Dear EarthTalk: I want to set a good environmental example with my gift-giving this holiday season. Any tips on how—or even better, what—to give greener?
—Jane P., Bowie, MD
The holidays are a time for giving but it is also important to be conscious about spending your gift budget wisely to eliminate packaging waste, buy products that will last and patronize manufacturers and retailers known for social and environmental responsibility.
So, what are some ideas? The Waterpebble is a great gift for anyone trying to lead a greener lifestyle. This gadget tracks how much water you use in your shower. After programmed, it signals a yellow light at your half-shower mark and flashes red when it’s time to turn off the faucet.
Music lovers might like the iBamboo speaker. This portable bamboo speaker for iPhones 4,5,6, and 7 requires no batteries or electricity and has no wires — it’s just a simple block of bamboo that projects sound using natural acoustics.
If the iBamboo isn’t loud enough, try eco-amp from eco-made. While it does use electricity, the eco-amp is made out of all recycled materials and can in turn be entirely recycled when it’s useful life is over—and it’s made in the USA, which helps employ Americans while saving on transportation emissions.
The environmental clothes horse on your list may appreciate a shirt or some pants from Alternative Apparel, which uses non-toxic dyes on eco-friendly fabrics and makes 80 percent of its garments with sustainable materials. Another eco-friendly clothing brand is United By Blue, which pays to pull a pound of trash from water bodies for each of its fashionable and comfortable items sold.
Another great green gift is a set of reusable bamboo straws from Bambu Home, which makes eco-friendly home accessories, garden and kid toys. Each set of six straws—winner of the 2015 Eco-Choice ‘Most Innovative Product’ Award—comes with a cleaning brush and prevents the use of dozens of disposable plastic straws.
Kids may not care whether their gifts are good for the environment, so it’s up to us adults to make sure we are setting a good example and spending our money on “good” gifts. You can’t go wrong for your kiddo with a bamboo bank from Jones and Mae. The eco-friendly three-way (share/save/spend) box teaches the importance of charity and saving. Meanwhile, Green Toys sells a wide range of 100 percent recycled kids products, including books, toy cars, baby toys and more at reasonable prices.
Of course, holiday presents do not always have to be physical items. A great idea for gifts that are personal and different are sports/active lessons. Would someone you love appreciate tennis lessons, an art class, or a yoga gift certificate? The holidays are meant to show those who are special to you how much you love them and there are no better gifts than those that are personal, thoughtful and not only good for those who receive but also the environment!
And let’s not forget that there is more to greener holiday shopping than just what you buy. Don’t forget that your reusable shopping bags aren’t just for the grocery store anymore: Bring them with you to the mall, as well, so you don’t have to waste your favorite retailers’ plastic or paper shopping bags. Also, if you’re going to wrap your gifts, make sure to use recycled wrapping paper, or even better, get creative and repurpose some other paper materials lying around as gift wrap.