Environmentally Friendly Gifts:
Good For Your Recipient
and Your Planet
Environmentally friendly gifts do us all a favor!
Here are creative gift ideas with a conscience,
and your recipients will love them.
How can we choose gifts that are good for the planet, and avoid gifts that may be harmful? Here are six guidelines, with ideas for gifts to please all sorts of recipients and respect the environment.
- Purchase products and services from green companies
- Choose gifts made from recycled materials
- Choose gifts that encourage a concern for nature and wildlife
- Eco-friendly gifts are energy efficient
- Eco-friendly gifts don't pollute
- Save a tree: re-use and recycle gift wrap
Purchase from Green Companies
"Green" companies use natural resources wisely and efficiently. Green growers practice organic farming and conservation methods in a biodiverse environment. Green manufacturers and artisans avoid harmful chemicals in their materials and processes.
Green service providers use environmentally friendly equipment and materials. "Green" companies reclaim waste products for re-use, or treat and dispose of them safely. Whether your gift is a tangible product or a gift certificate for a service, "green" companies deserve your support!
Check out the "Green Pages" on the Green America (formerly Co-op America) website to locate green companies and retail stores in your area where you can purchase environmentally friendly gifts such as:
- Dinner at a green or organic restaurant
- A green housecleaning service gift certificate
- Clothing, footwear and accessories made from natural materials
- A getaway weekend at a green hotel
- Gift certificate for a car wash. According to Stormwater magazine, most commercial car washes use 60 percent less water in the entire washing process than a home wash uses just to rinse off a car.
TIP: If the kids want to wash the car (perhaps an environmentally friendly gift for Fathers Day?)- have them wash it on the lawn instead of in the driveway. It'll water the grass while keeping suds out of the storm drains.
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Gifts Made From Recycled Materials
Some of the darnedest things are re-used to make functional and decorative products! Here are some very interesting, creative, and environmentally friendly gifts:
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Encourage a Concern
for Nature and Wildlife
Too often, busy daily routines push nature and wildlife concerns to the back burner. But environmentally friendly gifts can add nature's beauty to your recipient's routine!
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- Subscription to a Nature or Environment magazine. There is a magazine for almost every aspect of the natural world - domestic/ international, general interest/technical, youth/adult, flora/fauna, earth/air/water. Many have stunning photographs!
National Geographic, Wildlife Conservation, E: The Environmental Magazine, Ranger Rick, and Field & Stream are a few examples.
- Nature/wildlife poster, painting, or calendar. A breathtaking mountain scene or seascape, a wildlife close-up or group portrait, or a dramatic photo of a weather phenomenon remind us of the wonders of nature.
Choose one for home or office, keeping your recipient's interests and decorating tastes in mind. You'll find styles and colors to enhance any room.
- Attract songbirds to your recipient's yard or window.
In North America, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, there is no need to stop watching, feeding, or attracting birds to your yard because of the bird flu. (read more) Most garden centers carry environmentally friendly gifts for bird lovers:
- Bird feeder - look for a squirrel-proof feeder for seeds, or consider a "diversion" feeder for serving cracked corn or peanuts to the squirrels. Your bird lover might also enjoy a hummingbird feeder. Feeders that attach to a window will attract birds up close for easy viewing - a thoughtful gift for elderly seniors.
- Birdbath - Birds need water year round, and when ponds and streams are frozen over in the winter, a birdbath with a de-icer will serve as well as a bird feeder to attract birds to your recipient's yard.
- Birdhouse - each species has preferences: location, distance from the ground, size of entry, perch or no perch. You might also provide some nesting materials (scroll down) to help your recipient attract Mr. & Mrs. Songbird.
- A bird song identifier will solve mysteries for beginning and experienced bird watchers, at home or out in the woods. Cards holding 10 birdsongs each are inserted for digital playback, and additional cards or a carrying case (sold separately) will be thoughtful add-on gifts from the kids!
- Binoculars will provide your recipient a close-up view without intruding or frightening away shy birds and animals.
- Encourage hunting - with a camera. A camera is a wonderful environmentally friendly gift for any nature lover; and a child's first camera will help to raise an awareness of the natural world. Accessories, such as a waterproof camera bag or a tripod, are gifts that outdoor photographers will appreciate. Do your homework first, or use a gift certificate, to be sure your gift will be "just what I wanted!"
- A wildlife alarm for the car, also known as a deer alert, is not to prevent deer from stealing your car but rather to warn them away from the highway. The wildlife alarm emits a harmless, high-pitched warning that only animals can hear. An electronic alarm is far more effective than the whistle-type devices.
Choose an Energy Efficient Gift
Environmentally friendly gifts are energy efficient - they conserve natural resources and the contents of your recipient's checkbook - a win-win situation! When shopping (in the US) for a household gift, look for the "ENERGY STAR" label on appliances, office equipment, lighting, electronics, and more. Energy Star products perform as well as comparable models while using less energy and saving money. Here are some energy efficient gift suggestions:
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- Programmable thermostat - an environmentally friendly gift for the inside environment, it automatically turns the heat down when you go to bed or leave for work, and back up before you arise or return home.
- Self-powered stove fan - the rising heat from your recipient's woodstove powers the fan, which silently circulates the heat through the room. To move warm air to the next room, a small circulation fan mounted in the top corner of the doorway will do the job.
- Battery charger - look for one that can recharge several sizes simultaneously. Rechargeable batteries keep harmful chemicals from disposable batteries out of landfills. A solar powered charger saves on electricity too - an energy efficient gift idea for everyone.
- Solar yard and garden lights attractively illuminate outdoor steps and pathways, and will do so throughout the night when fully charged by the daylight. These would make a fine gift for a gardener. Silicon Solar, Inc. has an excellent selection, along with solar floodlights and security lights.
- "Shake" LED Flashlight - No batteries or bulbs! LED lights are bright and last nearly forever. Shake the flashlight for 30 seconds to magnetize for 15 minutes of bright light. NightStar is the original patented brand. It's great for emergency or everyday use - at home, in the car, or out in the middle of Nature! For emergency use, consider a hand-crank flashlight that will also provide backup power for your recipient's cell phone.
Choose a Gift That Won't Pollute
"Pollute" is a pretty strong word, and serious environmnental damage from any one gift may be difficult to imagine. Still, we should think twice about giving certain gifts:
- Perfume must be used sparingly - beyond triggering allergies, heavy perfume use attracts people's attention, and not in a good way! A hiking friend reports that it also makes bears curious! The more confined the space, the more thoroughly perfume "pollutes" the air, whether in a church or theater, a bus, cafe, or elevator (whew!).
- Clothes that require drycleaning deserve a second thought, too. Almost all dry cleaning facilities in the US still use the toxic chemical perchloroethylene (perc) as the primary cleaning solvent. (more info and alternatives)
- Battery-operated toys for kids of all ages become far more environmentally friendly gifts when presented with rechargeable batteries and a charger. But don't forget to consider noise pollution!
Let's turn to some positive ideas for non-polluting gifts... non-product gifts, for example, like gifts of time, relaxation, information, fun & entertainment.
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- Tickets to a show or sports event
- Day or weekend pass for the ski lift or an amusement park
- A day of pampering at a spa or health club
- A year's pass to the US National Parks for vehicle and up to 4 adults (kids free) - this is a wonderful family gift and a good value at $80!
- A staple-less stapler - winner of our "smallest impact on reducing pollution" award! It crimps the pages together instead of inserting a metal staple. It's amusing as an environmentally friendly gift, and a great stocking stuffer.
Save a Tree:
Re-Use and Recycle Gift Wrap
For some folks, half the fun of opening a gift is tearing the wrapping paper to shreds. Others carefully remove the bow and peel off the tape, then fold the paper smooth before turning their attention to the gift.
These two types can drive each other nuts! But guess who is being eco-friendly? She can trim off the wrinkled edges and re-use giftwrap on a smaller gift. Or, she can recycle gift wrap in several other clever ways:
- Art or crafts projects - use for decoupage, collage, papier mache. Line the inside covers of a homemade book. Matte a photo for framing. Make paper beads.
- Cut out bits of the design to make gift tags or decorate a gift that's wrapped in plain paper. Use them to decorate stationery or note cards, with envelope liners to match. From solid-color wrapping paper, cut plain or fancy shapes to use the same way.
- Make paper shred. A light duty "strip-cut" shredder costs only $25 to $50 or less (avoid a "crosscut" shredder or you'll get confetti). Smooth or crinkled paper shred is great for:
- Environmentally friendly gift baskets and Easter baskets.
- Packing material for very delicate items (first wrap them loosely in tissue to keep shreds from clinging).
- Bedding for small animal cages - our gerbils, in particular, loved to burrow around in a deep pile of paper shred!
- Recycle - Not worth saving? Recycle gift wrap that's beyond hope. There's a ton of information at Recycling Revolution.com along with clever ideas for re-using many items that you'd otherwise throw away.
One last TIP: If a gift bow becomes flattened in storage, try holding it over the steam from your tea kettle. Please use tongs! Hold the bow upside-down, and the steam will soften the ribbon so you can restore the "puff."
Most people recognize the wisdom of protecting
our natural resources. Environmentally friendly gifts
are a gift to the whole world!
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Logo photo by Jane M. Sawyer, courtesy of morguefile.com
Other graphics this page courtesy of Microsoft.