Before the holidays (and other gift-giving occasions), I sit down and have a brainstorm session to try to come up with thoughtful, meaningful gifts that are well suited to each person on my list. Then, I run those ideas through my budget filter, as well as another set of filters that I consider to be just as important: In an effort to be an environmentally and socially conscious consumer, I strive to choose gifts that meet at least one of the following criteria—many of which also happen to be economical:
- Non-Stuff: As Art Buchwald said, “The best things in life aren’t things.” Consider alternatives to material things, such as:
- Activities: Doing something special for/with someone or a group of friends or family (e.g., making a fancy dinner or going out to eat);
- Giving a gift certificate for a restaurant, a service (e.g. spa/massage), an educational opportunity (such as an online training course), or music/movie downloads (e.g., iTunes gift code by email); a ticket to a special event (e.g., a concert); or a voucher for a personal favor (e.g., babysitting or a household repair task); or
- Making a donation (or getting a membership) to a nonprofit organization on someone’s behalf.
And if you still just can’t think of anything good to get for a certain person and you decide to get that person a gift certificate for a store, get one from a store that offers electronic/email gift notices (or else paper certificates) rather than disposable PVC plastic gift cards.
Lastly, minimize your use of store-bought/new wrapping paper. Some people like to use the cartoon section of their newspaper as wrapping paper. I keep a stash of reusable gift bags and ribbons that have come to me over the years. If the contents of a gift don’t need to be covered up, putting a nice ribbon or bow around it (sans wrapping paper) is an elegantly simple way to adorn it.
For additional info on green gifts, products, and consumerism/over-consumption, take a look at these sites:
- The Story of Stuff (and The Story of Electronics): short films/web videos
- Green America: click on the Green Gift Guide, Responsible Shopper, and Fair Trade links
- Center for a New American Dream: Simplify the Holidays
- SustainLane: green product and service reviews
- Good Guide: ratings of natural, green, and healthy products
- The Simple Living Network
Please share your own green gift ideas and suggestions in the Comments section below!
Illustration by Matt Farrar