if youâ€™re looking for something specific or donâ€™t have many environmentally-friendly alternatives nearby, there are tons of green companies online that ship right to your door.
Wait! What about wrapping paper?
This isnâ€™t as tough as it seems. My favourite (and free!) choice is newspaper, especially from the comics section. If you donâ€™t have a subscription, there are tons of free dailies around that get recycled (or thrown out) every day. Snag some and re-use them.
If youâ€™re really trying to impress and newsprint wonâ€™t cut it for Grandma, reusable cloth bags of all sizes work well to wrap gifts. Opt for real fabrics (cotton or hemp) instead of reusable bags that look like cloth but are really made from synthetic materials and more plastic.
As far as bows go, skip the cheap plastic ribbon. Reuse what you have and when you run out, use hemp twine, which can be saved and reused for gardening in the spring!